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Sat Mar 31 2012 13:59:14

What Do Your International Buyers Want?

By: Julia Wilkinson

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In writing an article about "What International Buyers Want" for tomorrow's EcommerceBytes Update newsletter, it was very interesting to learn more about the kinds of things people in different countries look to the U.S. to buy.

It made me also see that many of us may be missing out on selling opportunities by not realizing the "home team" advantage we have in living in the specific region we do, and having access to items they love overseas.

What Do *You* Sell Regularly Abroad?
What types of things do you sell consistently to other countries? And was there anything in the article that took you by surprise?

What's Hot Where
I hadn't realized that cameras, and camera parts such as lenses, sold so well to other countries. Shannon Paasch in particular had sold many Polaroid cameras overseas.

With some other things I did have an idea about, such that some sports brands like golf shirts are popular in countries like England, Germany, and Brazil. But I didn't know they were so into Harley Davidson in England! And I was surprised to learn from a jewelry seller that she regularly sells Trifari brand costume jewelry to Italy, where there is more interest in it than in the U.S.

Home Team Advantage
So if you live, say, in a rural area where folks ride a lot of motorcycles, you may be in a better position to capitalize on the secondary Harley Market than others. And I am very envious of folks like Skip McGrath (http://www.skipmcgrath.com/) who live in Seattle, home of the most Starbucks mugs! Those are popular in the US and all over the world.

But, being a denizen of Washington, DC isn't too bad, either. Here we are at an advantage of finding things such as political memorabilia, artifacts from all over the world from career foreign service officers who have estate sales or yard sales, and wonky books like studies of terrorism or political memoirs (I always look for a signature, and regularly attend a national book festival here in DC to get signatures of my own!).

Use the "Lingua Franca" of the Country You Target
It's great when you can count on an international market for regular sales, too. eBayer Robin Yencer Vergason says she sells "Paci Plughies" (Pacifiers with little plush animals attached) to Australia weekly in different styles.

But another seller pointed out to also remember to add the word "dummy" to this listing, because that's evidently what they call pacifiers in Australia.

Seller Sally tells us of other examples of words that aren't exactly the same in other English speaking countries, e.g. piggy bank = money box, flashlight = torch, diaper = nappy, etc.).

Obviously, there are risks to selling overseas, especially if you use the cheaper first-class international USPS method (in some cases the only method that makes sense given less expensive items), but one thing that's better about these sales? "They pay postage, instead of free shipping I offer here," said seller Lois Dupre, who said she "just sold this vintage 9 in 1 desktop piece for $19 to Germany. If I had accepted that offer for the US it would have been with free shipping, which would have cost me $5." In other words, international buyers certainly do not expect free shipping,...well, the majority of them, anyway!

Tell us about your international sales,...what do you ship where? And do you notice buying preferences or trends in different countries? Are you in a unique position to sell anything because of the region where you live? Post a comment here!




Comments (15) | Permalink

Readers Comments

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: BetterThingsToDo This user has validated their user name.

Sun Apr 1 07:24:32 2012

We quit selling overseas 3 years ago.

Don't sell to Canada either.

When you have to burp them at every turn its time to use tough love.

We do just fine selling in the United States only.

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

This user has validated their user name. by: basset

Sun Apr 1 11:15:18 2012

Just recently changed everything back to USA only. I did not have a bad experience, but I've read enough about others' bad experiences that I just decided it was not worth it. I'm busy enough as it is. When international buyers contact me, I consider it on a case-by-case basis.  

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: tb This user has validated their user name.

Sun Apr 1 12:22:11 2012

I was surprised no mention was made about the lack of traceability of shipping internationally. Unless I charge $30+ (Priority Small Flat Rate doesn't offer tracking), everything shipped internationally is on the honor system. If a customer says they didn't get their order, I have no recourse.

We ship anywhere. But it hasn't been without problems. The biggest problem is shipping time. Shipments to Germany and Brazil have been averaging 4-8 weeks delivery time. Customers get upset, and constantly asking where their package is. How would I know? So we're considering dropping Germany and Brazil based solely on their poor delivery times.

Other than this, we have only had 2 or 3 "lost" shipments in the past 2 years out of a few thousand international shipments. Definitely worth it to keep offering international service.

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: Jim S. This user has validated their user name.

Sun Apr 1 13:05:23 2012

Ditto what tb said. Plus the frequent requests to undervalue on the Customs forms (which, as stated in my listings, I will not do). But, as long as the dollar is weak, and international sales stay strong, I'd be hard-pressed to discontinue.

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: LOISD This user has validated their user name.
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Sun Apr 1 13:18:49 2012

I could not imagine not selling internationally.  They are willing to pay more for many of your items than here in America and do not expect free shipping.  If you are worried about items getting lost just insure them through Auctiva.com that will even insure 1st class international.

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: jpv1234me This user has validated their user name.

Sun Apr 1 13:35:03 2012

international sales represents 20-30% of my actual sales…there are insurance companies  with affordable prices, when I insure my international shipments...only I have had to claim a loss shipment during the past 2 years. (It was lost in Netherland).

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

This user has validated their user name. by: elpereles
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Mon Apr 2 01:31:08 2012

I don't have to sell International. Never have a problem with a lost package, but the delivery times are headache. I receive an order from a New Zealand buyer that took more than a month by 1rst Class. For bad luck of the USPS somebody scanned the package. Showing weeks after I send the package that it was still in a California USPS office.

If you are interesting to sell value items of more than $50. Always use the Priority Mail.

By my experience only 1 from 25 International buyers argue about S&H after they win an auction in eBay.

