4 challenges every e-commerce business faces when going global

Steven Mike Voser
Let's face it, every e-commerce business wants to increase sales. And what better way to do that than going global and targeting an international audience? In this article, we look at the 4 biggest challenges of taking your e-commerce business global, and how to overcome them.

Taking your e-commerce business global is super exciting. But it also presents you with a bunch of challenges. In this article, we’re going to look at 4 of the biggest challenges any small e-commerce business will face when expanding into international territories.



4 challenges of taking your e-commerce business global


Before you even begin expanding your e-commerce business, you’ll have to answer the following question: “Which markets should I expand into?” And while it might seem straightforward, it’s actually quite a difficult question to answer. One of the nice things about operating in an established market is that it’s a lot more predictable. If you’ve been running an online electronics store in the UK, for example, chances are you’ll have a good understanding of the local market. Better yet, you probably have a bunch of data to work with that can help you make informed decisions about your business.
For example, you may have sales data that can help you gauge which brands and products sell best, which times of the year bring in the most/least sales, and much more. When you move into a new market, however, you can kiss the majority of that knowledge goodbye. For the most part, you’ll be left to gauge a market from scratch, with little local data to base your business decisions on. Luckily, you can prepare for this simply by doing your homework and researching your potential markets. Make sure to look out for things like:

  • The language of each market
  • The yearly sales cycle for your particular niche
  • Average wholesale and retail prices of the products you plan to sell
  • Shipping costs and restrictions
  • Taxes (especially if you’re planning to import products)
  • Market size
  • Market growth (both past, present, and future)
  • Urgency—how desperate are people for your products in the new market?
  • Customer acquisition costs—how hard is it to win over customers in your new market?
  • Speed to market—how quickly can you get up and running?
  • The market’s “evergreen potential”. Following the initial launch, what potential is there for you to keep selling over time?
  • Upfront investments costs

This list is far from complete. For more help, ask yourself these 9 questions to better assess your target markets.


Once you’ve identified your target market, you’ll likely have to fill out a lot of paperwork to legally sell online in the country/ies you plan to expand into. Getting through all the paperwork can be a bit daunting, but don’t rush this process. Launching in a new market is a big deal, and the last thing you’ll need is to go through paperwork twice because you rushed it the first time. Keep in mind that the exact process for launching an e-commerce business in a new market varies greatly depending on where you’re based and where you’re planning to sell. If you’re based in the Netherlands, for example, and plan to sell in another member country of the EU, the process will be much simpler than if you plan to sell in the US or Australia. To make this part of the process run as smoothly as possible, take the time to really understand all the criteria you need to meet in order to set up shop in your new market.


Once you’ve settled on a target market and take care of all the required paperwork to operate, here’s the next big challenge you’ll face: Adapting to the language and culture of your new market. Now, the language part might seem simple. After all, all you really need to do is translate your website and voila, right? Well, not really. Sure, translating your website is a key step to adapting your e-commerce store to a new market. Just keep in mind that translating usually isn’t enough. In order to ensure your business truly flourishes in a new market, you’ll want to “localize”. Localization is a buzzword in the marketing world and can sound a bit intense, but it really just refers to the process of taking your business and adapting it to the local culture. Some processes that fall under the localization umbrella include:

  • Transcreation: The act of recreating a website, ad, or any other kind of brand material and adapting it to a new language and culture while preserving the original message and “feel”.
  • Transliteration: Literally taking written content and transcribing it into a new alphabet.

For a closer look at localization, check out this article on 3 case studies on localization, and how it helps companies successfully go global.
For a closer look at localization, check out this article on 3 case studies on localization, and how it helps companies successfully go global.


Ask yourself this question: What makes a good brand? Now, you’re probably thinking: “There are a thousand answers to that question”. And you’re right. But two things every great brand in the world have are authority and trust. And the two go hand-in-hand; become an authority figure in your industry, and you’ll automatically start winning the trust of your audience. If you’re successful in a particular market, chances are you’ve already earned your fair share of authority and trust. Now, the downside to expanding your e-comm business internationally is that, in your new market, you’ll have to garner authority and build trust from the ground up.
After all, you’ll be a new player in the market, and you’ll need to give uninformed customers good reason to purchase your products/services. And as you know, building trust and authority takes a lot of time and hard work. Luckily, if you’ve built a successful e-commerce business that’s ready to expand, chances are you’ve already got some tricks up your sleeve to help you do this. Plus, thanks to the market research you did when first deciding to expand, you’ll probably have some stats and metrics to better understand your target audience and how to win them over. But hey, everyone can use a bit of help in any new market. So, check out this awesome post by CopyBlogger to see how content can help you build a brand that’s authoritative and trustworthy.


We’ve looked at some of the challenges of taking your e-commerce business global. But don’t get us wrong; going global is a ton of fun as well. And best of all, Yuqo has an entire team of specialised staff to help you do it. Contact us today to learn more about our services.