Become an Ecommerce Company That is Selling Internationally With Shopware: How to Successfully Set Up Your Online Store and Sell Internationally Online

Many German retailers still leave enormous market potentials untapped, due to a great deal of respect for selling across their national borders. Modern store systems such as Shopware, however, offer numerous features that make cross-border trade much more efficient. Setting up your own international online store respectively working as an ecommerce company that is selling internationally can bring immense opportunities, especially in times of increasing globalization. And it is less complicated than often assumed.

The figures speak for themselves: according to current studies by the data portal Statista, the global e-commerce market will reach a sales volume of over 3 trillion euros by 2025, which would correspond to an expected annual growth rate of around 7.4%. By way of comparison: in 2019, the global sales volume was still around EUR 1.7 trillion; for the year 2020, almost 2.2 trillion are already predicted. Somewhat more tangible – but certainly no less impressive – is the expected average revenue per e-commerce user (ARPU). According to estimates, which are the result of various studies, indicators and data sources, this is expected to be over EUR 622. Incidentally, this figure only includes physical products.

With this article, we would like to help you as a Shopware merchant to participate in this growth story and to make your own online store available to millions of potential customers abroad via international ecommerce. In addition to the reasons for using Shopware, we also discuss the important requirements that you should fulfill for international commerce. Subsequently, we will explain the technical implementation in a comprehensible way. This includes the necessary administrative settings, the integration of the respective national currencies as well as the adjustment of tax rates.

In addition, we will look at the possibility of expanding the features of your own online store with the help of plugin extensions from the Shopware App Store. For example, our listing tool and Shopware plugin “magnalister” supports you in selling your products easily from your own web store on the largest national and international online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Co.. How this shortcut to selling online internationally works and how you can benefit from it, we will also show you in this article.

More about the core features of the magnalister marketplace interface and the possibility to test the plugin in a 30 day free trial with full functionality can be found here:

CONNECT AMAZON VIA MAGNALISTER

Table of Contents

Elementary and basic features: This is why Shopware is the ideal tool for an ecommerce company that is selling internationally

First things first: These requirements should be met before you expand your online store to foreign countries and start building an ecommerce empire that is selling internationally

Step-by-step guide: Making your own online store fit for an international market

Shopware App Store: Special plugins simplify international trade and ensure greater efficiency for ecommerce companies that are selling internationally

Bonus tip: With Shopware’s double award-winning listing plugin magnalister, you can make multi-channel international ecommerce via Amazon, eBay etc. a breeze

Conclusion: Setting up an international online store and engaging in ecommerce selling internationally is less complex than often assumed – Shopware offers the perfect platform for this

Elementary and basic features: This is why Shopware is the ideal tool for an ecommerce company that is selling internationally

grundfunktionen shopware fuer den aufbau internationaler online shop

With Shopware sub- and language stores you can easily create any number of subordinate online stores and international selling sites

With Shopware you have the exclusive opportunity to create multiple international selling sites, which are all centrally managed via one backend. This offers the huge advantage of conveniently applying a large number of settings to all your online stores. When you work in ecommerce and are selling internationally you have the option of setting up a new online store either as a so-called “sub store” or as a “language store”. Note: In connection with the new software version “Shopware 6” you manage your individual stores centrally via the so-called “sales channels”.

But let’s go back a step: The online store that you open initially with Shopware is called the “main store”. It is therefore the starting point for all sub-shops that follow at a later point in time. Based on the main store, you can now theoretically create as many offshoots as you like, whereby you have the choice to pick between the two alternatives mentioned above. Sub stores describe visually completely independent stores, which can vary from the main store in design, product range and certain settings. Consequently, they have their own domain and thus their own URL.

The situation is different for language stores: These basically represent simple linguistic variations of the parent store, which can be either the main store or any sub store. The domain remains identical, as do the design and product range. Language stores can be selected by the visitor via a selection menu, often in the form of a drop-down list.

Which option is the most suitable for setting up your international ecommerce online store depends on your individual plans. If you are of the opinion that your product range in its existing form can also convince on the international stage – or has the corresponding demand – a dedicated language store can be absolutely sufficient. Keep in mind that in this case, no variations can be made with regards to the design, for example to meet the specific needs and marketing trends of individual countries during your global expansion. A sub store, on the other hand, is particularly useful if you want to have your own brand presence abroad or offer a different product catalog.

