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Beyond Borders

Ready to go global with your business on eBay? We've got the tips and tactics you need, from selling to customers in foreign countries to going overseas in search of products to sell.

When Paul Fischer and Gregory Skibbee started eBay jewelry seller Windsor Auctions (eBay User ID: windsorauctions-usa) in 2005, they weren't sure whether they should try selling internationally. But when Fischer, a 39-year-old Lutz, Florida, entrepreneur, and his 48-year-old co-founder looked more closely at what they would gain by going global, the choice was easy. "The one thing that pushed us over the edge was that by agreeing to ship internationally, the listings would appear throughout all of eBay," Fischer says. "We did it for the audience."

Since then, Windsor Auctions has grown to a 20-person company with 2006 sales of $1.4 million. Fischer gives substantial credit for the company's success to his early decision to ignore the naysayers and seek global business. "Half of our business comes from outside the U.S.," he says. Windsor also sources much of its product overseas through manufacturers in Thailand and China.

If you sell through eBay only to the domestic market, you're missing out on a world of prospects, literally. "We reach buyers in well over 190 countries," says Casey Rovinelli, eBay senior manager of international marketing. "We have a local site presence in more than 33 markets around the globe, and about half of our users live outside the U.S. Our international business now accounts for almost 50 percent of eBay's net revenue."

Making an item available to eBay's worldwide audience provides numerous advantages. For starters, you can expect your sell-through rate to increase. You'll get more bids. And you'll get higher prices. "We did a study that showed items that sell worldwide and offer PayPal receive on average 16 percent higher prices," Rovinelli says. "So it's a big opportunity."

For Fischer, going global has worked out seamlessly. Shipping and customs have been easy to handle, and no international packages have gone missing. "We now ship around the world, and we've never had a problem," he says.

While skeptics may still regard international business as a potential problem area, Rovinelli says those in the know consider it an opportunity. "It has been embraced by eBay sellers, especially our top sellers," he says. "They have figured out that international is just another chance for them to sell."

Getting Started With Listings
The first step to selling internationally is to make your listing available to international buyers. When you are listing an item, check "Will ship worldwide" in the "Ship-to locations" section of the "Sell Your Item" form. That's all it takes to make your item available to international buyers. Your listing will then appear on country-specific eBay sites in addition to eBay.com in the U.S.

To see the country-specific sites your item will appear on, look at the bottom of the eBay home page. You'll see more than two dozen sites for countries around the world, from Argentina to the United Kingdom. If you want to do business with some countries but not others, you can choose specific regions when preparing your listing. Just check the appropriate boxes to show which regions you will ship to. Among the top markets for U.S.-based international sellers are Canada, the UK, Australia and Germany. If you want to narrow your list, check for the trade status of individual countries. Normal trade relations status, formerly known as most-favored nation status, indicates the U.S. government has approved the country for commercial dealings. You can learn more about the U.S. government's rules and regulations for dealing with individual countries at www.export.gov.

People in the more than 150 countries where eBay buyers live speak many different languages, but for the most part, English is the default language for eBay transactions. U.S. eBay sellers active in international markets rarely translate their listings into other languages. It can, however, set you apart to include a phrase or two in a foreign language on listings appearing on a specific country website, says Rovinelli.

Even if you restrict yourself to English, it's a good idea to include specific words that will show international sellers you welcome their business. "Actively address international bidders in your listings," Rovinelli says. "Highlight which countries you have experience shipping to. Make it personal by mentioning that you enjoy selling internationally."

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