PayPal Opens Overseas Selling Site for Small E-Tailers

PayPal's Global Selling Guide, which launched today, has information on the holiday customs of 17 nations and tips on a variety of topics including shipping, payments, customs and tax considerations.
PayPal today launched a new resource to help small businesses sell abroad — the Global Selling Guide , a site with information on the holiday customs of 17 nations and tips on a variety of topics including shipping, payments, customs and tax considerations.

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In a tough economy where consumers are spending less, small businesses are facing leaner profit margins. The holiday shopping season is often a bright spot, but industry groups such as The National Retail Federation, for example, are forecasting the slowest holiday sales in the U.S. since 2002.

Eddie Davis, senior director of SMB Channel Sales at PayPal, said that small online business owners are going to need to find new ways to make up for the shortfall in revenues. "When all indicators point to the weakest holiday season in six years, that is scary data for a retailer to face," he said. "That revenue doesn't have to be completely lost however; small businesses simply need to look elsewhere to make up portions of that revenue loss."

While the United States is facing a downtrend, other countries, such as China, Europe and Germany are not. Davis said that indicators show that in these countries, e-commerce and online shopping is still a growing trend, and now is the time for domestic businesses to capitalize on the global market.

Davis said merchants can fuel their own growth by tapping into PayPal's 165 million accounts in 190 markets around the world. PayPal's own data suggests that by simply adding PayPal payment processing to a Web store, many merchants see an average sales increase of 14 percent.

"Given the relatively weak U.S. dollar against many foreign currencies, now is the time to cater to a set of international customers that have increased spending power," said Davis. "But, selling globally has its challenges. While PayPal allows you to transact in 19 different currencies, there are many other aspects of international trade that merchants should be aware of." 

To this end, PayPal's new Global Selling site is aimed at helping small online business owners get information on selling abroad for this holiday season and in the future. The new site provides some very specific details on consumer payment preferences and shopping traditions for 17 different countries.

Web shop owners can use the Global Selling site to find out how to ship internationally to each country, plus they can read about country-specific customs, restricted items and duty and tax considerations. The site also provides a list of recommended shipping carriers for each country.

In addition to the information provided on the new site, Davis also offered these five tips to help small businesses succeed by selling globally this holiday season:

  1. Enhance your Web site: The Internet has no boundaries, and provides an easy and cost-effective way to reach international buyers. Make your site more appealing to foreign customers by:
    • Highlighting your willingness to accept international orders.
    • Enabling multi-language functionality on your Web site.
    • Listing the price of your products in local currencies.
    • Offering clear information about shipping costs, return policies and the countries you serve.

  2. Do your homework: There is much to know when selling abroad. Make sure you understand international customs, taxes and regulations. Resources are available online to help businesses get informed:
    • The U.S. Commerce Department provides market research, counseling and can also facilitate introductions to qualified buyers and distributors.
    • The World Bank's Doing Business project ranks economies on their ease of doing business.

  3. Cater to local tastes: McDonald's serves millions of hamburgers in restaurants all around the world. But it also serves specialty items including the Ayam Goreng McD (regular or spicy) in Malaysia. Understanding the tastes, preferences and customs of the markets in which you are looking to sell is essential to the success of any business.

  4. Know the rules when shipping: Claiming ignorance of the laws just won't cut it when it comes to shipping globally. Shipping can be complicated and making mistakes when filling out customs forms can be expensive and can cause great frustration with overseas buyers. However, many global shipping companies offer resources to help a small business ship outside the U.S. Check out the large shipping providers in the U.S. and learn about their international options.

    Visit the international hubs of the top shippers (UPS, FedEx, DHL, USPS) for more information.

  5. Make payments fast and safe: Dealing with multiple payment forms, foreign currencies and exchange rates can be confusing. Ensuring you get paid fast is especially important when doing business in a global marketplace. In addition, many international buyers may not have visited your Web site before and may be less likely to trust you with their credit card number or other payment data. Services such as PayPal help your business manage global payments and allow buyers to pay quickly and securely with confidence that their personal financial data is protected.

Vangie Beal is a seasoned online marketplace seller, frequent contributor to and avid online bargain hunter. She is also managing editor of

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