Different editions allow easy scaling of your webshop

When working in ecommerce and selling internationally, the most successful online retailers are always one step ahead of their competition. This also includes being able to estimate how your visitor and sales volume will develop in the future at regular intervals. After all, nothing is worse than customers who are ready to buy but whom you cannot serve properly due to technical, logistical or other infrastructural problems.

Of course, this issue is particularly relevant in the case of a global expansion, where it is often even more difficult for retailers to make realistic estimates due to a lack of experience and uncertain market demand. Fortunately, Shopware provides a remedy with flexible upgrade options. All cloud and rental products can be easily cancelled on a monthly basis or upgraded to the next tariff plan. If after some time you increase your visitor numbers and sales with your newly built international selling sites to such an extent that the existing functionalities are no longer sufficient for you, you can react accordingly at any time.

By the way, you can find out which editions and hosting options are available for Shopware in our big Shopware beginner’s guide. For those of you who want to know about the respective features in detail, we have also written a separate article – it’s worth a look!

Functional expandability meets limitless possibilities for customization

With Shopware, you operate a system that can be extended in a multitude of directions via countless plug-in extensions. As we will indicate in the fourth chapter, there is also a whole range of tools that are very helpful in the field of international ecommerce – from the initial set-up to maintenance and optimization of your online store – starting your ecommerce empire that is selling internationally is now as easy as never before.

This is nothing out of the ordinary if you look at alternative store systems such as Shopify: These also offer a variety of tools that extend the existing system with many different features. But here is the difference – Shopware creates a platform with which you can meet even the most demanding International markets, as it offers an almost unlimited customizability of your own webshop. In today’s world, simply translating your website is often no longer enough. Rather, you need to understand your different customer groups – and build the all-important user experience around their preferences. And that includes not only language, but also things like available payment methods, shipping options, and even different website design per customer segment. But don’t worry: we’ll go into this in detail over the course of the article.

First things first: These requirements should be met before you expand your online store to foreign countries and start building an ecommerce empire that is selling internationally

Not every product is suitable for global sale – This is what matters

Before you can even set up and operate an international online store to start selling online internationally, first some important considerations must be made. Among the questions that ultimately determine whether and – if so – to which corners of the earth international sales of your products make sense, the following are probably the most relevant:

  • In principle, is there a sufficient demand for my products internationally? Do I fill a gap in the market, for example with exclusive or regional products, or do I have another Unique Selling Point (USP) such as clearly above-average product quality or unique features?
  • Are there any substitutes for my product in my target countries that have significantly lower manufacturing costs, which would cause too much price pressure? Does my product quality or exclusivity otherwise justify a (significantly) higher price?
  • To which countries and in connection with which of my products is shipping worthwhile from a cost/income perspective? To what extent do international or even intercontinental shipping (or customs) reduce my margins , or can I sufficiently compensate for this by adding prices or absorbing shipping costs?
  • Are there any legal pitfalls in my target countries that would preclude or significantly complicate a sale? Note: Especially within the EU, this is rather unlikely, but should still be checked in advance to be on the safe side.

We admit: At first, these sound like questions that are not easy to answer and may cause unease in some people. In fact, however, it is less a matter of being able to answer each of the questions with one hundred percent certainty than of finding out whether there are any real “showstoppers”. Brief example: Exporting conventional toys or plastic spare parts to the Far East is likely to turn out to be questionable at the latest when one is looking at the lower manufacturing costs in these countries. Also, it may make little sense to try to sell particularly exclusive products in countries that by nature have very little economic power.

If, after a thorough cost-benefit analysis, you are still not fully convinced of the sales potential or simply want to take as little risk as possible, a sequential approach is also an option. In this case, you first expand into countries with a comparatively low risk of your products failing, gain experience in the process, and then expand to other countries on an ongoing basis.

Checklist: These are the things you should do before you go on sale

Before we turn to the actual implementation or preparation of your online store and help you become an ecommerce company that is selling internationally, in the next section, we list the most important factors that need to be considered and taken care of in advance. Also in the spirit of the above considerations, you are welcome to use the following collection as a checklist for your initial preparations.

