Why you should sell internationally during the holidays

If you’re not selling overseas during this year’s holiday season, you’re missing out.

Ecommerce sales in the US alone are expected to jump 16.6% during the 2017 holiday season, motivated by increases in mobile commerce and the intensifying online battle between large retailers and digital marketplaces.

While the US holiday shopping season lasts from Thanksgiving through Christmas, the global season is much longer, kicking off in early November and ending around February. As more people worldwide shift their shopping habits, traditional holidays and the weeks leading up to them have become prime online shopping time. To prepare, take a look at the season’s top global holidays.

Mark the calendar

With origins in the US, major shopping days Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) and its internet-only counterpart Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) have transformed into truly international holidays, now familiar to people in the UK, Italy, Spain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Portugal and beyond. While Black Friday is historically a day for in-store doorbuster-style promotions, online discounts that last through the weekend are now standard.

Similar to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Australians catch deals to jumpstart the holiday season during Click Frenzy (November 18), an online megasales event where retailers join to offer major promotions. Because November is the peak month for Australian internet sales, Click Frenzy is a great opportunity for Australian and overseas retailers—despite preferring to buy from Australian brands, Australians make a significant proportion of purchases with overseas companies.

Other holidays to put on your radar? Diwali, India’s largest holiday and shopping period, is the earliest of all of major shopping-heavy holidays. This year, the five-day festival of lights begins in late October, and retailers like India’s Flipkart and Amazon.in run large seasonal promotions. Many lucrative global holidays also fall outside of the year-end months, like Les Soldes in France, two six-week sales seasons in summer (June-July) and winter (January-February).

The largest online shopping event of them all, however, is China’s Singles Day (November 11). Thanks in large part to Alibaba, Singles Day generates more money than America’s Cyber Monday and Black Friday combined. On 11.11, as it’s called, both China-based retailers and marketplaces like Jingdong, Suning and Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao will offer discounts of at least 50% off to shoppers. It’s not only domestic brands benefit from Singles Day; in fact, international brands like Gap, Adidas and Microsoft made up 27% of Singles Day sales in 2016.

Make a list, check it twice

It’s clear that November through February is critical for online ecommerce sales around the world, but how should you prepare for the season? Selling internationally takes work, but isn’t as hard as it may seem—as long as a site is accessible in their language and serves their area, most online shoppers are more than willing to buy gifts from overseas.

Here are some tips for ecommerce retailers both big and small:

  • Optimize your site from top-to-bottom for multilingual shoppers and multiple devices, whether you’re purely an online retailer or mostly sell from brick and mortar stores. Offer detailed product listings and high-converting user reviews in all supported languages for comparison-shopping customers
  • Start early and plan extensively to offer international shoppers fully localized online experiences, down to the tiniest buttons and automated messages
  • Know which holidays are hot in international markets and craft targeted, localized campaigns around these key dates

If you’re not ready to sell abroad this season, remember that it’s never too early to start preparing for 2015. Even the smallest online retailers can benefit from inching beyond their borders.

Learn more about how you can use Gengo for ecommerce.

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CATEGORIES /

Alex Nguyen

The author

Alex Nguyen

​Alex crafts and coordinates content for Gengo’s marketing team. Based in San Francisco after a brief stint in Tokyo, she loves all things culture and design. When not at Gengo, she’s likely brushing up on her Japanese, letting loose at indie electronic shows or trying out new ice cream spots in the city.


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