This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Andy Hooper of Global E-commerce Experts joins Erik and Tim to discuss how US-based E-commerce brands can successfully expand to international markets.
Brands that broaden business outside the United States can vastly increase their potential customer base. Andy says, “I think that for state-side sellers that are looking to expand, the reason to do it is 500 plus million people here in Europe. That's the number one golden opportunity, that the number of people is significant and far outweighs the number of people in the North American market.”
Market research is an essential part of deciding whether to develop a business in Europe. Andy explains, “To think, is my brand going to be able to sell in Europe? Do some market research. Many people listening to this, designed a product and then had done some market research. It's no different when you're doing that into Europe.”
Brands that are hesitant about international growth, should focus on the prospect of increased sales and revenue. Andy explains, “I think that a lot of brands and sellers are nervous about expansion, it can seem very daunting about opening up to a new market, a new continent, a new location. Whenever we go outside of our comfort zones, these things always seem more complicated. Without any shadow of a doubt. What you need to do is think about the opportunities there for you. Potentially up to 80% of your US sales in Europe alone. That's a massive opportunity for you as a brand to not design any more products and just ship the products you've currently got.”
Listen to this week’s episode to learn more about how to effectively grow a US-based business internationally.
About the Guest:
Andy Cooper is the CEO of Global E-commerce Experts. He has been involved in E-commerce for over ten years. Andy is a proven thought leader in Ecommerce expansion into European markets with over 2000 successful expansions. He is directly partnered with the world's biggest online marketplaces.
Global E-commerce Experts shares the ability to rocket launch E-commerce businesses through VAT and Tax services, 3PL Storage and Fulfilment via our Warehouse, and E-commerce Account Management just to mention a few.
Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to this edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. I'm your co-host, Tim Curtis from CohereOne.
Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.
Tim Curtis: Today on the podcast we have Andy Hooper. Andy Hooper is the CEO of Global E-commerce Experts and has been successfully expanding businesses into new markets for over 15 years. As an accomplished specialist in E-commerce, Andy now works with companies around the world providing comprehensive gateways and solutions to new markets, especially US-based organizations transitioning into the EU. Andy, welcome to the show.
Andy Hooper: Thanks very much for having me, gentlemen. It's great to be here.
Tim Curtis: It's nice to have you. I think this is gonna [00:01:00] be an interesting topic. Ever since Brexit, there's been a lot of discussions about the EU and doing business in the UK, et cetera. But before we kind of get into that, I'd love to know a little bit more about your story and how you arrived at founding Global E-Commerce.
Andy Hooper: I guess like many listeners that might be listening to this, that have got their own business, my route into what I do now is kind of taken a few chicanes and a few hurdles, and I've managed to work my way here somehow. I had a job, I left that nine years ago. Whilst I was doing that job, I was doing, like many of us were doing, I had little side hustles that was looking after dogs at the weekend, flipping things on eBay, buying some stuff from China and selling on Amazon, wedding photography.
All of those things culminated in me then leaving my employment and setting up a couple of different businesses, one in 3D printing and one in sports consultancy. While I was doing those, I was also selling things on [00:02:00] eBay and Amazon and flipping things and basically general sort of doing a small amount in E-commerce. Now, with those pieces, it just never really excited me. I'm a much more of a service-based person.
So, I was doing three to five grand a month on Amazon, and half of that on eBay. Most of that, to be quite honest, was not profit, anyone that can recognize those sort of things. So, it wasn't really going anywhere or growing. Then what happened was in 2016, the rules and regulations changed here in Europe for overseas sellers who wanted to be selling on marketplaces.
And one of those things they needed was, so for Amazon particularly, US-based sellers, or sellers based outside of the UK and in Europe, had to be VAT registered in order to be selling on the platform. That was how we got to Global E-Commerce Experts via selling stuff on Amazon. Because I understood Amazon, how those platforms [00:03:00] work, I could see this change happening and thought, I can see a problem here. Let me solve it.
Tim Curtis: Right. For the listeners, VAT is VAT or Value-Added Tax.
