Internationalisation of online marketplaces

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“Internationalisation” was the new buzz word at ChannelAdvisor EU Catalyst this year. Cross border trade is up according to everyone and the opportunity in the UK’s close neighbours in Europe is just too big to miss out on.

20% of all eBay business world wide now involves cross border trade, that means if you don’t sell outside your own country you have a potential 25% uplift in sale by making your items available overseas.

Amazon shared a slide showing that just four countries – The UK, Germany, France and Italy – represented 69% of the estimated $122 billion online retail spending in Western Europe in 2010.

So how easy do marketplaces make it for you to sell overseas?


Amazon allow buyers from anywhere in the world to buy from any Amazon site so long as the seller makes the product available for International shipping. If you use Amazon FBA then Amazon will take care of the shipping on your behalf which is probably the easiest way to make your items available worldwide.

However that relies on the buyer visiting the Amazon site that you list on – an item listed on won’t appear on, if a German buyer wants to buy your item they will have to visit the site.

For you to capture the maximum sales you will have to split your inventory and list directly onto to put your products directly in front of German buyers, and with Amazon expanding and adding a marketplace to Amazon Italy in the near future the number of sites for sellers to list on is increasing rapidly.

The complexity of listing inventory across multiple sites increases the overhead of management although software can simplify the problem. What software can’t do is help decide how much inventory to ship to each country if you have local warehouses or use Amazon FBA in each individual country.


eBay have a slightly different approach to Amazon. You can list on your home eBay site and make your product available world wide, and on some sites you can even pay extra for International Visibility to ensure your product appears in natural search results on selected other eBay sites.

Your items will most likely appear if the site your buyer is browsing has few or no search results, but in this case (as with Amazon) your item will appear listed in a foreign currency to the buyer.

To cater for buyers in countries where there is no eBay site eBay have their International Market. Fixed price listings from sellers who offer International Shipping. The big advantage is that the site will be translated into the local language with prices displayed in the buyer’s local currency. The only parts of the site that won’t be translated is the item title and description

In order to give the best shopping experience however eBay sellers need to list directly onto an overseas eBay site. There is a big difference in visibility for products “listed on” a site to those “available to” the site. This is where eBay’s solution falls down.

Currently your eBay account is held in your country of residence, and all the benefits such as fees, discounts etc are based on that eBay site. Whist you may have a featured shop and be able to list multiple quantity fixed price products on eBay UK for just £0.05 per listing, an equivalent listings on will cost £2.00 or more to list.

eBay have over the last few years promoted to sellers that they will reduce the upfront risk and share in the rewards of seller success with low insertion fees and higher final value fees. eBay have yet to find a way to apply this to International transactions.

The opportunity

The UK is the biggest country in Europe for business to consumer online spending, we each spend around €1333 each year on the Internet. There are also plenty of competitors vying for our business, but in Europe the opportunities are just as good.

Germany is a bigger market, but they spend less per captia online than the UK, if you’re thinking of listing on overseas marketplaces then this is the first foreign language country to attack. France and Italy are also to big to ignore and Spain is the next country to put on your roadmap.

What is your international marketplace selling strategy? Do you list on your domestic eBay and Amazon sites and trust to luck that overseas buyers will find your products or do you actively list directly onto overseas sites? What is the one thing that eBay and Amazon could change about the internationalisation of their sites to increase your overseas sales?

9 Responses

  1. Make worldwide the ebay search default.

    eBay took a backward step years ago when they adjusted search to only show the result containing home listings by default.

    Those who are happy to ship overseas should have their listings appear in the search results default in those eBay territories that sellers ship to.

    If German buyers choose to search in English then UK items should appear in the search result without having to select the worldwide box.

  2. Chris,
    Our approach, (since 2005), has been to open marketplace accounts in each country and to list/sell to each country or marketplace in it’s local language and to comply with the national consumer regs and defacto local standards.

    Lots of people talk about internationalisation but they really mean’shipping internationally’ but I think that’s a world removed from ‘selling internationally’.

    For us ‘selling internationally’ includes;
    – content in local language
    – price in local currency
    – fulfillment meets local expectations ( 48 hours )
    – Customer service in local language
    – Returns policy meets local legal requirements

    Of course you also have to consider VAT registration in several countries and establishing bank accounts – so it is not for the faint-hearted !! It is complicated and time consuming to do all of this – but because we have already done this we now offer clients ( typically manufacturers/distributors ) a turn-key and rapidly deployable solution to having all their products sold directly within the growing number of B2C marketplaces across Europe – Amazon, eBay, Play, Pix, PriceMinister

    And, as is clear from all the data presented at EU Catalyst event last week, the potential B2C market in EU is huge and still growing rapidly.

    PS. Congrats on new book. Extremely valuable resource for many of your readers.


  3. You forgot all the search engines and shop comparison website that are all international brands and have presents in multi countries. The traffic coming to my website now is better than the traffic coming to my eBay shop. I’ve also got more international traffic coming to my website than my eBay shop.

    I personally think that if you sell on Amazon and eBay you should treat them as price comparison websites as your listings are compared to similar listings. The way forward for everyone has to be promoting their website and using global brands to make their own brand global.

  4. We have heard a lot about the Financial Problems in Ireland, Greece and Portugal. But remember that before this all blew up it was often stated on the Financial Pages that it was the PIGS Countries(Portugal(P);Ireland and Italy(I);Greece(G);Spain(S) that had suspect economies. I find myself wondering if the serious Financial Problems in the three so far affected have significantly affected the level of monies spent on the Internet by citizens of those Countries? If there has been a significant effect then it is likely that if and when Spain and Italy see the same collapse of their economy that the same significant reduction in the monies spent on the Internet by their citizens be seen. In which case while it is obviously right and correct that Sellers should try to expand abroad it would also be right and correct for all such sellers to keep the situation in those countries under review.

  5. Further to my Post 4. I noticed on the News tonight that thousands were demonstrating in Spain today about the state of Spain’s economy and 21% Unemployment(Even the abysmal Tory Government hasn’t managed 21% Unemployment here yet – that comes next year). So if you did expand into selling in Spain it might be as well to remember the state of Spain’s economy and the fact that it is in the Eurozone so is likely to collapse into financial chaos anytime soon.

  6. No mention of Russia whatsoever. We focus on helping Russians access internationally-sourced inventory from eBay, Amazon, etc. Booming business. Us our market also on everyone’s radar screen?

  7. List on

    Located in the UK.

    Top Rated Seller since the programme started.

    Never had a single final value fee credit in that time…

    So, no, I do not think Ebay does really understand its “exporters”.


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