How to expand your marketplace presence in the US

Written by The RI Team | Read Time: 5 mins

Online marketplaces in the US are big business, accounting for one third of total US e-commerce sales in 2023 ($385 billion). But selling on US marketplaces is not without its challenges - be it selecting marketplaces suited to your objectives or localising product listings. 

To make a splash across the Atlantic, non-US marketplace sellers need to land and expand tactically. Here’s how. 


US marketplaces overview

Home to the world’s largest economy, the US is also home to some of the world’s largest online marketplaces. Unsurprisingly, the US marketplace landscape is dominated by Amazon, whose US site receives 2 billion visits per month and accounts for 40% of total online retail sales. But with a wide array of general and sector-specific marketplaces such as eBay, Walmart, Target and Wayfair, the US is far from a marketplace monopoly. 

However, the size of the US market (i.e. greater competition) and the size of the country (i.e. greater delivery distances) can make it hard for ill-prepared sellers. To expand into the US successfully, follow these three steps.  


1. Analyse what you want to achieve

Before you pursue an expansion strategy, pinpoint your short-term objectives (years 1-2) and what you aim to achieve. This will help determine which marketplaces are best suited to your goals and what strategies to focus on. 

In particular, choose objectives that are suitable, viable and profitable. 

  • Suitability. Be it enhancing brand awareness and acquiring new US customers or clearing discounted stock and gathering market intelligence, outline a list of 3-5 short-term objectives ranked by importance. 
  • Viability. From cross-country delivery and order fulfilment to state sales taxes and product regulations, selling in the US is not your traditional single market - but 50 markets with specific nuances. Consider where you can achieve your objectives and flag potential issues (i.e. warehousing or customer support). 
  • Profitability. The ultimate viability test is whether your objective will eventually lead to profitability. For example, if your expansion plan requires unsustainable warehousing and delivery costs or complicated integrations and partnerships, it may not be worth the hassle. 

Check out our blog for more in-depth advice on suitability, viability and profitability. 


2. Select marketplaces that align with your goals 

Whether you specialise in sector-specific goods or sell a broad range of general products, there are many US-based marketplaces that might be right for your objectives. 

To work out which US marketplaces are most compatible, score your shortlist of objectives based on product, financial, regulatory and operational factors. 

  • Product. Look for marketplaces that align with your products (i.e. Newegg and Best Buy specialise in electronics sales). 
  • Financial. Analyse the key costs involved with these marketplaces, such as the commission rates, monthly fees, distribution costs and advertising spend. 
  • Regulatory. Check the rules for selling on these marketplaces, including listing requirements and local tax compliance. 
  • Operational. Look at the proposed operational models - i.e. can you fully outsource fulfilment or do you need to process orders in-house?

Even if you already sell on these marketplaces internationally, the US entity is likely to have different rules and costs. For example, 62% of Amazon’s sales traffic is outside the US on international markets, but existing sellers still need to register for a US account to sell across the Atlantic. 

Read this blog to help you choose the right marketplaces.  


3. Launch a localised strategy on these marketplaces

US marketplaces and consumers do not operate in the same way as your home market. To expand your US presence successfully, it’s crucial to localise your approach. Here are five areas to think about. 

  • Language. Yes, English is the dominant language for most of the population in the US (78%), but 13% (42 million people) speak Spanish as their first language, rising to over a quarter of the population in certain states, such as California and Texas.
  • Content. Using a direct tone, short product titles, images that resonate with US buyers and US syntax (i.e. ‘harbor’ not ‘harbour’ and ‘pants’ not ‘trousers’) will help you connect to a US audience.
  • Measurements. A product listing that uses celsius, kilos, euros or centimetres is going to mean very little to most US buyers. From clothes sizing to product weight, make sure to switch the measurements you use for the US market (i.e. fahrenheit, ounces, dollars and inches). 
  • Keywords & SEO. To ensure that US customers not only understand your product listings, but are able to search and find them easily, use US keywords and phrases (especially with more search engines now using voice search). 
  • Pricing and payments. US localisation is not just about dollar conversions. You also need to price your products to be competitive for the US market (look at similar products, delivery rates, seasonality etc) and enable popular US payments (i.e. Diners card). 

For more information on localisation, check out how to nail your marketplace location strategy and optimise product listings for local marketplaces.  


Seek US marketplace expertise

These three steps will give you an idea of where and how to focus your US marketplace expansion - but that’s not all. From understanding the nuances of US deliveries & returns to getting to grips with US marketplace promotions, there are many ways you can enhance your expansion strategy with local marketplace expertise. 

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How to expand your marketplace presence in the US

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