Andy Hooper: Right. I should have explained that. Yes.
Tim Curtis: You wanna explain a little bit about that?
Andy Hooper: Yes, a Value-Added Tax is tax. That's basically what it boils down to, and wherever you are selling in the world, if you are selling a product in a country, the government wants a little bit of a thank you for allowing you to sell that product in that country. That's the best way of describing it, and that comes in the way of Value-Added Tax or sales tax.
Tim Curtis: Yep.
Andy Hooper: No one likes paying tax. Let's just get all that all out in the open, but we have to pay it as a thank you for selling your product in the region.
Tim Curtis: Right. It's a 20% thank you if I'm not mistaken now.
Andy Hooper: So, it's 20% in the UK and it varies in different parts of Europe, different rates. And then when you go into other countries, Australia, Canada, the GST is slightly different as well.
Tim Curtis: A lot of this is you're in the States, we would say sort of a gig [00:04:00] economy. You're doing multiple different jobs, having multiple sources of income, trying to kind of figure out what's working, what's not working. And then out of that is where Global E-commerce Experts came from just that experience?
Andy Hooper: Yeah, exactly that. So, we were very successful in doing that piece and we created some great partnerships. So, all the learnings I'd spent of five years running my own businesses, of all the things that worked and didn't work, I was really self-employed. I was gig economy. I was going from one job to another job. I was trying to make a business out of something, but really, I was just self-employed. Really, that's the long and short. I was looking for something that was scalable and then this came up and I was like right, okay. I think we can make something work out this.
And because I'm a bit of an entrepreneur, I like solving problems, what then happened as we started working with E-commerce sellers, 95% of our clients are all based in the States. So, what happened was they're all starting to expand, and they're like, well, I've got a problem with this, Andy. How do I solve this? And there I am, scrambling away, trying to solve it, and [00:05:00] that's where the bigger business then came from in the end.
Tim Curtis: For the listeners who may not know my background, I did do a lot of work early to mid in my career, working with not only the UK but within the EU. It's only gotten more complicated. As many of you listeners know, GDPR and the privacy laws, safe harbor laws, et cetera, between the EU and the US have really gotten more complicated. And so that's, I think, Andy, probably where you're coming in to help these brands navigate some of that, that are going maybe stateside to Europe. Is that fair? Why would a brand do that run headlong into that kind of regulation?
Andy Hooper: One thing is people overcomplicate the regulations in order so they can charge more money for it. That's the first thing to say. Then what happens is only people are specialists in certain areas, so they only understand one area. And of course what happens is when you're an E-commerce seller, you are responsible for that whole supply chain. The whole brand new, right from shipping it from China, wherever it might be coming from, right to the consumer. And there's lots of things along that supply chain that need to be taken care of, whether it's compliance of your [00:06:00] business or compliance of your product.
I think that for state-side sellers that are looking to expand, the reason to do it is 500 plus million people here in Europe. That's the number one golden opportunity, that the number of people is significant and far outweighs the number of people in the North American market. Now that doesn't necessarily mean to say you're going to sell more. Because with 500 million people, that's 28 countries. So, if you can imagine every state in the States actually speaks a different language, that's then where the complications come in.
But for our clients, you know, our target is to get them to 80% of their sales in the US. So, a good solid brand should be able to get to 80% of their US sales in Europe if they deploy the right strategies and processes and everything else that goes with that. So, why go? Well, there's 500 million people and you can get 80% of your US sales in Europe.
Tim Curtis: It seems so daunting, right? When [00:07:00] you're stateside and you're considering going over and setting up shop, if you will, in the EU or in the UK in this instance. Couple things come to mind. Number one, the markets function so differently. In my career and in CohereOne, we do work with some EU companies that are operating here in the States, and I think there's some vice versa where we've gone to Europe to work. Culturally, it's different. From a business perspective, it's different. And I think where I would say the biggest miss is for companies going both directions here, is not understanding how completely different the market is.
