This post is by Tom Crosthwaite of Bobsled Marketing.
Amazon likes to encourage sellers to trade internationally, and has an extensive educational and support program called Amazon Global Selling.
For Amazon, when sellers expand internationally it improves product selection and competition, providing customers with more choice and lower prices.
For brands, selling internationally on Amazon can provide additional sales from their existing product lines, without disrupting the established distribution network in their home market.
So, what is Amazon Global Selling and how can sellers benefit from it?
What are my options for selling on international Amazon sites?
Brands can reach international Amazon customers in a few different ways:
The FBA Export program allows customers from different countries to order your FBA products stored in one country.
For example, when an Amazon.com seller enables FBA Export, Australian customers can purchase your product on Amazon.com and Amazon will ship the order to Australia on your behalf.
Amazon Global Selling
This program offers brands a way to manage multiple product offers across international “target” marketplaces from a single “source” marketplace.
Separate Amazon accounts
Brands can sell across multiple Amazon marketplaces, and manage each account independently.
This allows you to expand to multiple Amazon markets, without linking the accounts using Amazon Global Selling.
A final option is to use international resellers or distributors. Brands can sell their products wholesale to a third party who will resell their inventory on Amazon internationally.
There are pros and cons to each mode of international expansion, and the “right” option depends on your brand’s specific growth goals.
What is Amazon Global Selling?
Amazon Global Selling allows brands to list and sell their products on Amazon marketplaces in Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and the Americas.
By enrolling in Amazon Global, brands can use the Build International Listings (BIL) tool to develop and create offers in a “source” marketplace and expand these offers out to “target” marketplaces.
The idea is that sellers save time and effort by managing offers in one marketplace. However, the program does not guarantee the creation of new product detail pages in targeted marketplaces. There are other synchronization challenges with Amazon Global relating to inventory, pricing and selling regulations. Therefore in some instances, sellers may prefer to sell across multiple marketplaces without unifying different accounts under Amazon Global Selling.
Anyone with an Amazon seller account can enroll in Amazon Global Selling, but they must register a new selling account for each marketplace they want to expand into. For example, a US-based seller who wants to expand into Australia will have to create an Amazon.com.au seller account.
The exceptions are the unified accounts for North America (US, Canada, and Mexico) and Europe (UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands and Spain). For example, if a US-based seller wants to expand to Canada via Amazon Global, they can use their existing US Amazon account and do not need to register separately.
In summary, Amazon Global Selling is a centralized dashboard where brands can manage international offers from a single place.
Which countries can I sell to through Amazon?
Amazon currently has marketplaces in 18 different countries.
However, not every marketplace is easily accessible to every seller. For example, Amazon India is currently restricted to Indian-based businesses. Before launching into a new marketplace, sellers should look at any geographical, tax and product restrictions relating to that marketplace.
It’s also important to note that sellers don’t necessarily have to go through the effort of launching a new marketplace account to reach customers within a target country – they could simply enable FBA Export in the source marketplace.
Note that not all products are FBA Export-eligible, and shipping times are almost always longer compared to domestic orders, but it’s definitely an option to consider.
Do I need to open an Amazon account in every country?
Amazon has “unified accounts” for North American (US, Canada, and Mexico) and Europe (UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands and Spain). If you already sell in one country in a unified region, you can sell to other countries in that region without opening a separate account.
For example, if a US-based seller wants to expand to Canada, they do not need to create a separate seller account. Likewise, if a UK-based seller wants to expand to Germany, they do not need to create a separate seller account.
If you don’t already have an account in a unified region you will need to create one to sell to any of the countries within that area. For countries that are not in a unified region, such as Australia and Brazil, you will need to register for a new selling account in that country.
What are the requirements for registering on international Amazon sites?
Amazon seller registration differs in each country (or unified region). Here are the high-level requirements for some of the most popular areas:
North America (US, Canada & Mexico)
To be eligible to sell on Amazon North America you need:
- To be resident in an accepted country (there are over a hundred).
- A valid bank account (it doesn’t have to be a North American bank account).
- A valid phone number.
- An internationally chargeable credit card.
Europe (UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands & France)
To be eligible to sell on Amazon Europe you need:
- A bank account in an accepted country (which includes the US and most of Europe)
- A valid phone number.
- An internationally chargeable credit card.
To be eligible to sell on Amazon Japan you need:
- A bank account in Japan or the US.
- A valid phone number.
- An internationally chargeable credit card.
You can download PDF guides from Amazon about expanding to Europe, Japan, Australia and North America.
What else does Amazon require from international sellers?
Every Amazon marketplace has nuances in terms of international seller requirements. Broadly speaking, here are the extra things to consider before expanding;
- Product and category restrictions. Just because you can sell products on one Amazon marketplace doesn’t mean you’ll be able to sell the same product on another marketplace. Sometimes Amazon requires documentation (such as government approvals for grocery items) before you’re approved to sell within certain categories.
- Taxes and import duties. Each country has different taxation rules in respect to Amazon revenue, such as VAT in Europe and GST in Australia. Where your inventory is stored may impact your tax obligations.
- Local language translation. This relates both to the product information on your detail pages and ongoing customer support. The Amazon Global Selling program has been designed to help with product listing translations, but it doesn’t always work perfectly.
- Maintain performance levels. Failure to comply with Amazon standards may result in account suspension. You can set your own policy in respect to shipping speed and returns, to ensure you are held to standards that you can meet.
How does Amazon help sellers trade globally?
