10 min. read
Categories: Business
Expanding eCommerce into International Markets with Sylius

Entering international markets is an exciting idea for many ambitious eCommerce enterprises. The eCommerce sector continues to experience significant growth worldwide, becoming an integral part of retail. In 2024, online sales are expected to account for 19.5% of global retail sales, highlighting a progressive shift from traditional in-store shopping to online platforms.

The comprehensive guide is written to navigate you through this journey, addressing the essential legal, cultural, and logistical aspects crucial for a successful international expansion. Concentrating on market research, adeptly adjusting to varied consumer behaviors, and building a strong digital foundation, this guide aims to provide the insights needed to extend beyond domestic markets and succeed in global digital arenas. Your journey to establishing a global eCommerce presence starts here, with each chapter of this guide acting as a foundational step towards building a vast digital commerce empire.

Why online businesses decide for eCommerce international expansion? 

Expanding your eCommerce presence internationally is a strategic move that opens up numerous opportunities. Firstly, it diversifies revenue streams and lessens dependence on any single market, which is critical for risk management, particularly during economic downturns or when the local market becomes saturated. Secondly, venturing into global markets increases the customer base, potentially enhancing sales and profitability. A varied international customer base also broadens the product range as different consumers have diverse needs and preferences. Furthermore, gaining international exposure boosts brand recognition and credibility on a global scale. Operating in multiple countries provides a brand with a significant global presence, facilitating the development of business relationships and fostering loyalty among customers worldwide.

The global eCommerce market is expanding annually, and advancements in technology have made managing international operations more approachable for many online businesses. This development has allowed even smaller vendors to reach a global customer base, greatly expanding their market potential.

What to do before expanding to foreign markets?

There are several key factors critical to successful international expansion that extend beyond the eCommerce platform itself. Initially, it is essential to develop an international eCommerce strategy. Prior to expanding internationally, conducting thorough market research, planning the eCommerce project, and selecting a marketing strategy are vital steps.

To effectively reach your target market, begin by conducting research to understand the demand for your products or services. It is also important to keep track of market trends, from specific product preferences to technological shifts like mobile commerce adoption. Additionally, understanding buying behaviors and subtle cultural nuances in target regions is crucial. This includes recognizing local and international brand perceptions and preferred payment methods.

Next, analyzing your competition is necessary to develop a unique selling proposition (USP) that distinguishes your products. Monitoring top sellers in your niche and their pricing and promotional strategies, as well as customer reviews, can provide a clearer view of the market dynamics and reveal potential gaps that your business can fill.

Finally, it’s equally important to familiarize yourself with the regulatory frameworks in the target markets. Each country has its own set of laws, regulations, and compliance standards that must be followed, which helps mitigate the risks associated with non-compliance that could lead to severe penalties.

By following these steps, your strategic decisions will be based on well-researched knowledge and expertise rather than on gut feeling or luck.

The Difficulties eCommerce Platforms Encounter When Expanding Globally

This part focuses on the elements concerning the eCommerce platform and its integrations. It covers everything from logistics to payment systems, emphasizing the need for detailed analysis and customization to suit the needs of targeted markets. When an eCommerce enterprise steps into international sales, it encounters numerous challenges that necessitate thorough preparation and strategic measures. As mentioned earlier, global eCommerce operates under varied regulations, languages, and consumer preferences, each presenting unique challenges. This section will delve into these issues to provide a comprehensive understanding, which will assist in managing international eCommerce operations.

Let’s begin by examining the technology infrastructure.

1. Make sure you have the right technology

Selecting the right technology is crucial for eCommerce businesses expanding into international markets, as it forms the core of their operational effectiveness. Operating in various countries demands more in terms of resources and flexibility. A prominent strategy is to adopt headless architecture, in which the frontend and backend systems work independently. This allows for updates and modifications to be made smoothly without affecting other systems or the website itself. Such modularity offers enhanced flexibility, facilitating quick adjustments to meet the specific demands of different markets, regulatory environments, and consumer preferences.

With this in mind, we will take a look at Sylius Plus as an exemplary platform for eCommerce’s international growth.

Sylius is an open-source, headless eCommerce framework that utilizes the PHP Symfony programming language. Its flexibility and infinite scalability make it an ideal option for medium to large companies and enterprises looking to expand globally. Unlike many other platforms, Sylius can be easily customized with tailored solutions to meet specific business requirements and customer expectations precisely. This technology enables straightforward integrations with various payment gateways, tax calculation systems, and other region-specific features essential for compliance, boosting customer satisfaction, and managing international eCommerce operations.

Sylius Plus is designed to cater to the complex needs of rapidly growing or global companies selling in multiple international markets, focusing on extensive customization possibilities and superior performance. Therefore, it serves as an ideal solution for the challenges described.

To provide an example, Albeco, a company with over 30 years of expertise in selling bearings and guides, has benefited from using Sylius. They managed to eliminate technical debt associated with an outdated website by creating a new online store optimized for all devices. The store features an advanced search engine capable of sorting through 65,000 products, and includes user-friendly features like single-page checkout, a returns form, and multi-basket functionality, greatly enhancing the shopping experience.