I have a lot of visibility to Europeans trying to run a North American market from Europe and it just doesn't work well because the United States, in particular, is very dynamic, very competitive, but operates completely different. Our laws and our bases are just different. It's similar working in the UK. There's a lot of assumptions that in the UK or the EU that things will be as easy, and they're generally a little bit more complicated when you go to Europe [00:08:00] because of those complexities.
Andy Hooper: Yeah, I think there's several different bits to pick out of there. It's complicated when you don't understand it. If you're not sure of what's going on, it's like me expanding to the States. That's not what we do. I would find that daunting. So, that's why what we've been able to do is create what we call an all-in-one solution, a golden ticket, if you'd like, to the paves of London, whatever you want to call it.
What that means is that we see the whole market. You know, we've got 2000 clients that are selling on all of the top marketplaces in the UK and across the whole of Europe. So, what that means is that we understand those different pieces of the market. We understand the compliance pieces. The piece that people really get stuck on is compliance, and that compliance is business compliance. So, making sure you are registered for tax, which we've talked about VAT, Value-Added Tax a moment ago, and product compliance.
So, just because your product is compliant in the US that doesn't mean to say your product is compliant across Europe. Now, if we take that as broadly sense, [00:09:00] your product hasn't killed anyone in the US, it's highly unlikely to kill anyone in Europe, you know? But there are certain things and stipulations where the measurements are different, the rules are different, the way in which things can be marketed are slightly different.
So, where in the US you might have FDA compliance of certain things, here in Europe there is varying types of different bodies that do supplements or medical or cosmetics or electrical, toys, then the list goes. When you're looking to expand, you need to make sure that you've got a partner that understands all those different pieces.
Organic's a great one. How many clients or E-commerce sellers have got an organic product? Loads of them are now selling. This is popping up everywhere, and we've got a lot of sellers that want to sell their organic supplements. Hundred percent, it's a great thing to do. The organic process in Europe is completely different. Actually what we typically do with our client is we get 'em to take the word organic off, register them for organic in the background while they start selling their product. Works [00:10:00] really, really well.
Erik Martinez: So, Andy, somebody's starting to consider going into Europe, besides gravitating and hiring your company to help, what are the types of things that they need to do in order just to start the preparation process? What are the one, two, three things that would be helpful if when they came to you that they had already done?
Andy Hooper: I think that you need to be able to be in a position to be able to expand. So, the first one is you really need to be doing over a million in your home market. If you're not doing that, you probably haven't got the systems and processes for the supply chain to enable that to work really, really well. There are some differences to that. There are some anomalies to that. Where, you know, someone's a scaling brand and they've done half a million in the first four months. Great, no problem. That could work.
But you really need to be in a position as a business where you've either got time or resource. And that resource could be staff or cash to enable that expansion to happen. So, that's the first thing, is making sure you [00:11:00] as a business are in the right place. What does the minimal order quantities look like from the factory? Can you put an order in and reduce the cost of your goods, but ship a thousand to Europe and a thousand to the US, whatever that might look like? The first thing is to make sure that your business as a whole is ready to expand. You can go overboard with that really. But, are you doing over a million? Have you got time and resource to enable that to happen? So, that's the first thing.
The second thing is to do some research. To think, is my brand going to be able to sell in Europe? Do some market research. Many people listening to this designed a product and then there had done some market research. It's no different when you're doing that into Europe. Where might this sell better? There's 28 countries. Is there five countries it just won't sell in, that will be feasible. There might be five countries you can't sell it in. So, what does the market research tell you? You know, is it a summer product, is it a winter product? What does that seasonality look like? Where are the quick wins?
Now, we've done plenty of podcasts and YouTube videos [00:12:00] on all of these things. But realistically, you know, when you are looking to expand, make sure you've got the time and resource. And secondly, do a little bit of research beforehand to think, okay, can this sell, can it not sell? But what you really need at that point is to understand a local who knows the market that can give you a, yeah, that's gonna work, no, that's not gonna work. Or if you make these slight tweaks, that's gonna work for the market.