This is what you basically have to do in preparation for selling online internationally:

  • Conduct a market analysis and potential assessment with regard to your own products and intended target countries
  • Clarify potential shipping issues: Provider, costs, software requirements (plugins), returns, insurance, etc.
  • Research tax regulations and legal factors in target countries (e.g.: registration obligations, packaging licensing, VAT obligation)
  • Adaptation of existing legal texts (general terms and conditions, cancellation policy, cookies/privacy policy)
  • Create new countries in the backend/ activate them
  • Create translations (respectively have them done); various plugins help with this (more on this below)
  • Integrate new currencies and tax rates in the store
  • Integrate (new) payment methods in the store (prior research is advisable)
  • Integrate new shipping methods in the store
  • If you want to engage in international ecommerce and sell your products to non-European countries: clarify customs issues (this guide offers a good introduction to customs and tax matters)

Optionally, you should at least think about the possibility of establishing local partnerships in your desired target countries. These can take a variety of forms, ranging from loose advertising partnerships over shipping and distributing your products to joint ventures. While such collaborations are of course in no way a prerequisite for the successful global expansion of your online store, you will certainly benefit from local expertise in foreign markets.

Step-by-step guide: Making your own online store fit for an international market

schritt fuer schritt online shop fit fuer den internationalen verkauf machen
You have given enough thought to your project and are still convinced of the international sales potential of your products? Congratulations – you have already taken the first big step! Now it’s time for the actual implementation and sales preparation. Following our checklist above, we will work through the necessary adjustments step by step and provide valuable tips that will help you set up your international online store and start an ecommerce business that is selling internationally. If you decide on independent sub stores in Shopware 5, you will of course have to create them in advance. You can find a quick guide here. It’s even easier using the sales channels in conjunction with Shopware 6.

Short note: If not explicitly displayed otherwise, you will find the following referenced subchapters in the Shopware administration via the path “Settings” and “Shop”.

Add languages and enable new countries for store visitors

If you want to start an ecommerce company that is selling internationally and expand your online store to more than just English-speaking countries, the very first step is to store the languages of the new target countries in the backend. These will then become part of the drop-down list, which can always be found at the top of the screen in the administration area, if a translation of the content (e.g. shipping methods, currencies) is recommendable.

To do this, call up the corresponding overview via the “Languages” tab and click on the “Create language” button. A mask opens where you have to enter the name of the language, the ISO code as standardized country code as well as the localization (i.e. the applicable country). In case there are no translations available yet, you can also select an existing language whose contents are to be inherited or adopted first.

In order for your soon-to-be customers to be able to register, the respective countries must also be activated via the so-called country management in the backend. This can also be done quickly: The submenu item “Countries” takes you to an overview of all the countries configured in your store to date. Use the “Create country” button to add new countries to the list.

Here you have to enter the information that is also displayed in the overview, namely: name, position (in relation to the selection in the frontend), ISO code and abbreviation. In addition, you can directly specify whether the newly created countries should be active in your store, whether shipping to them is offered by you and, if applicable, whether there is a tax exemption. Should you wish to specify the state/states when registering your new customers, you can also activate this feature and add a corresponding list to the countries.

Practical tip: You can find a list of all ISO 3166 country codes here.

Make translations (or have them made) and store them in the store

Translating store content is one of the most important tasks when setting up international selling sites and is generally considered to be the biggest cost position. This is not entirely far-fetched as many retailers rely on external companies to translate their texts. The need for professional translation depends on a variety of factors, including your own skills and resources, your product portfolio, and most importantly, your target clientele. For example, large business customers presumably place more value on error-free translations than private buyers of homemade handbags. At least that’s what you’d like to think … you get the point.

As a general rule, high quality translations signal high product and service quality to the prospective customer and should therefore be given a corresponding priority. While with very good language skills and depending on the above aspects, an English-language store can certainly be translated by yourself, you should in any case use a translation service for languages that are unknown to you. Machine translations of individual store content, such as Google Translate or “deepL”, should be avoided at all costs due to their susceptibility to errors. In addition, literal translations often lose important meanings and values.

