International Online Business – How & When Do It?

Learn the steps of international online business for your company or online store. While most are international by day one, it doesn't mean it should.

When An Online Business Should Go International?

So you’re interested in going global with your online business to increase your sales and brand awareness? 

You should aspire to serve international customers from day one, especially if you’re offering products and services that provide value for even a larger audience than your local market. 

Through internationalization, companies can connect with new audiences that would like to buy and experience your services and products. 

Through internationalization, you can also make a very niche online business viable and profitable when you connect to the broader audience of said niche and reach the scale that your niche always had the potential. 

Let’s look at the perfect time to go international and the soft requirements you want to make sure you have before launching and offering products to a global audience. 

Going international doesn’t happen by itself. Of course, there are exceptions where online businesses (like software-as-a-service businesses) can go global with minimal effort and succeed. It will require the right combination of work and digital marketing strategies

While online business is, by default, an international business, due to not having any real restrictions or barriers for entry, there are a couple of things you should consider first. 

To make sure you’ve set the best way possible for international trade because when done poorly, it will end up costing you too much. Either in money or effort that you could’ve invested in growing your business locally. 

You want to make sure your online business is capable of dealing with international customers.

8 Reasons Why An Online Business Should Go International And Optimize For It?

Let’s look at a few reasons through examples, when internationalization is beneficial or even a requirement for you to achieve business success. 

  • Your product and service suits the international market
  • You discover a gap in the market
  • Your products are better than the local market alternatives
  • You need to expand through increasing sales and brand awareness
  • You want to serve a target audience better that you found through web analytics
  • Through testing, you saw that a customer segment reacts better in their language
  • Lower cost of acquisition in a new market
  • New business partnerships available internationally

You can start analyzing your current situation through these eight examples and see any underlying international opportunities you might have missed earlier. 

And if you’re lucky, you’ll discover even more opportunities that your online business is uniquely situated to tackle and to find more growth. 

As of June 2019, only about 5.6% of U.S-based SMEs engaged in international trade, which means there are many opportunities still left for SMEs to engage in global sales to achieve higher returns and sales figures. 

The Cons of Going For International Online Business

It’s not always as simple as setting up an online business and having the right setups for international trade. There are a few cons you need to consider when going global. 

Some of these cons are mostly due to competition, which you will face on the whole another level when you compete against other international online businesses.

See these cons as obstacles you need to overcome. When you have these cons on your mind and have a strategy on overcoming them, your international online business will have a better chance of succeeding in new markets. 

Common problems online businesses face internationally:  

  • More competition
  • Marketing can be more expensive
  • A lot of new audiences can make it harder to pinpoint your most profitable audience
  • Managing global customer support
  • No one knows your brand
  • Lower margins 
  • Cultural expectations 
  • Language barriers

Not all cons we listed here affect all online businesses equally. Therefore, analyze your online businesses’ strengths and weaknesses to discover more cons that might impact you only. 

Or you might even learn through analyzing data that these cons won’t affect your bottom line as heavily as it would for others. Which would mean, the online business you run, have a higher chance of succeeding internationally.  

What Do I Need Before Going International?

Whenever you can provide the international audience an equally good service compared to your local customers, don’t start if you’re not capable of servicing an international customer the best way.

Many things can go wrong, especially at scale. 

There will be no differences in how you serve your customer either locally or internationally in some online businesses. For example, an online product with a complete sales funnel online, by default, has an excellent opportunity scale internationally from the get-go.

In these cases, what internationalization means, comes down to finding international audiences and creating marketing strategies that suit different global markets. 

But for an online store, for example, where you’re still dealing with a physical product, you need to consider how you can make the process of buying from your store and receiving the final product as smoothly as possible to all audiences.  

So before internationalization, make sure your business suits the international market by understanding some basics: 

  • You can deliver the product to the global audience on time
  • You have a similar process of handling customer support for all customers.
  • Decide whether you’re going to support other languages
  • You can accept payments internationally
  • Your sales funnel work internationally 
  • Understand the best marketing channels in the target markets
  • Have you considered local distributors and resellers that have strong local relationships with their customers?
  • Does your online business (online store or website) capable of dealing with international traffic 

Next, let’s look at some strategies to start your process of going global with your online business. 

But first, you might want to check out our list of the best marketing channels you can use for any business and find what would work for you.

International Expansion Marketing Strategies For Online Business 

We chose online marketing strategies that are scalable, enabling you to target international audiences from day one. 

Through these strategies, you can start little by little, learning every day more about the best usable channels and audiences that react well to your brand and your products. 

All these methods also utilize easy-to-understand targeting options, making sure that you’re always advertising to a target audience in a target market you want your brand seen. 

And if you choose not to go international right away, learning to these methods now helps you scale to new markets quickly tomorrow. 

As it usually requires only a change of campaign settings and targeting if you have all the other aspects of your online business ready for international audiences.

We also provided links to read more about each marketing strategy and its benefits.

The strategies that offer these features are: 

You should also start to include web analytics into your online business’s decision-making process as soon as possible. Not only can you track performances of a variety of traffic sources, but you can start to understand from which markets you gain the most results like sales and brand awareness. 

Tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook pixel installed on your websites are a great first step to analyzing web data to your benefits. 

But an essential thing to note is that if you start with marketing instead of making sure your business can handle the international traffic and the sales it could provide, you might end up losing a lot of resources and time.

Therefore, make sure your online business can deal effectively with international sales before scaling your marketing efforts towards it. 


Through the questions within this article, we hope you have a better understanding of the reasons for going international and what you need to do before it. 

To answer the when to go international will depend highly on the type of online business you have. Others have an easier time serving global customers from the get-go from day one, and others have to implement a lot of changes before. 

The main takeaway here is to experiment slowly with international markets. You don’t need to spend a fortune to see whether a new market suits your business and the growth targets. 

Instead, you can grow and scale through increments at a time. A small marketing campaign to a new market to see whether your brand sticks or learn new audiences’ behavioral habits. 

And when you start getting traction internationally, you’re going to have the information you need to scale it further. 

And if you don’t find success from international markets, you’ll know that you will have to develop and grow from the market you already know. Or you can always change your business plan to accommodate the new situations. 

The other takeaway is understanding, while online businesses are almost always international and can serve the whole world right away.

Your processes of handling international customers have to be at a high standard, and you need to learn the differences between audiences on how they interact with your business. 

But that said, every online business has a chance of succeeding internationally.