Photographs is a great one. Images need to be relevant to the market. If they're not relevant to the market, they don't sell. That happens the US all the time. These images come across, they photographed the product in the factory in China and they've put them online. It just doesn't work. People don't buy it. So yeah, there you go. They're the two things to really think about at the beginning.
Erik Martinez: Yeah. I think those are really good fundamental steps, right? But I think sometimes there's a rush. There's a rush. It's like, you know, I've got a client who does a lot of business in Amazon. Then they started Amazon UK, Amazon Europe, Amazon Australia, and they didn't [00:13:00] necessarily think about all the things that you're talking about. So, talk a little bit about that. Because Amazon creates an interesting scenario for a lot of people, right? Because Amazon has its own distribution system, and so in theory, it's a little bit easier to go ahead and penetrate Europe using the Amazon platform. So, can you dive into that just a little bit?
Andy Hooper: Yeah. I mean, Amazon, as you say, just makes it easy for people. You can put your goods into a warehouse, into FBA, they can spread it across Europe. It's relatively straightforward and easy. What Amazon will encourage you to do is open up across the whole of Europe to get prime in all of those countries, and that's not necessarily the smartest move for every brand. So, you need to be strategic in the locations you open to make sure that works for you.
But you're right, Amazon does make that simple and easy, and 90% of our clients are US-based. And of that 90%, 80% of them all came from Amazon and moved into the UK and Europe because it just makes it easy. When you've got one platform here [00:14:00] that you look at every day, and you understand, and you then move to Europe, and it looks broadly the same, it's not exactly the same because a lot of beta functions are opened up in the US before they are Europe, but in a nutshell, it looks the same. You understand what it looks like, you understand how it works, how it operates. The algorithm is broadly the same. You know, you get to know it. So, Amazon has got a really good piece there.
The downside to Amazon in Europe is that one, Amazon isn't the biggest across in every country. And secondly, you've gotta be careful about the Amazon slap. You do get your products taken down every now and then, as we know that happens around the world. We suggest in Europe, you have a much more omnichannel approach than what you perhaps would do in the States.
Now, we know in the States, in Walmart and things like that are really, really, you're gaining significant traction. You know, in Europe, I could give you 20 other marketplaces you need to be on that are just as big as Amazon in their local region, if not bigger. So, typically an Amazon seller [00:15:00] that's launching from the US we actually say, well look, start with Amazon because you know your product, you know how to do it. It makes life easy. It's the best way of doing it. Launch in the UK and Germany first and open up the Netherlands as well.
And the reason we suggest the UK and Germany because it accounts for broadly two-thirds of all sales on Amazon across Europe. So, by having two VAT numbers, we typically suggest opening in the Netherlands as well as a third number. Not because it's the biggest marketplace, because it's the easiest to ship goods into. There's a strategic piece and then a piece that actually makes sense from a sales point of view. So, you know, if you can open up two marketplaces and get two-thirds of sales, that's what you wanna do first.
Erik Martinez: Just a quick follow-up to that. So, what I'm hearing you say is, go ahead, invest in Amazon. UK and Germany and the Netherlands are kind of the stairstep. When would you advise a brand to go in kind of on their own? Launch their own [00:16:00] .co.uk site, or their own .eu site? Would you advise them to do that? Or would you advise 'em to go through a marketplace channel first in order to establish their footprint?
Andy Hooper: So, that depends on the brand itself. So, does the brand have their own website that they're already operating in the US? If they do, that's relatively really easy to switch on. If they're not doing that stateside already, that's much more difficult because it is starting a new process that they don't understand in another region. So, we would typically say that every seller should do that.
You know, we've got a success pathway. And one of those things in order for a brand to be successful is they need their own D2C channel. Without any shadow of a doubt. It's a key part of being an E-commerce seller if you are in the business of growing your brand and growing strategically. If you've got a US one, a hundred percent do that, but the problem that you have, in order to get the best SEO, is you need a site in each country. So, you need a .co.uk [00:17:00] for the UK. You need .de for Germany, a .fr for France, and of course, the list goes on.
