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How to Expand Your B2B Business Internationally With ECommerce

B2B Sales
min read

published on

April 11, 2024

Growing your business abroad gives you a chance to take on new customers, diversify your business’s income, and even develop new, more resilient supply chains.

As exciting as it is, though, international expansion can be tricky. You need to navigate a new country’s laws and regulations, find your niche in a fresh business landscape, and overcome language and cultural barriers. 

Luckily, DJUST is your guide. Below, we explain how to do international eCommerce using a B2B approach — and how finding the right platform can help you succeed.

Why use B2B eCommerce to approach international expansion?

B2B eCommerce is the easiest and most effective method to take your business global — but it is not the only option out there.

Let’s go over the three main approaches to international expansion and see how they stack up.

Option 1: Do it yourself (Hardest)

The first option is to launch your business all over again in another country — a move that demands a lot of time, money, and resources. From scouting new manufacturers and distributors to building partnerships with local businesses and setting up shop on foreign terrain, it is a major undertaking. 

Nail this approach, and you will end up with a fully-owned operation in a new territory. But that is typically easier said than done. 

Companies often struggle with this expansion approach, ultimately pulling out of the markets they hoped to enter. Even giants such as Target and Walmart have faltered in their international expansion efforts: Target exited the Canadian market, and Walmart could not crack Germany

Option 2: Franchise (Medium difficulty)

Another route for international growth is offering entrepreneurs in a foreign country the opportunity to open a franchise of your brand. You can sell through your local franchisee, who will handle logistics and build a local customer base.

This approach involves less “DIY” and helps you sidestep some of the hurdles in replicating your business in another country. However, you also surrender a lot of control — and potential profits — to your franchisee. If they fall short, your business reputation will take the hit.

Option 3: B2B eCommerce (Easiest)

That brings us to B2B eCommerce, a market that has exploded in the last few years as companies and buyers have gone digital. 

B2B eCommerce involves selling your products online through existing channels (such as wholesale retailers and department stores) to international businesses — without any local, in-person setups. 

You can manage new international markets with little or no extra staff. Plus, B2B eCommerce is the least expensive option on our list.

Also, with this expansion approach, you remain behind the wheel of your operations — no “handing over the keys” to local franchisees! Retaining control helps minimize risk and maximize your share of profits. 

Best of all, the timeframe for expansion is relatively quick. You can see a boost to your bottom line within months, not years.

Take it from us at DJUST: B2B eCommerce is the smoothest path to international growth.

Launching international eCommerce: 4 steps to consider 

A lot goes into expanding globally (we could talk about it for days!), but there are four main steps every business should take into account. Following them will help you build a solid international eCommerce strategy and set you up for success.

Step 1: Market research

First, you must conduct market research to understand your target audience and begin shaping your market entry strategy. Even within the same industry, businesses across countries can have different needs than your current customers, shaped by differences in cultures, business practices, and consumer behaviors.

So, as you research your international target audience, consider these questions:

  • What sales channels do customers in your target market prefer to use?
  • What types of products appeal to customers in your target market?
  • What payment methods do B2B buyers in your target market use?

Additionally, remember that customers in different countries often require completely different inventory. For example, a sustainable sneaker brand we work with at DJUST sells distinct footwear to customers in Europe and customers in Japan. Another of our partners, lingerie brand Adore Me, offers products in different sizes and colors for its European and US markets.

Step 2: Ensuring legal and regulatory compliance

With market research squared away, it is time to align your expansion strategy with local laws and regulations. Overlook compliance, and you could hit legal roadblocks or find yourself in hot water. 

Compliance is especially important in sensitive industries such as the food and beverage industry. Many countries prohibit transporting certain agricultural products across borders. For example, Canada limits imports of some poultry products from the US.

Here is a list of compliance requirements to check:

  • International commercial terms (incoterms)
  • Local tax regulations
  • Import/export restrictions and permitting requirements
  • Industry-specific regulations

Step 3: Managing your logistics and sales chain

Next, your business needs to establish a local sales chain for B2B cross-selling. Identify what retailers, marketplaces, or businesses you want to sell to, then build a network of local distributors and other partners to help you reach those customers.

For example, if you are selling clothes, you need to identify what local retailers you want to sell through. Then, you need to work directly with those retailers — or with distributors that count them as customers — to get your products on their shelves.

You also need to ensure you can deliver products to customers on demand so there is never a shortage of stock. This may involve identifying multiple delivery or distribution partners and strengthening your own upstream supply chain.

Step 4: Marketing to your new audience

As you gear up to launch in your new market, begin marketing to your target audience. 

Remember that what worked at home might not hit the mark abroad due to cultural differences or unique product demands. So, research local preferences and pinpoint the marketing channels and messages that are most effective in your target country.