Shopware largely uses text modules for the translation of conventional front-end content, which come in German and English by default. These can however be extended either independently or in the form of various (native) plugins. Currently (as of January 2021), Shopware itself offers 12 language packages that translate standard components of international ecommerce such as customer instructions, buttons or input masks almost without errors. Many other, sometimes more exotic languages such as Japanese, Finnish or Portuguese are also provided by the software developer “Shop Translator”.

You can adapt shopping or experience worlds directly from within the feature, whereby the various languages can be added to the respective elements quite simply via the globe symbol. The same applies to content that you have created using the Shopware “Digital Publishing” feature. You can translate other individual content such as item descriptions in the “Edit products” tab, which you can access via “Catalogs” and “Products”. Something that can easily be forgotten but really shouldn’t, are the e-mail templates, which are sent automatically, for example, with the completion of a purchase. You can store the content for these emails in the store settings under “Email templates”.

Integrate new currencies in the backend

To create, edit or remove a (new) currency, call up the “Currencies” tab via the usual path. On top of the list of already existing currencies you can add new ones via the corresponding button. In addition to the name (e.g. US Dollar), the abbreviation (USD) and the symbol ($), you now have the option of specifying a factor and the corresponding decimal places. It is important to know that the conversion factor of the foreign currency always refers to the system standard currency. In other words, a conversion factor of 1.25 stored for US dollars, for example, will always refer to the item price in euros in the case of a German web store.

Practical tip: You have to maintain the conversion factors for the respective countries manually and keep them up-to-date, even in Shopware 6. Net Inventors offers “CurrentCurrencies”, a plugin that keeps all your exchange rates up-to-date on a daily basis via cronjobs. You can view all changes made at any time via the backend.

Create country-specific tax rates

Via the submenu item “Taxes” you can call up the overview of the existing tax rates. Just as in the case of the currencies, you here have the option to add, edit or also remove tax rates (if they are not actively used in your stores). To add a fundamentally new tax rate, simply enter the name and the percentage that is used in your main store (e.g. VAT – 19%).

To adapt an existing tax rate to other countries, call up the “Countries” area within a tax rate and then click on “Add country”. In the mask that opens, you can, apart from the country and the tax rate, specify a number of conditions, according to which the tax rates are to be applied. For example, you have the option of specifying them nationwide, for specific states or even for individual postal codes and postal code areas.

Note: Legal regulations for tax, customs and obligations generally vary with different destination countries and according to the nature of your business. Although this is not rocket science and all information is freely available, it may make sense for inexperienced traders to consult a specialized lawyer before starting a business.

Add selected shipping methods

In order to become an ecommerce business that is selling internationally and is able to build up a broad audience abroad, your online store should also have the prominent shipping methods for any given country. This can e.g. include express shipping, which plays a major role in the U.S., or simply the integration of relevant delivery companies.

The corresponding options can be found in the store settings under “Shipping”. On the right hand side above the overview, directly next to the selection of the language for which the corresponding shipping methods are to be displayed, you will find the button “Create shipping method”. First of all, you now have to enter some basic information about the desired shipping method.

In addition to the name, which is also used in the frontend, and the by now well-known active status, you should add an informative description as well as a suitable logo. After all, both will be displayed not only to you in the backend but also to your customers in the store. In addition, you have the option to specify delivery time and tracking URL. Attention: In some countries the delivery time is mandatory! For better findability, so-called “tags” can optionally be stored as keywords.

Shopware also offers a wide range of rule-based settings, with many of them being based on the new “Rule Builder”. You can find more information about this in our separate article on Shopware features or directly on the homepage. In addition to availability rules, which determine in which cases which shipping method should be available, shipping costs can be assigned to various properties such as the shopping cart value, the item price or even the product weight and volume. This is done via price matrices. Shopware provides detailed instructions for this in its documentation.

Last but not least, assign the newly added shipping methods to the corresponding sales channels so that customers can select them during the order process. By the way, you can always define a default shipping method here as well.