Now, there are website platforms that make that relatively easy to do, but it's still opening up lots of different platforms. So, you need to, again, be strategic in the ways to which you do that. So, if I put that into a strategy, I'd say to a client, well, look, you've already got a website in the States. Start with Amazon. Launch those in the UK and Germany, and see where you fulfill to. Then launch your website and you can open up the website in the countries that you see demand from your Amazon sales. You've got the metrics in front of you. Use the data that it's telling you from the platform that you know and understand, and that's the way in order to be successful, is by using the metrics and the data that you understand.
Erik Martinez: That's excellent. That's excellent.
Tim Curtis: You're kind of describing where I was going with this next question, you know, the steps in the framework of, you know, sort of how you deploy and what makes sense in terms of maybe it's the lowest hanging fruit. The easiest to start [00:18:00] with is, you know, Amazon if you have that existing relationship, talking about the UK, Germany, and then of course the Netherlands.
Let's kind of take a step back and look at the bigger picture here. What do those steps or what does that framework of success look like for a brand working with Global E-commerce Experts? It obviously has to start with some sort of evaluation. Right?
Andy Hooper: Yeah, exactly that. So, we've got a seven-step framework that you can utilize, and we've got downloads and podcasts, and videos. You can go and link to them. But really the seven steps are your expansion pathway. Now, you could use this same model. We've designed it for the UK and Europe specifically, but we're now taking that to Australia, Japan, India, Dubai, and all those other countries because the process is exactly the same. So, if a seller isn't working with us and they wanna use the same framework for Canada, for example, because we are not doing Canada at the moment, but a lot of sellers expand to Canada first. They can use the framework. So, the steps are relatively straightforward.
The first one is market research. We mentioned it earlier. You need to look at the market and understand [00:19:00] what the viability of your product is. And there's lots of different buzzwords you can use for that. But basically, you need to see if your product's gonna sell in the region before you start thinking about expanding. That's the first thing. And at that stage, you also need to think about whether your product's compliant or not. What does that look like? Do I need special regulations? Have I got a medical product? Have I got a cosmetic? Have I got a supplement? All of these different things. Most products fall under regulation somewhere, it is making sure you understand what that is.
Now at this stage with the market research, you don't have to dive too deep into this because you can almost overcomplicate that stage, can't you? Where you basically, you just never do anything because it just seems so big. So, the first thing is market research, and the second thing, once you've done that is the compliance. You need to make sure your product's compliant and you need to make sure your business is compliant.
I'll just break the product compliance down because we've talked about the Value-Added Tax, the VAT bit, and most [00:20:00] sellers listening to this will understand VAT. If you think about nexus in the states where every state is slightly different, VAT is exactly the same in Europe. It's slightly different in each area, but broadly, the idea is the same. So, you can picture that in your head. So, that's how that works. The product compliance is slightly different. It's three things you need to identify. One, what regulations does your product fall under? Two, is the product compliant with those regulations? Sort of makes sense, doesn't it? And thirdly, is the label compliant with those regulations? So, they're the first two steps.
And I'll move on to the third just so we cover that and we can cover the others in a moment, cause I'm sure you'll have some questions on that. But the third one is then marketplace. How do you identify the best marketplace for your products? To be honest, I'm an easy-route kind of guy. If you already selling on Amazon, don't make it difficult for yourself. Just carry on selling on Amazon to start with, like you understand it. But where are the other opportunities? So, they're the three. Shall I move on to the next one?
Tim Curtis: Yeah, [00:21:00] let's hear what they are. I'm interested.
Andy Hooper: So, the next one is logistics. You need to be able to ship your products from wherever they're made into the country, and then you need to be able to get them to B2B, whether that be to an FBA warehouse or direct to consumer. You need to have a logistics process solved. The problem with Europe is that, because of Brexit, and then we'll touch on that later. You know what has happened is you can't easily distribute between the UK and the EU.
The UK is still in Europe, but it's the UK and the EU, the European Union, where we've split. Because of that, you have to send goods into two different locations. Now, what that means is from a forecasting point of view and distribution of products, when you're first starting, no one knows exactly how many products they're gonna sell when they first start. Anyone that tells you any different is probably lying is my gut feel.