Also, do not forget visibility — your new end-users need a way to find your products! Consider optimizing your online presence with localized SEO. If your products are available through local retailers, highlight which stores carry your products.

How B2B eCommerce platforms help make international expansion successful 

Our final piece of advice is to have a stellar B2B eCommerce platform when expanding your business overseas. An eCommerce platform will not only act as your ordering platform but also help you solve the logistical challenges of selling internationally.

Exactly how do international eCommerce solutions achieve this? Let’s dig into the details.

Multilingual catalogs

Many B2B eCommerce platforms offer a storefront in multiple languages, ensuring customers worldwide can easily access and understand your ordering system in their preferred language — e.g, English, Spanish, French, Romanian, Italian, etc. This reduces complexity and makes it easy to expand your business into more countries in the future.

Additionally, many platforms enable you to establish separate storefronts for selling in different countries. This gives you more flexibility to customize your B2B eCommerce system to the specific needs of different markets. 

For example, a fashion company could use multiple storefronts to sell one set of products in the UK and another in the Middle East. The storefronts could look completely different and offer different ordering tools, catering to the various tastes and needs of buyers in these regions.

Even better, all orders are communicated to the same back end, so you can easily keep track of them regardless of which storefront they originate from. (Streamlining orders like this is our specialty here at DJUST!)

Country-specific product catalogs

Some B2B eCommerce systems let you offer different products to customers in different countries

This flexibility is important to appeal to varying tastes in different markets. For example, DJUST partner Monoprix has a unique catalog for the Middle East that includes fewer alcoholic items.

Country-specific product catalogs also enable you to set different prices for the same products across regions. This can be very helpful if you have different suppliers worldwide with varying costs for a single product.

Plus, you can create dynamic product assortments — catalogs that change automatically according to custom rules you create. These are useful for recommending products based on what other businesses in a customer’s market have been buying. Get dynamic product assortments right, and you can increase customer loyalty and your average purchase size

Document management

The best B2B eCommerce platforms help you manage incoterms, import/export permits, customer contracts, and other documents vital for international eCommerce. Streamlined document management means your team can track which contracts apply for each sale and ensure deliveries are not held up in customs

Shipping and delivery management

Some platforms also include international eCommerce shipping and delivery management tools that enable customers to check the real-time status of their orders through a self-service portal. 

This functionality improves the customer experience and reduces your sales team’s workload, as they can focus on landing new deals instead of answering questions about when existing customers can expect products to arrive.

You can also manage shipping independently for each country or region where you operate. For example, you can set up one shipping zone for northern Europe and another in southern Europe. These two zones can involve different shipping companies and use different pricing schemes.

Validation workflows

Order validation workflows are another common feature of B2B eCommerce software, but not all offer international order validation workflows. Top systems will let you create different workflows for different markets

You will need this feature when expanding globally because some countries have import limitations on certain products, regulatory checks for transactions above a specific size, or other requirements you must include in your sales process.

Expert advice: We recommend choosing a software-as-a-service (SaaS) B2B eCommerce platform such as DJUST for selling internationally. SaaS platforms are easy to use, fast to implement, and low maintenance — meaning you can focus on your B2B business growth and not waste time on your eCommerce software.

DJUST offers all the features we have covered, takes four months or less to implement, and is trusted by major retailers worldwide.

The bottom line

Expanding your B2B business into international markets is a huge opportunity to acquire new customers and diversify your income. Based on our experience, selling online with an international B2B eCommerce platform is the most straightforward and effective way to approach cross-border expansion. You can use software to quickly reach your target market, ensure compliance with international regulations, and manage your sales chain.

DJUST offers all the essentials to sell successfully abroad — including country-specific catalogs, multilingual storefronts, customizable order validation workflows, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is international eCommerce?

International eCommerce, also known as cross-border eCommerce, involves selling products online to customers in a foreign country. It is one of the fastest and easiest ways to start selling internationally since it does not require your business to establish a physical presence or distribution network in a foreign country.

How does international eCommerce work?

International eCommerce requires an online platform or store where buyers can order products from your business. Your business can then ship these products through existing international delivery services or fulfill orders through an intermediary supplier in a foreign country or region.

What types of B2B eCommerce are there?

There are several types of B2B markets, including B2B2C sales, wholesaling, and distributing. B2B2C involves selling products to retailers who, in turn, sell them to consumers. Wholesaling eCommerce involves selling your own products directly to other businesses, and distributing involves selling products from another company.

About the author
Alexis Delplanque
Co-Founder & Chief Sales Officer @ DJUST

Expert in topics on B2B sales, sales strategy, eCommerce, eProcurement, and revenue diversification

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