Monday, June 08, 2009

Enterprise Nation - Trading online and cross border

As the European elections come to a close and World Trade Week begins, what better time than the present to look at the possibilities of selling products and services overseas? Emma Jones from Enterprise Nation offers a route map.
In a recent report on the characteristics of home based businesses, it was revealed that the proportion of home businesses deriving more than half their sales from overseas customers is greater than for other SMEs. Businesses started and run from home trade local – but they also have a growing propensity to trade global.

This was confirmed in eBay’s quarterly Online Business Index that showed a 127% increase in cross border online trade in 2008 compared with 2007, with exports by online businesses to Eurozone countries surging by 136%. As I quoted in our support statement for World Trade Week: ‘It is incredible that you can now start a business from the spare room in the morning and be selling to the world by midday.’

So, how to get started?

I suggest it’s about getting three fundamentals right.

The Platform – to sell to the world, requires being seen by the world. Achieve this by being active on one of a number of powerful platforms; global marketplaces such as eBay and and online trading spaces such as elance and are connecting buyers and sellers across the globe. As trade develops on these high profile platforms, consider creating your own site or blog. Companies like Venda offer an online trading store for £50 per month; allowing you to run your own store whilst maintaining trade through other platforms.

Payment – with tools such as PayPal and Worldpay you can easily accommodate e-commerce on your website and get paid without having to make up-front investment. PayPal is owned by eBay and has more than 100 million account holders. There is no up-front cost to installing PayPal – you pay transaction fees once the system is up and running. WorldPay has a dedicated site for small business and offers the opportunity to start trading and receiving payments online in one basic package. WorldPay customers are charged an up-front amount plus monthly and transaction charges. Google Checkout is a relative newcomer. It works pretty much like PayPal, with slightly lower fees, ranging from 1.4% to 3.4% plus 15p per transaction.

Post & Packaging – the FedEx Small Business Centre offers all the information you need on packing and posting goods or visit your local Mail Boxes Etc and have them do the shipping for you. They have deals in place with most of the major postal companies; UPS, Parcelforce Worldwide and FedEx. And if you’re looking for somewhere to store all your stock before sending it across the world, take a look at Access Self Storage and move stock out of your garage/hallway/spare room and in to its own dedicated space!

Taking these steps will see you start your adventure of international trade with the rich rewards it is sure to bring.
Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home'.

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