So, but you can go on a gut feel. We can utilize the metrics of the 2000 sellers of what they've done and give you a pretty good stab in the dark. But it's only a guide and no one knows because there's 3 million variables that I can't predict [00:22:00] or have no idea about. So, the logistics piece is really, really key. You need to make sure you've got returns set up. You need to make sure you've got a 3PL that can take in a container and distribute into Amazon or direct to consumer. But you need to have someone that understands customs regulations in that region. So, logistics is absolutely critical.
Next one is promote. You've gotta promote the products. If you're think you're gonna come, launch the products, stick it online, it's gonna sell. Yeah, it's not gonna work. The great advantage with Amazon is that the reviews are now transported over. What used to happen is the reviews would go. So, you were starting from day one again, which put a lot of people off expanding. If you've got 5,000, 10,000, a hundred thousand reviews, you want people to see that. And that adds into the promotion that you can do, whether it be ads or social ads or pay-per-click, whatever that looks like. Gotta promote the product.
Next step is websites. You've gotta have a website as you expand and grow. We've touched on that already. Making sure you've got on working with people who can help [00:23:00] you to distribute your products. And then we've then got to, the sort of final ones that are really sort of key.
And that really is then moving into the growth element of what you're doing. You know, are your products translated in every country? Are your products on every marketplace? Are you going into retail? What does that look like? How can you distribute into those retail? So, they're fundamental key steps that you need to sort of break down. Market research, compliance, marketplace launch, logistics, websites, promotion, and growth.
Tim Curtis: Yeah, that's a solid list.
Erik Martinez: Sounds really easy.
Tim Curtis: Yeah.
Erik Martinez: All joking aside. If somebody's laying out their business plan for 2024, how much time should they plan in terms of prepping this process? When you work with your clients, how long is this process? And I know it never quite ends, but to just get to the initial phases, what do you expect?
Andy Hooper: So, we typically say 18 months to three years is the time to get to 80% of the US sales. That's the big number everyone wants to know. Getting [00:24:00] set up takes about three months. So, the ability to launch and get going takes three months. So, the calendar year is a great example. If in Q1, Q2 you've got overstock. You're thinking, what am I gonna do with this overstock? What can I do with it? I'm not gonna sell it. Three months from now, you can be set up in Europe with the stock here selling that you can then start generating for Q3 some real sales velocity, which leads nicely into Q4. So, we tend to look at, Q1 is a great time to get set up, Q2 is a great time to launch and start testing, Q3 is scaling, and Q4 is trying to sell out of everything you've possibly got.
Erik Martinez: Okay. I mean, that doesn't seem like a really long window to get the process started and get moving. The two to three years makes perfect sense to me.
Andy Hooper: We can do it in 14 days, so we can expand a brand in 14 days. We've done it. We can do it. But typically, your 14 days sounds great, but you [00:25:00] can't necessarily pick and ship products that quickly. Just doesn't happen. You might have to do a removal from Amazon. You might have your own 3PL in the States where you've gotta ship products from. So, it can be done in 14 days. Our typical clients take three months in order to launch in UK, Germany, and Netherlands. That includes getting VAT numbers, getting stock into the warehouses, and start distributing the products.
Erik Martinez: So, if you have a brand that's already, let's say in the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands on Amazon, what would be next for them? Because you mentioned, hey, Amazon's not always the biggest marketplace in some of these European countries. What would they do next?
Andy Hooper: So, all they need to be doing is working with a partner that can identify and help them identify what the best platforms are for the marketplaces for them to go on, you know, and have a 3PL that has the ability to fulfill. Now, most warehouses can do D2C, so virtually every warehouse is gonna be able to do that. Obviously, ours is the best, but reality is [00:26:00] everyone can do that. Others are available.
Tim Curtis: Obviously.
