Exports and international markets

Reach international customers online

Reach international customers online

More and more companies in Scotland are selling online to international markets as a key element of their export plan. By 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online, up from 1.66 billion global digital buyers in 2016.

How can I get involved?

Doing business abroad doesn’t mean you have to set up operations in-market. If your sales are doing well in the UK, then it’s a no-brainer to get set up to grow your international sales quickly online, whether you’re a product or service-led business. It’ll save you time and money.

With 90% of sales being exported, Michael Corrigan, co-founder of innovative travel pillow company TRTL, shares his ambition and insights on how to grow a successful global business online. 

"Selling online has been a huge opportunity for us," explains Michael. "That’s key for a brand like us because we can keep the brand communication with the customer as clean and as clear as possible."

Online payment using a smartphone - Photo by Pexels

How to sell effectively online

  • Ensure your website is set up to engage with your target audience and that transactions can be made digitally
  • Ensure you have the capacity and stock in place to undertake online sales effectively to meet demand
  • Look to translate your website into the target market language or, if this is too expensive or you don’t have language skills in-house, translate a simple landing page and keywords into the appropriate language 
  • Look to register a domain name in the target language – for example, .de for the German market and .fr for the French market
  • Consider local currency price points that can go up on your website, but make sure these prices align and don’t undercut the prices your export partner may be selling your goods or services at in market
  • Ensure your website and any accompanying social media activity complies with local laws for online sales and data protection, and you have the terms and conditions of sale clearly stated on your website, including your delivery terms and any refunds policy

Building your customer base online

The next stage is to build your customer base online. Your website address should be on your business card and any marketing or point of sale material you have in place for your target market.

Using social media can be a very effective way of creating brand awareness and driving traffic to your website. It also allows you to engage with your customers and get immediate feedback on your product or service. Do your research into social media channels/usage for your target market and develop a social media strategy to support your marketing efforts.

Alongside more traditional forms of social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you might also consider using market influencers or bloggers in your target market to endorse your product or service.

VisitScotland / Kenny Lam
Young professionals - Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Using online marketplaces 

Another option for selling products is to register with an online marketplace.

Research shows that 1.66 trillion USD (£1.29 trillion) was spent in 2018 on online marketplaces, which accounts for 50% of all global online sales.

Our comprehensive international marketplace guides are available, with useful information to get you started when choosing the best marketplaces for your business.

The awareness and use of online marketplaces is growing rapidly, particularly across international markets, but it’s important to choose the marketplace with the best fit for your product.

Many online marketplaces offer assistance with order fulfilment and deliveries, making cross border trade more accessible.

Marketplaces operate on a subscription or listing fee basis. Some also charge a percentage commission on final order values, so it’s important to consider this when implementing pricing strategies.

Our international online marketplace guides contain pricing information for over 60 online marketplaces across the world and will help you get started on these ecommerce platforms.

Read our guide to international online marketplaces

Further hints and tips for selling online

  • Learn from experts at our free ecommerce workshops
  • Have a plan for selling online into your target market – we can help you with this
  • Ideally ensure your prices are converted to the local currency on your website
  • Be clear about postage and packing terms, delivery times and insurance on your website
  • Ensure you are compliant with distance selling legislation on the GOV.UK website
  • Consider putting in place a trustmark or accreditation on your website to help encourage and reassure online customers
  • Research social media channels/usage in your target market and have a social media strategy to support your marketing plan
VisitScotland / Kenny Lam
Woman with mobile phone and laptop

Ecommerce response to COVID-19 

The COVID-19 outbreak has led many companies across Scotland to start or accelerate their use of ecommerce platforms to reach new and existing customers. We can offer support to help you get started selling online, including:

  • Ecommerce checklist
  • Online learning events
  • Digital skills training
  • Funding for digital transformation
  • One-to-one support
  • International ecommerce programme
  • Ecommerce accelerator programme

Read our guide for full details and support


Need some expert advice?

Our team is on hand to answer your questions and explain the support we can offer to help your business succeed.