The Amazon Global Selling program is designed to help sellers trade internationally, by providing detailed information on preparing to sell, account registration, creating listings, shipping and fulfillment, and ongoing account management.
However, it’s important to note that the majority of Amazon’s global trade material and tools are one-size-fits-all guides. Sellers need to do their own due diligence and investigate all the opportunities and ramifications of expanding globally through Amazon’s network of marketplaces.
Amazon’s Seller Support can assist if you run into specific problems when expanding globally e.g. a product offer not displaying correctly in a target marketplace. However, Support won’t be able to provide any professional advice or guidance on your international expansion.
Do I need to enrol in Brand Registry for every country I want to sell to?
Yes, each country has its own Brand Registry so you need to apply to each one separately.
Note that trademarks registered with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) are accepted for Brand Registry applications in European countries, as well as those registered with each country’s own trademark office.
How should I decide which countries to expand to first?
Each brand is unique, as is each country. An international expansion strategy is not something that can be taken straight “off the peg” and applied to your business without customization.
However, here are some useful rules of thumb when it comes prioritizing potential new Amazon marketplaces:
- Existing brand presence. Launching into markets where your brand is already known and loved is a no-brainer.
- GDP. How much disposable income is floating around in a target market? This metric might immediately eliminate certain regions.
- Language. Target markets that share a language with a source market don’t require translation costs, so could be more profitable.
- Start-up costs. Certain markets may require more approvals, documentation, packaging updates etc, hurting the profitability of the launch program.
In terms of marketplace size, Amazon.com is by far the biggest in terms of total traffic and revenue generated. Ballpark aggregates of other markets compared to Amazon.com are as follows:
- Canada is around 5-10% of Amazon.com sales volume.
- The UK is approximately 10% of Amazon.com sales volume.
- The EU (France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Spain combined) is also around 10% of Amazon.com sales volume.
- Australia is approximately 1% of Amazon.com sales volume.
Ultimately, brands need to do a competition versus opportunity analysis for each market.
Established markets such as Amazon.com are incredibly saturated and have higher CPCs, but winning brands can generate enormous amounts of revenue due to the size and sophistication of the platform.
At the other end of the spectrum, newer marketplaces such as Amazon Australia are way less crowded and have far more affordable CPCs, but winning brands can’t expect revenue at the level of Amazon.com.
Are Amazon PPC ads and other marketing options available worldwide?
Generally speaking, Amazon trials new promotional and advertising tools on Amazon.com first, before rolling out the features to other markets. An example would be Amazon Posts, which are social media style pieces of content native to the Amazon.com app. So, Amazon.com always has the most bells and whistles.
It’s also standard for Amazon to “soft launch” brand new marketplaces and purposefully limit which tools can be utilized. With the recent Amazon Australia launch, for example, there was no Prime or PPC advertising on the marketplace for the first six months.
So if you’re looking to launch on Amazon Sweden marketplace from the jump, expect a “bare bones” incarnation first, with more tools added over time.
What is the Build international Listings (BIL) tool?
The Build International Listings (BIL) tool helps brands develop and create offers in a “source” marketplace and expand these offers out to “target” marketplaces.
For some sellers, this can make managing offers across multiple marketplaces simple. When you manipulate a product listing in the source account, target marketplaces are automatically updated. But this tool doesn’t always work properly. There are often issues with listing and pricing updates appearing correctly.
If you intend to sell the same products across multiple marketplaces it may be worthwhile experimenting with BIL for a single ASIN. If it works seamlessly, fantastic – go ahead and use BIL for more products. But if you run into headaches, you may be better off managing each account independently without connecting them via Amazon Global Selling.
What kind of service providers exist to help me sell internationally?
When selling on your own domestic Amazon marketplace, there’s a lot you can do without help from any outside agencies. But with global selling, it’s less common for sellers to go it alone.
There are many different types of providers you can use, from very specific services that you cherry pick to solve specific problems, to outsourcing the entire process. Here are some of the most popular types of services that sellers use.
Pre-launch market research
An agency or consultant can assess Amazon international expansion opportunities up-front for you. Many providers offer one-time international launch research projects which involve customized market analysis and a breakdown of all the steps required.
Freight forwarding and customs agents
These providers specialize in the safe, efficient and cost-effective shipping of inventory overseas to Amazon Fulfillment Centers, and the process for clearing local customs without any snarl-ups.
Taxation is one area where many sellers need assistance to comply with all the applicable laws in their own country. Staying on the right side of tax systems around the world multiplies that complexity.
There are companies that specialize in sales taxes and VAT for ecommerce companies, helping them decide where to store inventory, and to register and file returns correctly. Make sure you understand all the tax implications of selling in a brand new marketplace, before shipping a single item.
Third-party logistics companies (3PLs) help Amazon sellers prepare inventory for FBA, handle returns, provide full pick/pack/ship fulfillment services and more.
International 3PLs have warehouses in multiple countries, so they can provide a consistent service to global sellers.
Distributors and resellers
If you definitely want your products to be available in a new market, but don’t want to go through the hassle of launching your own Amazon store, using a distributor or reseller may be the way to go.
This often means giving up control of your brand presence in the new market, which is a deal-breaker for many.
Expanding internationally doesn’t mean you need to manage the account yourself on a day-to-day basis. Many established consultants and agencies provide product listing translation and local language customer support, helping to maintain customer satisfaction standards.
Bobsled is a certified Amazon Advertising partner. Over 150 established consumer brands have partnered with Bobsled for Amazon Channel Management, Amazon PPC, Amazon Account Launch, Amazon Brand Protection and Amazon Strategy.