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You DO need to be careful with regards to fraud but I think it's worth it.
For instance I don't accept orders from Nigeria.
It alwayts amuses me when I get those. Heck, today alone I got 4 orders with US billing addresses and Nigerian or Phillipines as teh shipping address.
I mean, really, does any company really fall for that? heck, at this point, I've blocked several countries from even seeing my website, since the only orders I've ever gotten from them are fraud.
At this point, my overseas customers consist mostly of UK and other major eurpoean countries, as well as australia. China, the Phillipines, and any african or middle eastern country is off limits to us (nothing personal against those countries, they just hit us with attempted fraud everyday).
I see a lot of websites not even selling to CANADA!
The only problem I've ahd with Canada is a few customer's orders getting either "lost" or geld up in customs (for fees). I'd say about 1 in 30 orders to canada is a loss for us (more than low enough to absorb) If UPS was cheaper, it would solve alot of our problems, but most customers don;t want to pay $25 shipping on a $10 item - so we're stuck with USPS Priority Mail
We don't accept orders from all african countries, with exception of South Africa. Also, no orders from Indonesia and the Philippines. Never got an order from China, but will probably deny that order as well.
Orders from Bahrain, in our experience are valid. But I don't know about other middle east countries.
As well as the above mentioned countries we never send out to Portugal, and Spain seems to be getting pretty bad, as does Italy. We took a bit of a gamble a while back, and decided to send out to China, we've not sent many out, probably only 5 - 6 items, but never had a problem with them.
One example is CD's : CDWow in the UK were threatened by record companies for selling Eastern European CDs to Western Europe. Amazon were also going to be checked out.
Another could be toys: safety standards vary from country to country.
I think it does depend on what you sell as to whether you can sell outside a particular boundary.
Since that time we've limited the countries we will accept credit card orders from to Western Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Japan and a few others. The rest have to mail us international money orders or do wire transfers. This takes care of a lot of the fraud and stolen credit card users. Also, we tell international customers to expect a week or two delay while we fill out all necessary papers. It's worked very well for us.
Although I, too, think it depends on what you sell, how well international marketing works. My experience is that if people order something from us, they really want it. Which influences their attitude toward paying custom and import taxes.
I think it's great having a global market.
I've heard people say they ONLY ship to the U.S. and I'm not sure why
Not just "people" but many major US websites such as Walmart.com And they have stores outside the US!
Do a survey of your major competitors: The smart, experienced ones that really money selling on the web. Ignore Dotcom type startups run by 22 year old egomaniacs planning IPOs.
We don't export. Not even Canada. Shipping our kind of products to Canada and dealing with exchanges is too difficult.
I haven't seen much discussion of this topic, but we have studies that show that the closer a customer is to us (within the U.S.!) the more likely he is to reorder.
So why not devote 90-100% of your energy to providing super-service to the 50 million American's who live within a day or two shipping time from you?
The web may instantly span the globe, but fast, dependable shipping doesn't.
This is like saying only design for IE as it has over 90% of the market. Would you turn down a 10 - 15% pay rise for hardly any extra work? Just up the postage costs, and let them decide if they want to order from you or not.
Would you turn down a 10 - 15% pay rise for hardly any extra work?
Hardly any work? We did export briefly...to Canada, and found it exhausting to deal with shipping and export tariffs (on our specific products). Sizing (on say, shoes) and even colors have different meanings outside the U.S.
Returns and exchanges were more complicated. Some people bought only because our products look cheap...to someone paying in Canadian Dollars! Shipping time to Canada (by UPS) was slower than to a similarly far away place in the U.S.
I'm sure things would be vastly more complex dealing with non-English speaking countries, many time zones away. We often have to phone customers when they make ordering mistakes. (email often isn't answered)
We could increase our SALES 10%-15% but I'm not sure our profits would rise at all. Besides there are many easier ways to increase our profits 10-15%.
The fact remains: MANY really smart U.S. retailers (Walmart for one) don't export.
Most of our international customers don't complain about shipping terms (we charge extra) or shipping time (out of our hand once it hits the postal system).
Once the shopping cart is done - we optimized it for US audience - tweaking it for international customers hardly cost any time or money...
P.s Glad to see people including south africa in a list of trusted countrys.