Monday, January 15, 2007

Are 90% of your potential customers unserved?

The US is the largest economy in the world, representing some 5% of the world's population, and around 25% of the world's GDP. This means that if you are a US-based online retailer selling only to US customers, you are ignoring 95% of your potential customers. "Most are dirt-poor" you may say. Well, that is probably true. But even if 90% of them are dirt-poor, that still leaves a market twice as big as the US.

Not convinced? See these figures. There are 400.000 millionaires in Russia alone, while the UK is home to over half a million of them. According to Morgan Stanley, there are 100 million potential buyers for luxury goods in China today. One hundred million people, wanting to buy luxury goods just in China! And guess what? Luxury goods in China are much more expensive than in the US. If you sell luxury goods, you should certainly not be ignoring overseas markets.

What should you be doing? To start with, take orders from abroad. Most retailers only accept orders from the US. That is a big mistake. Take the necessary measures to prevent fraud, but why reject the orders? Just requiring a scanned copy of the credit card and passport will greately reduce fraud. You would be surprised to find out how many foreign customers are even ready to pay extra money just to buy from you, a US-based retailer. You need to take into account that shipping will be a bit more expensive (shop around for prices). It is important to state clearly that customs clearance is the customer's responsibility.

Of course, you should not stop there, you should actively reach out to your customers. Here are some ideas:
  • Translate your pages into as many languages as possible. It is much simpler and cheaper than you may think. Try posting a translation project in, you'll see how cheap it is.
  • Have a virtual phone number in your main markets. It will make your customers much more comfortable. Again, it is really cheap, you can get a virtual number from for just $20 a month. For just $200 a month you will look like a multinational, with phone numbers in London, Paris, Hong Kong, Mexico City and a few others. You can become the world's smalles multi-national!!
  • You can also hire a company to answer the phone for you, and even take orders. Prices are in the $0.20 per minute range.
In summary, the world is a large place. Any retailer selling only in the US is constraining itself to a small portion of the world's market.


Anonymous said...

Good words.

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