Provide the right payment methods for your new target customer to master your global expansion

Different countries, different customs. While the global trend is clearly moving toward fully digital forms of payment, you should find out in advance which payment methods customers in your new target countries prefer – and then implement them in your store beforehand. Our tip: Studies like this one from Statista regularly survey the most popular and most used online payment methods on a global and country level. As you can see, with a combination of PayPal as a so-called “digital wallet” or “eWallet”, the all-important credit card, and an interface for EC/debit cards, you are already well positioned in the vast majority of regions. Incidentally, purchase on account, which is still the second most popular payment method in Germany behind PayPal, hardly plays a significant role elsewhere.

You can integrate the various interfaces quickly and easily via plugins from the respective companies, which you can find in the Shopware App Store under the “Payment” category.

Adapt legal texts – also with regard to applicable national provisions

Last but not least, you should also adapt your legal texts, especially the Ts&Cs, depending on your target countries. In terms of content, it may be sufficient, especially when it comes to EU-wide trade, to add certain clauses to the existing Ts&Cs that refer to the applicable law (e.g. the so-called “choice of law clause”). Be aware, however, that national law does not apply in every case and also not automatically. More favorable provisions in the buyer’s home country, for example with regard to the right of revocation or warranty, may remain unaffected. We therefore recommend a professional adaptation or review of your legal texts, also with regard to the respective national laws. Once you have adapted the legal texts to your future nternational selling sites, you can incorporate them into your website in the usual way via the category pages.

Shopware App Store: Special plugins simplify international trade and ensure greater efficiency for ecommerce companies that are selling internationally

Below we would like to introduce you to a number of other plugin extensions that will simplify the internationalization process of your store and also make it more efficient in the long run. After all, you can use all the help you can get when tackling the global markets.

Note in advance: the presented plugins are only compatible with an individually hosted Shopware store. What this means and how individual hosting differs from the cloud-based alternative can be found in our big Shopware beginner’s guide.

Increase customer convenience with automatic country and language recognition

The subjective and often subconscious evaluation of your store by your customers stands and falls with the user experience during their visit. Hence many retailers ask themselves: How can I actually further increase the customer experience on my website? In the context of your own international selling sites, for example, it is helpful for visitors if the system automatically recognizes their location and adapts the content accordingly. And let’s face it: an online store that welcomes us in our native language and local currency builds greater trust from the outset and ultimately helps retailers selling online internationally.

The plugin “GeoIP”, for example, does exactly that. In addition, the shipping costs incurred are updated or displayed in real time and not, as is usually the case, only when the customer enters his address data. This is not only useful for the customer, but also prevents unpleasant surprises – and possibly purchase cancellations – towards the end of the checkout process. Of course, the IP addresses of the customers are determined anonymously, so you don’t have to worry about data protection in this regard.

Avoiding issues before they arise: International address validation for your international ecommerce store

Incorrect address information or formatting is annoying and quickly leads to problems in the handling of your orders. What is worse, at the end of it, there is often a disappointed customer who, in the worst case, voices his discontent to the public. This is even more relevant for international trade, as the entire logistics process is much more complex, time-consuming and cost-intensive. With the “International Address Validation and Auto-Completion” plugin from Endereco, you can get to the root of this problem: Not only does the system check address entries for over 200 countries worldwide in real time and in compliance with the DSGV, the input assistant also offers customer-friendly auto-completion for postal code, city and street. This does not only add security for you, but also creates trust in the customer. In addition to the address, specified e-mail addresses are checked for validity and deliverability.

Hitting two birds with one stone: create your own returns in the customer account

With this popular plugin from “digitvision” you literally hit two birds with one stone. On the one hand, customers have the possibility to initiate their returns themselves in no time and are not dependent on you as a merchant. On the other hand, you as the store operator do not have to take action in the first instance, which of course represents a considerable relief, especially for large online stores respectively ecommerce companies selling internationally. In connection with DHL shipments, your customers can even optionally generate and print out the returns label themselves. Among other things, you have the option of limiting returns to specific customer groups and/or time periods.

An additional advantage is that customers can give reasons for their return request. This feedback helps you to identify potential problem areas and reduce future return rates.

With technical optimization to international SEO success

Anyone who wants to build a sustainably successful online store and is selling online internationally usually cannot avoid holistic SEO optimization. It should always be kept in mind that search engine optimization does not consist solely of valuable website content (so-called “on-page SEO”), but also of “off-page” (mainly external links) and technical optimization. The latter includes all technical measures that influence the ranking of a website, such as page load times or server configuration. Another decisive factor is how efficiently a page can be searched, analyzed and indexed by Google’s web crawlers.