2. Management multiple stores and many sources of inventory

When venturing into international markets, it’s often essential to establish additional business entities. This strategy is rooted in the necessity to meet the diverse demands of different markets and enhance operations across various regions. Operating on a local level enables businesses to build a strong market presence and effectively respond to local competitors and cultural nuances. Moreover, having multiple sources of inventory is often an integral aspect of expansion. By setting up a coordinated supply chain and inventory management system, companies can ensure a smooth flow of goods, efficiently meet the needs of different markets, and capitalize on regional benefits like supplier relationships, cost efficiencies, or consumer preferences. It’s also important to consider that customers may need to return products, and this process should be straightforward for both the customers and the business.

With careful planning and proficient management, businesses can operate successfully across diverse markets, leading to growth and sustained success.

Multiple stores and many sources of inventory in Sylius

Advanced multi-store

The multi-store module in Sylius Plus is designed to support businesses that operate internationally across various legal entities or business units. It allows for the creation of multiple business units within a single platform and assigns specific channels to each, enabling management of the entire organization from one platform. This module is also ideal for markets that necessitate conducting business activities within specific countries.

Multi-source inventory

Sylius Plus provides the functionality to establish multiple inventory sources, such as a warehouse in Warsaw, Berlin, and Paris. By doing so, businesses can then track the inventory for each of these locations per product variant. Stores can be linked to chosen warehouses, and shipments can be prioritized based on the store’s or customer’s location. This feature greatly simplifies and boosts the efficiency of multi-channel sales, as it allows products to be sent from the optimal source to customers, ensuring quicker delivery times, enhancing customer satisfaction, and improving operational efficiency.

Returns management (RMA)

Sylius Plus includes a Returns Management (RMA) tool that simplifies handling items customers want to return for a refund, repair, or exchange. Customers can initiate return requests quickly through the “My Account” area. Requests can be managed by administrators or assigned staff through the Administration Panel. Additionally, the RMA tool includes a chat communication option with customers, essential return rate reports, and the automatic generation of shipping labels, among other features.

3. Shipping and taxes

As we discuss warehouse management, it’s crucial also to consider shipping products and calculating taxes. Let’s start with shipping. As eCommerce stores expand and begin selling internationally, they encounter the challenge of quickly and accurately delivering items to customers across various locations. Operating in multiple countries requires a well-thought-out shipping strategy because different countries have their own regulations, customs procedures, and shipping laws, which can vary significantly. Generally, the best approach is to ensure shipping is as local and fast as possible. Thus, implementing a multi-warehouse shipping strategy might be the most effective solution. Initially, it may be beneficial to collaborate with a third-party logistics provider (3PL), which can manage warehousing, distribution, shipping, and even returns. This arrangement allows you to concentrate on core business activities like enhancing the website’s user interface and marketing efforts.

Now, let’s focus on the complexities of managing taxes internationally. Understanding tax zones is essential for eCommerce businesses to comply with varying tax regulations across different countries. Being knowledgeable about tax zones enables businesses to accurately collect the appropriate amount of sales tax, preventing legal issues. It also aids in setting the right prices, inclusive of the correct tax rates, ensuring that customers are fully aware of the total cost of their purchases, which fosters trust. For eCommerce businesses operating in multiple countries, familiarity with tax zones is vital. Although it might seem daunting, there are software solutions available that automatically calculate and manage taxes for both the customer and the business, simplifying this aspect considerably.

Shipping and taxes in Sylius

Thanks to the headless architecture, Sylius easily integrates with various fulfillment and shipping services. For instance, an online store can utilize the ShippingExport Plugin, which facilitates the coordination of different shipping providers and automates shipment management, thereby saving time and reducing errors.

Additionally, the DHL24ShippingExport Plugin automates the creation of DHL24 shipping labels and allows for the management of all DHL24 shipments directly from the Sylius admin panel.

Both plugins are available for free download from the Sylius Store.

However, businesses in countries where Sylius is less commonly used may need to develop their own integrations with local shipping services.

Partial shipping

Depending on the nature of the business, some orders may need to be split if sending them all at once is not possible. Sylius Plus provides a streamlined solution for managing such orders. It gives the ability to split a product’s order via both an API and a user interface with just a few clicks. This feature allows for the separate shipment and tracking of each item, enabling easy identification of items that have been shipped and those still pending. Additionally, Sylius Plus supports integration with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, which can further facilitate order division through an API.

Taxation system

Sylius also includes an out-of-the-box taxation system that allows users to apply taxes to different items and billing zones, and to use custom tax calculators. Moreover, Sylius developers recommend integrating with specialized cloud-based tax software designed for eCommerce businesses. Programs like TaxJar and Avalara simplify the tax management process by automating many functions. TaxJar is primarily focused on sales tax automation, while Avalara offers a broader suite of tax compliance tools. Avalara provides real-time tax calculations, automates tax return filings, and manages a variety of transaction taxes, including sales and use tax, VAT, excise tax, and communications tax.

