Is Selling Internationally on eBay Worth It?

A question often asked by new and veteran eBay sellers alike is whether selling internationally on eBay is worth the time, effort and potential hassle. The short answer is perhaps, determined by the value of anticipated international sales compared to the cost (time, risk, monetary) of the physical selling process. In this article, we will examine the different arguments for and against international selling on eBay.

Why eBay sellers should consider selling internationally on eBay

Some of the most persuasive reasons for eBay sellers to sell internationally include:

  • It is a proven fact that eBay is a worldwide marketplace, and increasingly so. Over 60% of eBay’s net revenue so far this year has been from the international (non-US) side of the business. There are over a dozen international eBay sites, plus a number of eBay affiliated marketplaces. Sellers who concentrate all of their sales efforts on their local eBay site are inherently limiting their reach and sales potential.
  • In addition to the existence of other eBay marketplaces, there are also millions of people who live in countries without a regional eBay site. These online shoppers are restricted to eBay listings that allow international shipping to their country. For sellers willing to consider international shipping, these potential buyers are something of a captive market.
  • Sellers who list items internationally can take advantage of worldwide seasonal variations. While the northern hemisphere of the world experiences winter, much of the southern hemisphere (including Australia, where eBay is particularly popular) is baking in hot temperatures. eBay sellers can take advantage of these seasonal differences, particularly those who specialise in seasonal specific products.
  • International shipping may not be as difficult as some sellers think. One option to avoid anxiety about sending packages internationally is to use eBay’s Global Shipping Program (GSP). With the GSP, eBay takes away the responsibility of international shipping costs and the customs paperwork from sellers.

The disadvantages of selling internationally on eBay

Selling internationally on eBay does not come without issues. The most commonly cited concerns are:

  • The higher cost of international shipping and customs charges. Items that are sent internationally are liable for higher shipping costs as well as additional customs fees on arrival. It is not usually possible for sellers to know these customs fees in advance. The GSP, again, is touted as a resolution to this problem, advertising international shipping and customs charges upfront to buyers. Some sellers believe, however, that these upfront charges are too high and buyers are put off.
  • Potential Language barriers with international buyers making transactions difficult. It is understandable for sellers to be intimidated by the idea of communicating with buyers who do not speak the same primary language. The truth of it is, though, that these buyers are usually already experienced with international purchases and likely speak some English anyway. For almost everything else, there is Google Translate!
  • Additional time required to learn international selling rules and regulations. Learning the ropes of international selling does take some time and dedication, especially for sellers looking to advertise products directly on international eBay sites or those who want to avoid using the Global Shipping Program. One way to start small is to either trial the GSP or simply add limited international shipping options to existing listings.

Important international selling considerations

For many eBay sellers, the sales potential in the international marketplace far outweighs any disadvantages as listed above. Sellers who are leaning towards selling internationally should first research the following considerations before finalising their decision:

  • Regional compatibility of items. Not all items are sold alike in every region of the world. Plugs on electrical items are one of the most obvious differences. DVDs and games consoles, for example, are often regionally locked and will not play properly outside of the country of their intended use.
  • Import restrictions. It is the seller’s responsibility to make sure that any sold items are allowed to be sent to the intended country, as per local laws. The list of prohibited items can vary widely between countries, so sellers should be sure to never assume what is not restricted.
  • International selling can take a few different forms on eBay. Some sellers list items on international eBay sites directly, while others prefer to list products on their ‘home’ eBay site with international shipping options. Each method has advantages and drawbacks.
  • Shipping insurance. Having shipping insurance is always a good idea for eBay items, but particularly when sending products internationally. Think of it as a safety net to help recover funds if an item goes missing or is damaged in transit.

Do you find international shipping on eBay worth it for your business?

Gemma is our all things eBay expert. Originally from the UK, she now lives in Canada and travels extensively. You can read about her travels at her blog Off Track Travel.

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