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Is it really that difficult to sell online to the USA?

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If you manage an online business here in the UK, the first natural step when it comes to expanding your market is to offer delivery to customers within the EU. But as your business grows and you reach the point of wanting to expand outside of the EU it can often seem like there are endless regulations to be met, hoops to jump through, and paperwork to fill out. So are these barriers to trading with US customers really that difficult to overcome? We’ve examined some of the most common issues eCommerce businesses encounter to find out the truth.


Finding a customer base

Despite the fact that only 88.5% of Americans have a home internet connection, the size of their eCommerce market is second only to China's. Online spending in the United States was valued at $341.7 billion in 2015, a 14.6% increase on the previous year, which accounted for over 10% of all retail sales and growing. It’s safe to say your potential customers are definitely out there!

Catering to local differences

Much can be done to ensure your marketing, website and fulfilment appeal to US shoppers. Ensuring prices and sizes are displayed in dollars and imperial measurements on your US shopfront is an essential step, as is providing clear pricing and timeframes for delivery. Targeted marketing is a bonus, with email segmenting a simple way to get specific products in front of American customers and create campaigns and offers around seasons, national holidays and discount days.

The cost of set-up

There’s a lot to consider when thinking about extending your order fulfilment to the USA, unless you choose to outsource. Sourcing a warehouse, staff and packaging from your base in the UK is not a project for the faint hearted, while using a third party provider means they’ll already have everything you need set up and ready to go. All you need to do is ship in your stock.

Navigating customs charges

Along with the cost of having their order delivered, which we’ll touch upon next, one of the most cited barriers to US customers buying from UK online retailers is the much feared customs charge. The threshold for paying customs charges is actually relatively high, so depending on the type of goods you’re shipping in, the charges should be manageable. But that doesn't mean they won't sting your end-customer.

If you use a third party like James and James to fulfil your goods from within the country, customs charges are only paid on your stock as your shipments enter the country, not on each individual order. This means that while you will have to pay some duties and taxes on your goods, your end customers won’t pay a thing just as though they were ordering from a domestic company.

Delivering orders quickly and cheaply

The fact remains that while transatlantic delivery times have improved, US buyers can face high delivery charges and long waits for packages due to customs hold-ups and the nature of some services. By outsourcing your fulfilment to a USA location, the cost to your end customer, as well as the time the package will take to reach them, is greatly reduced.

James and James Fulfilment receive your order into our warehouse in Columbus, Ohio, pick the items from the shelf, pack and label the parcel and dispatch it via the fastest and most affordable delivery service. And with 99% of packages going out the very same day an order is placed, your customers will receive their items in no time.

Having a US returns process

There is little worse than ordering a saught after product from the UK, waiting who-knows-how-long for it to arrive, being stung by customs charges and only then finding out it doesn’t fit, isn’t quite your colour or just isn’t what you wanted after all. Returning something overseas is often so expensive to the end customer that they won't actually bother sending it back, and are left feeling put out and put off from making a similar purchase in the future.

So what if they could generate a return slip online, affix it to their package and send it quickly back to a fulfilment centre on US soil, receiving updates as their return is processed? James and James’ ViewPort returns feature allows just this, and will also alert you, the client, to details of the return before it’s even arrived back at the warehouse.

Now that we’ve helped dispel some of the myths about selling online to the USA, what are you waiting for? Get in touch with one of our fulfilment consultants today to discuss your needs.

August 11th, 2016 by Jonnie Davis

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