SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH   |   4 minute read

Guide to international SME eCommerce expansion step 2: Planning

In the age of globalization, expanding your SME eCommerce business into multiple international markets is highly desirable. But knowing where to start and how to make sure you’re breaking into the right markets is not always familiar.

TradeGecko are here to help you by providing a step-by-step guide to internationalization for small and medium businesses. Check out our overview video below:


Step 2: Planning for SME internationalization

No one knows more about your business than you do, which is why your plan of action for international expansion starts with you. Assess your readiness and commitment to grow internationally by creating the following:

SWOT analysis

Knowing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is useful in any context, but especially if you’re thinking about expanding internationally. Now that you’ve done the groundwork in researching foreign markets, you’re in a good position to start solidifying your strengths and USP (unique selling proposition), while also identifying ways to mitigate the impact of your weaknesses and threats.Business planning meeting

Operational structure and resources

Getting your day-to-day operations sorted from the outset will help ensure you have the right systems and procedures in place to handle customer demand when the international orders start to roll in.

Consider the practical steps you need to take to get your business up and running overseas, including:

  • What financing options are available to you, if you need them
  • What investments in equipment, certifications etc. you need to make
  • What warehouse space is available if you plan to hold stock locally
  • How many people you need to employ in each market
  • What your strategy will be for shipping and distribution

Pros and cons of international expansion

Before making a significant investment in a foreign market, it’s also worth weighing up the upsides and challenges of international expansion. Every business’ list will be different, but some of the most common pros and cons include:


  • Opportunity to scale up quickly but sustainably
  • Opportunity for additional sales and profits
  • Less vulnerability to local market fluctuations
  • Increased brand visibility


  • Negative impact of foreign currency fluctuations
  • Issues with exporting, importing, shipping, and logistics
  • Compliance and regulation issues

Most businesses will have a list of cons almost as long as their list of pros, but as long as you have a plan in place to overcome those challenges you’ll be in a good position to tackle international expansion.Writing International Business Plan

An international business plan

Moving your sales and operations overseas isn’t just about taking your existing SME business plan and applying it to other markets. Now that you’ve identified key markets to target and your approach to expanding internationally, it’s time to put together a strategic business plan that’s specific to your overseas markets. Your business plan should include the following:

  • Executive summary of international business plan
  • Global vision and goals
  • International expansion roadmap/timeline
  • Foreign market research
  • Risk assessment
  • International business strategy for each target market
  • International marketing plan

Your business plan is an integral part of your SME toolkit and will help to create a framework for turning your expansion plan into action.

If you take a strategic approach to expanding into new markets, you could not only see a significant influx of global sales but also improve business in your local market. Win-win!

Stay tuned for Step 3: Financing for SME internationalization

To start at square one, read our previous step to international SME expansion:

  1. Research

Are you ready to take the next step & move your business overseas?

Download our SME guide to growing your eCommerce business internationally today.