Andy Hooper: You know, so what is the next steps? So, we look at an omnichannel approach in order to make that work. In the UK there's a handful of different marketplaces you should consider. eBay's one. OnBuy's another. Depending on your product, it might be Wayfair, Etsy, could be a whole load of others. In Europe, there's a whole load of others. France, if you'll sell a supplement Cdiscount is absolutely epic. But then you look in Germany, ROEN, OTTO. Netherlands, bold.com is massive. So, there's lots of opportunities, but it's about making sure you've got the capacity to connect with those different places in order to make that happen easily.
Tim Curtis: A lot of brands in the US have over the years things have sort of bifurcated. You have brands that have been invested in Amazon or not, and so it was sort of a yes or no strategy when it came to Amazon. Eventually, where many of them have ended is creating their own [00:27:00] private label. And taking where they were maybe selling directly through their own E-commerce site the private label, you know, now they're shifting into the marketplaces with a private label.
It was good to hear on your list, I think it was number five, promote. When we're getting into the private label conversation, what I tend to tell clients is we really need to begin to really be intentional about the branding process. Because what I've found is, in particular with American brands in my work in Asia, American brands can be highly successful marketing themselves as American brands. It's very aspirational to a lot of those Asian markets. That's not always the same in Europe. So, it's trying to find kind of a balance of that.
But, talk about that for a little bit. What does that look like specifically for private label and that promote? How do you go about really maybe nuancing that promote aspect for different countries? You know, the Netherlands and Spain, for example, are gonna be two completely different approaches.
Andy Hooper: Yeah. And I [00:28:00] think a lot of that completely is determined by the product itself. So, if it's a supplement is a great example. There's not a lot that you can really do on a supplement in order to do that. If you've got a tent, it's very different, or an iPhone case. So, it's really about understanding the country itself and identifying the translation. In most of our client's processes, translations is the key part because that's the first part that needs to be done anyway. Getting the translation done first is really, really key.
We've all seen a listing that we know has been Google translated. You can just look at it and go, that's been Google translated. So, you have to make sure, number one, that the translation's correct. And that's even from US to UK English. Words are different, so you have to make sure that's correct. So, that's the first thing.
The second thing is the images of the product. The images need to reflect where they are. Now, for E-commerce sellers that aren't distributing through retail, [00:29:00] actually sometimes the box that it's in doesn't really matter as much. It's more about the images that they're putting online that they can recognize. We touched on pictures earlier, didn't we? They go onto the listing and they're looking for pictures that they can see themself in. That's what you are looking for. You want a picture where they go, that looks just like my house. I want that.
And the houses in the US, the houses in the UK, the houses in Spain and the Netherlands are all completely different. That's where single product photos with white all way around the edge works really well because it's just straightforward and easy. When you start getting to hero shots and lifestyle shots, they've got to be relevant to the market and that's where people sort of start tripping up.
And they can't eke out as many sales as they've got cuz they've just put, you know, it's clearly a US kitchen and they photographed their widget in a US kitchen and they look at it and go, yeah, that don't like my kitchen, move on. So, the translations and the imagery are the key parts of that. And that [00:30:00] can be done in the listings because the boxes are only in retail. Until they start going to retail, that piece really is secondary.
Erik Martinez: Interesting. Let's pivot a little bit, Andy, and talk a little bit about the US/EU safe harbor. There seem to be a lot of fear and risk or perceptions that this is a real problem or a real challenge. Can you address that issue and kind of help set everybody's minds at ease in terms of what is and what is not real in this particular topic?
Andy Hooper: So, there's so much going on and there's so much talk and hearsay that I'm still not a hundred percent on what is right and wrong. It seems to be going in all these different directions and no one really understands exactly what's happening. All I know is that for our sellers that we work with is there's no change and it's straightforward and easy. But what happens in the future as these things change, I've got no idea. The bottom line is [00:31:00] that our team are looking into that, and I don't want to give any information right now based on what might happen or might not happen. Does that sound fair?
Erik Martinez: You don't wanna make a prognostication, then we're gonna hold you to the candle for the next 10 years on that? What? I don't understand. No, I think that's fair. Obviously, you know, when it comes to government regulations or any type of framework between countries it's an ever-evolving process. You know, we even have that here in the states state by state, between privacy legislation and some of the things that are going on internally here in the US. We don't have a really good sense. We see the trends, but we don't know how it's really gonna manifest itself. So, I think that's a fair position to take.