4. Managing customer base and staff members

Expanding a company internationally introduces challenges in managing both international customers and team members, which can be stressful. For safety and efficiency, eCommerce businesses must facilitate excellent communication among staff and control access to specific areas of their online stores. Additionally, while every customer is vital, they vary in their expectations and relationships with the business. Therefore, categorizing customers into different groups can enhance workflow within the company and help minimize errors.

Customer and staff management in Sylius

Creating customer pools

Another benefit of the Multi-store module is that it facilitates customer base management by categorizing them into specific customer pools and channels. This method supports the segregation of customer accounts according to domain, business unit, or country. Likewise, customer accounts can be associated with multiple channels, allowing for the use of the same account across various domains of multiple brands. The decision is yours.

Role-based access control (RBAC)

The RBAC module in Sylius is designed to give and restrict access to certain channels to chosen administrators, ensuring that only authorized personnel can access and manage particular areas of the business. Companies that operate multiple eCommerce stores, such as corporate chains or franchise networks, can use an application programming interface (API) to manage their stock levels, enabling selected managers to view inventories, product details, orders, and more. These managers can then, for instance, establish unique billing details or track the status of specific shipments. This strategy simplifies operations in multi-brand or multi-country stores and reduces the risk of security breaches.

 5. Payment methods

When expanding internationally, it’s vital to consider the payment methods that resonate with customers in a specific country. Adopting payment methods favored by your target market can influence the success of the checkout process and enhance conversion rates. Additionally, it’s important to integrate modern payment options like digital wallets (ApplePay, GooglePay) or regional systems such as BLIK—a popular payment method in Poland that enables instant payments and cash withdrawals through a standard mobile banking app. By offering payment solutions that are widely accepted and trusted in the region where your eCommerce site operates, customers are more likely to complete purchases comfortably and satisfactorily, improving their overall experience and likelihood of completing transactions.

Sylius payment solutions: Adyen, Mollie, PayPal, and more

Mollie provides a payment solution that accommodates various payment methods such as PayPal, ApplePay, and PayU, enhancing the checkout experience. As a Sylius Strategic Technology Partner and the most advanced payment gateway integrated with Sylius, Mollie supports transactions in multiple currencies, offers easy refunds, facilitates recurring payments, and includes country-specific restrictions, among other features.

Adyen offers another comprehensive solution for multi-channel payments, covering in-app transactions and in-store Point Of Sale (POS) systems. The integration with Adyen allows for the selection from a wide array of payment methods, including credit cards and Google Pay. A significant benefit of Adyen is its compatibility with numerous local payment methods, such as BLIK in Poland or iDeal in the Netherlands, enhancing its utility for global commerce.

PayPal is renowned worldwide for its online payment services, facilitating online payments, money transfers, and merchant services. It also functions as a direct payment method, allowing customers to pay using their PayPal balance, linked bank accounts, or credit/debit card details.

Through these integrations with key payment service providers, Sylius is equipped to cater to customers across nearly any market, with choices that can be tailored to meet specific business needs and customer preferences.

6. Management of multiple languages and many currencies

Last but not least, expanding your online business to support multiple currencies and languages is essential for accessing the global market. Implementing multi-currency support allows customers from various countries to view prices and conduct transactions in their local currency, significantly improving the user experience and potentially boosting online sales.

Moreover, operating in multiple languages enhances the personalization of a website and enables customers who only speak their native language to comfortably navigate the online store. In fact, most consumers, approximately 72.4%, are more likely to make a purchase if the product information is presented in their local language.

Multiple languages and many currencies in Sylius

Multi-language in Sylius  

As Sylius supports internationalization on many levels, it provides a multi-language feature, allowing businesses to cater to a diverse customer base globally. This feature enables the presentation of product information, categories, and static content in various languages, thereby improving the user experience for international customers. Store administrators can conveniently add new languages and translate all aspects of the store interface, such as product descriptions, menus, and marketing materials, directly from the admin panel.

Additionally, the multi-language support is SEO-friendly, facilitating the use of language-specific URLs and meta tags, which enhances search engine rankings across different regions and languages.

Multi-currency in Sylius

Additionally, Sylius supports operations in multiple currencies, enabling customers to shop and check out in their local currency. Each sales channel in Sylius is based on a single Base Currency, but prices can be displayed in multiple currencies. The conversion between these is managed through exchange rates, which can be configured to reflect current market conditions. Sylius integrates features for automatic currency exchange rate synchronization with services such as the European Central Bank, ensuring that currency rates are updated in real time. Store owners have the option to set specific prices in different currencies or allow them to be automatically calculated based on these up-to-date exchange rates.


Expanding into international markets can significantly broaden your online store’s customer base and enhance your eCommerce business’s growth. However, it’s crucial to conduct thorough research or delegate this task to your team before attempting to enter these markets. Diving in unprepared may not yield the best outcomes. Additionally, evaluate your business in terms of technology and logistics. Your eCommerce platform should facilitate your operations rather than complicate them.

Growing your business internationally involves more than just scaling up; it means adapting your business to thrive in the dynamic global market. This strategic approach not only keeps your business competitive but also enables it to maximize opportunities in global eCommerce sales.

Originally published at https://bitbag.io on February 22, 2024

Patryk Baczewski
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