The excellently rated plugin “Language Linking” adds considerable value to this by linking your various language or even sub stores in the different national languages to each other. The linking can be done either on the basis of the different languages or on the basis of the assigned regions. Technically, the whole thing is implemented via so-called “hreflang” tags, which show Google the relationship between different language web pages and help the search engine to technically understand which language is used where. This in turn enables Google to display your pages in the search results to those people who actually search for them in your local language.

Bonus tip: With Shopware’s double award-winning listing plugin magnalister, you can make multi-channel international ecommerce via Amazon, eBay etc. a breeze

mit magnalister multi-channel selling amazon ebay co zum kinderspiel
In order to make their products accessible to as many potential customers as possible, many online retailers rely on so-called multichannel sales – i.e. selling their products via their own web store as well as well-known online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, etc. The undesirable by-product: a significantly increased administrative effort as well as further challenges such as manual inventory synchronization across the different sales channels. This is especially relevant, when it comes to building up an international customer base, as the administrative and coordination effort increases with each new country that you want to serve as an ecommerce business selling internationally.

This is exactly where our plugin and listing tool “magnalister” comes in handy, which has already been awarded Shopware’s “Plugin of the Month” for the second time within a short period of time: As a direct interface between your Shopware online store and many national as well as international online marketplaces including Amazon and eBay, our tool supports you effectively when it comes to product listing and order management.

With magnalister you manage your products completely centrally and benefit from the following features for efficient multi-channel sales:

  • Central product upload: Time-saving and efficient upload of articles from your own Shopware store to all connected marketplaces
  • Attribute Matching: Match product variations and features with marketplace attributes*
  • Invoice upload: Send invoices created in your web store or by magnalister to Amazon
  • Price and inventory synchronization: prices are matched fully automatically or individually (per marketplace), current stock levels are synchronized and thus unwanted cancellations are avoided
  • Automatic order import: Import and manage marketplace orders in your own Shopware online store
  • Order status matching: automatically match order status (for example “shipped” or “cancelled”) with other marketplaces
  • Interface customization: Customize the plugin via so-called hook points as you desire**

* Not supported by all marketplaces

** Requires programming knowledge. Not available for cloud (SaaS) systems, as no intervention is allowed by the manufacturer.

The magnalister plugin is available for many of the well-known webshops and can be tested with full functionality in a 30 day free trial.

START NOW

Conclusion: Setting up an international online store and engaging in ecommerce selling internationally is less complex than often assumed – Shopware offers the perfect platform for this

In this article we have taken a detailed look at what is important when setting up your own international online store and showed you how to sell internationally online as well as what needs to be done and observed along the way. As you have hopefully noticed, international expansion with Shopware is by no means to be regarded as witchcraft – and is theoretically feasible for anyone, provided a few essential aspects are taken into account.

In addition to absolutely fundamental considerations regarding the international competitiveness of your own products, it is essential to pay attention to country-specific conditions in order to avoid making your start unnecessarily difficult. This includes, on the one hand, taking into account the applicable tax regulations and other legal provisions, and, on the other hand, customer-related factors such as special shipping methods or payment methods.

As soon as the preparatory research has been completed and is satisfactory, you can use the checklist provided by us to work on equipping your online store for international ecommerce. In order to sell successfully in the long term, you receive active support from a variety of plugins that can be found in the Shopware App Store. These don’t only make your online store more accessible to customers from abroad, but also ensure greater convenience and a better user experience for any ecommerce business selling internationally. Moreover, as a merchant, you will benefit from sometimes considerable efficiency gains, which will allow you to focus more on the actual expansion of your business.

We have presented a small selection of these plugin extensions to you in this article, including our own listing tool magnalister: as an interface between your Shopware online store and many well-known (international) online marketplaces, our plugin effectively supports you when it comes to item listing and order management.

In addition to core features such as central product upload directly from the webshop, fully automated price as well as stock synchronization between the store and various marketplaces, additional features such as automatic order status matching ensure efficient multi-channel sales of your products.

TEST magnalister IN A 30 DAY FREE TRIAL NOW