One last question before we start moving to wrap up. Has Brexit affected the expansion process for US firms? What have been the impacts of Brexit from your perspective for your clients?
Andy Hooper: So, for most of our clients who are US-based, there was no [00:32:00] change whatsoever because our clients were used to shipping from outside Europe into it. So, what happened was in 2016, the UK decided to leave the European Union. We're still part of Europe, but we're no longer part of the European Union, which basically means the free movement of goods and people across the border between us and mainland Europe. So, that's what Brexit means.
So, what happened is that we split from the EU, and what that now means is that a seller cannot send all of their products to the UK and then distribute it across the whole of Europe easily, in most cases. There are few exceptions to that but in most cases. What it means now is that people need to ship directly to the UK and into the European Union.
But for most of our sellers, they were already used to shipping into the Union or the UK from outside of it. So, actually for most US-based businesses, there wasn't really much change other than sending it to a new [00:33:00] location. People all sent it to Germany, which was problematic. Hence why we talk about the Netherlands and having the Netherlands because it's a much easier process to ship into.
The people that found it the hardest was UK and European-based sellers who all of a sudden had to have all this new registrations, paperwork issues that they just weren't used to. European and UK sellers decided I'm not gonna sell in those regions anymore. It's just too difficult. So, actually the number of European and UK-based sellers dropped in the other jurisdiction, but the number of US sellers, or people outside of Europe, managed to carry on selling because there was no change for them.
So, it made a difference without any shadow of doubt. It's a much bigger, more compliance-led problem. You have to be much more strategic in how you expand your brand, and you need to think slightly smarter about where you distribute your products. But apart from that, really it's just business as usual for most US-based sellers.[00:34:00]
Tim Curtis: That's what I've heard as well.
Erik Martinez: Yeah, that's great news. Otherwise, it would've been bigger news here in the US. So, as we move to wrap up, are there any other thoughts or advice you'd like to share with our audience today?
Andy Hooper: I think that a lot of brands and sellers are nervous about expansion, it can seem very daunting about opening up to a new market, a new continent, a new location. Whenever we go outside of our comfort zones, these things always seem more complicated. Without any shadow of a doubt. What you need to do is think about the opportunities there for you. Potentially up to 80% of your US sales in Europe alone. That's a massive opportunity for you as a brand to not design any more products and just ship the products you've currently got.
So, my plea would be, to look into it. There's a massive opportunity, but just make sure that when you are doing it, you are working with a reputable company that knows how to do it. You can work with 20 service providers who will all provide you an epic service, or you [00:35:00] can work with one provider like us that does it all under one roof. Doesn't matter. Our business motto is to successfully expand brands into Europe, and if we do one piece of all of it, we are here to help you succeed, which is why we do so many podcasts and webinars and everything else to support.
Tim Curtis: Yeah. What's a great way for the listeners to reach out to you?
Andy Hooper: So, you can go to our website, which is a little bit of a mouthful, www.globale-commerceexperts.com/webinar, and what you'll be able to get is our seven-step guide that I talked about earlier as a download. There's no walls behind that. You haven't gotta put your email address and all that nonsense inside.
You know, you can just go and grab that for yourself and take that as a free takeaway. Obviously, that's actually to our website. You can reach out to us on our website. We're on all the social channels, and if you wanna reach out to me directly, my name's Andy Hooper. You'll find me on LinkedIn.
Tim Curtis: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on today. I think this is one of those subjects that brands eventually in [00:36:00] their life cycle come to the point of international expansion. What you've done here is you've given a sense of how that can be achieved in an orderly process, which is again, what I think a lot of these brands are looking for. Thank you for coming on the show. We're certainly glad to have had you.
Andy Hooper: Thank you very much for me. Much appreciate it.
Tim Curtis: You bet. Well, this close out this episode of the Digital Velocity Podcast. Again, I'm your host, Tim Curtis from CohereOne.
Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.