SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH   |   4 minute read

Guide to international SME eCommerce expansion step 1: Research

In the age of globalization, SME eCommerce expansion into multiple international markets is really a no-brainer. But taking the leap from humble local eCommerce business to savvy SME eCommerce business with a global footprint can be daunting. Where do you start and how do you make sure you’re breaking into the right markets?

We’re here to help clarify the eCommerce global expansion process with a step-by-step guide to internationalization for small and medium enterprises. For a quick overview, check out the video below:


Step 1: Researching international expansion

Not all foreign markets are created equal, and diving headfirst into a market that isn’t right for your business can quickly turn into a belly flop. Instead, first conduct foreign market research to identify viable international markets. 

Which markets should I prioritize?

Start by creating a preliminary list of countries or regions for consideration based on factors that are relevant to your business. 

At this stage, it’s important to look at overall macroeconomic factors (things like inflation, demand for goods and services, or trade regulation)  and think about how your business would fit into the broader market in each country.International Shipping containers

Size up each target country

Once you’ve created your list of viable countries, focus on more in-depth research. For each market, compare the following:

  • Local economy – GDP, inflation, labor costs, etc.
  • Culture – openness to foreign business, innovation, etc.
  • Institutions – the legal requirements and ease of setting up a business
  • Infrastructure – tech development, warehousing, etc.

What is the market opportunity?

Perception doesn’t necessarily equal reality, so it’s important to backup your expansion plan with research that tells you which international markets are most feasible for your business. Government resources are a great source of critical information about which markets are in-demand. You can find key statistics and trends at websites such as:

Who are my international competitors?

Understanding your key competitors is crucial to establishing your point of difference and place in a new market. Look at the businesses in your target markets to determine their sales channels, their product offering, where they’re focusing their marketing efforts, and how you can improve on their current offering to provide a better service to customers.

What do customers in my target market want?

You may already know what customers in your local market want, but international customers’ preferences can be starkly different. Factors like cultural norms and trends, seasons, geography and so on can have a significant impact on customers’ demands.

Look for comparable businesses in your target markets to see which of their products are most popular and most well-reviewed. You can also conduct customer surveys or trial selling on a third-party site like Amazon with a small run of inventory to get a feel for the types of products your new customer base is most receptive to.

Research Target MarketStay tuned for Step 2: Planning for SME internationalization


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

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