Seven years ago I launched a consumer product called the Cush’n Shade, and because of our climate, it wasn’t really suited to the Irish market. We were forced to export to new markets so we decided to target the American market. We didn’t speak any foreign languages and we recognised that our sales and marketing capabilities would be very limited in Europe without this.
Like most start up companies, we built a website and our strategy was to start off selling online, generate early revenue, build a brand and then target the retail market.
With over 310 million people, 90 million households with online access and an online market twice the size of Europe’s, the opportunities in America were worth the risks. These are consumers we can communicate with, we speak the same language, watch the same TV shows and share a very similar culture.
Over the years we learnt what it takes for an international company to successfully enter and sell online in America. We learnt how to do it on a limited budget and how to avoid the mistakes made by many.
Americans are naturally nervous and hesitant about purchasing from foreign companies. The first vital step is to gain their confidence and trust in your ability to offer them a professional and fully competent service. Minor adjustments to your website will help build confidence levels.
Demonstrating your commitment to the American market instills confidence with online buyers. The most effective way is to achieve this, is establishing a US distribution centre where orders are fulfilled, returns are accepted and a local customer service will provide them with peace of mind.
Why a US distribution centre?
In the top ten reasons why Americans do not buy from International companies, four are shipping related. Shipping costs, length of time, import related costs (duties etc) and concerns it might get lost or broken are logistical barriers that are easily overcome by establishing a US presence. A US distribution quickens the delivery time and reduces the cost for both you and your customer. If you store inventory in Ireland, you might as well have a small amount in America that you can replenish when necessary.
Entering any new market has costs associated with it, the key for you is to avoid mistakes. Know your fixed overheads and don’t sacrifice quality of service for a lower cost. Setting up in America can cost just a few hundred dollars a month which is a small price to pay for access to a much bigger market. America is a marathon not a sprint.
Online campaigns targeting the American market will generate significantly more sales offering a far better return on your investment. Campaigns can be easily tailored for the America market, do not require any translations and can be managed from your own office. Social Media allows Irish companies to instantly connect with customers and build a profile in America the same way American companies do it in Ireland. This is easy, cheap and very effective.
Shipping domestically allows you to target the B2B market by providing a dropship service to third party websites that can also sell your products from their online stores. By shipping direct to their customers, you can list your products on hundreds of American online stores growing your sales and brand awareness.
Irish SMEs should not be afraid of selling online in America. With the right strategy and infrastructure in place, companies of all sizes can generate significant sales and grow their business in America.
The Cush’n Shade that we started selling in America just over 4 years ago, operates on a low fixed overhead and supplies over 100 online retail stores across America. Following the development of the brand and by proving our commitment to the market, it now supplies some of America’s largest retail stores and America accounts for 95% of the business.