And for single items never hide your price or add the comment of contact me for International S&H calculation. Because you are giving the buyers to believe that S&H can be low as the Domestic shipping. Also they will not have excuses to ask to cancel an order.

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: Beth This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 07:56:40 2012

For every seller who says "I stopped shipping internationally" (for any reason) I say "HIP HIP HURRAH !    More sales for me.  I love my international buyers - it's around 30% of my business now!  And most of them are no problem.  

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 3 15:11:43 2012

About 30% of our sales are overseas.

Realize that the exchange rate still favors buying US dollar items. That could change as the US economy gets stronger and Europe continues to languish under Greek, Italian, Spainish .... .debt.

Once the exchange rate begins to swing then US goods will become more expensive and buyers will 1) either not bid as high or 2) not buy!

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Wed Apr 4 17:01:03 2012

Tb, I hear you re shipping problems ESP with fci. I could have done a whole article or blog post on shipping internationally..in fact I think I have done at least one blog on it. ;)   But this ECB article was really focusing on the positives of selling internationally..or, more specifically, what sells well. (I for one just sold a shirt to Germany that took a glacial month and a half to get there! But I still enjoy selling to foreign buyers). - Julia  

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: Paulette This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 6 09:47:45 2012

I had just read the articles concerning international buyers, when I received notice that I had sold a vintage camera, lenses, and case I had listed.  However, something was wrong.  The email was not what I normally receive from the site I sold on.  So I investigated further and found it was truly a scam.  Luckily I had just read the article pertaining to this very thing. Thanks.  

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww
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Fri Apr 6 09:57:17 2012

Essex Estate...30% that is great! I would say that is true for me too. Especially for golf shirts, luxury accessories such as Chanel bags, and fine china and porcelain such as Meissen. What types of items are selling for you internationally..can't remember if I asked? :)  Julia

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: Theresa This user has validated their user name.

Sat Apr 7 10:14:54 2012

I sell internationally and notice a lot of trends.  Some examples:

1. musical instruments - two old saxophones and a few guitars come to mind - Intl bidders caused price to soar - one sax sold for a whooping $10K, would have been $5K if not for intl bidders!  Sold to a Japanese buyer with zero headaches

2.  Harley stuff - spot on Julia!  I sell overstock for local HD store (lucky me!).  Lots and lots of items shipped to the UK for top dollar.

3.  I live in Louisville, home of the KY Derby so have access to a lot of KY Derby pins, glasses, signed jockey items, etc. - many think this is  a local collectible only.  They are wrong.  Lots of international buyers too.

4.  Muhammad Ali items - he is from Louisville so another item category I see often - these items sell strongly to Denmark buyers - why?  I have no idea.  That includes nice collectibles (ie, signed gloves) or even brand new sweatshirts I sold when the Muhammad Ali Center opened in Louisville several years ago.

5. China/tea cups/coffee pots - strong sales to the UK and Australia.  I have been told these countries still make dining and tea a formal event whereas we Americans eat out of paper bags and off of cheap dishes.  I don't judge or ask many questions - just sell, sell, sell!!!

Out of thousands of sales to international buyers, I can honestly say I have had two or three buyers that were jerks, which is a much lower percentange than over-demanding and horrible US buyers I run into.  Most int'l buyers are nicer and easier to work with than US buyers.  They do not expect one-day delivery or free shipping and they are willing to pay a premium or at least reasonable price for the items they want.  They do expect kindness and shipping as safely as possible, both of which are easy services for me to provide.  

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: Theresa This user has validated their user name.

Sat Apr 7 10:23:49 2012

Adding to the int' lingo - now I can't rememebr for sure if it was Australia or the UK, but for them, "sweater" equals "jumpsuit". I thought that was really strange!   Also, what we Americans list and sell as a "lot" is a "job" to UK sellers/buyers.  

What Do Your International Buyers Want?   What Do Your International Buyers Want?

by: ThenAndAgainTreasures This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Jan 4 20:44:11 2013

I actually was just writing today on my blog about how I would never cancel selling my items internationally. I have found that combining shipping I really need the buyer to message me in order to get them the best price, especially since we can use flat rate boxes - which didn't exist when I first began selling online back in the 90's.

I hear a lot of horror stories about shipping internationally but overall I think as long as you insure items, pack them really well - for instance when shipping a book over seas it is really a MUST to put cardboard around it, wrap in plastic and seal that plastic well with tape. I can only imagine what kind of torment packages go through going over seas so I always make sure they can be run over by a truck and survive just fine lol.

I am actually going to start offering even more items geared toward my international buyers myself. I know here in Florida there are a lot of close out stores in my area, and I also coupon so can get products at fairly low prices, these same items international buyers cannot get in their country easily. Like certain candies or Health & beauty items. So I have decided to start adding them to my ebay selection in addition to my vintage, collectibles, and other items.

Over the years and selling on multiple different sites (now I only sell on eBay) new account as I sold with a partner on eBay years ago. Anyway, over all this time I had 1 package go missing, and the buyer didn't even want a refund as they figured it was not my fault. I still gave the refund anyway as I felt it wasn't my customers fault either. So in all that time only that one issue.

I actually am working on increasing international sales - never would do away with them.

Something that I didn't realize from the article was the vintage fabrics. I have been planning on selling fabric & Lace. I actually have a bunch to list and I knew they are good sellers I just never paid attention to where most of the buyers are located when researching it. Now after reading this post I am going to make sure I get all of that up this week.

Thanks for sharing different opinions from buyers & sellers I found it very informative and nice to read different opinions and points of view etc.

Kim Sager & Family



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