Glossary term:

Electronic commerce

What is e-commerce?

Trade is today greatly facilitated by online platforms for e-commerce. These can either be individual e-commerce platforms, i.e. own online shops, or hosted platforms where a firm offers an interface and usually back-office software for different sellers and buyers (for example Ebay or Amazon). E-commerce platforms facilitate trade because they enable sellers from one country to get easily in touch with customers from other countries. Sellers can advertise and offer their goods and services on such platforms to many potential customers. Similarly, such platforms facilitate the search for adequate products for customers as they will be presented with and can compare between different sellers. Customers can be either end-users or other firms which use these goods for their own production process or service.

If you consider to sell your product via such online channels to customers in foreign markets, it is nevertheless necessary to assess the same exporting requirements as for traditional sales channels. When selling small quantities to end-users it is important to inform yourself about de minimis rules. Such rules often exempt low-value items from tariffs and have only minimal formal requirements regarding the necessary documentation. You can find more information on de minimis regimes here

Depending on the products you want to sell, additional requirements may need to be assessed. For example, you will need to consider questions about the payment gateways used online, about requirements in your target market about data privacy and the cross-border transfer of data, or questions how to handle warehousing and the logistics.

You can contact chambers of commerce, export promotion agencies, consultancies or similar institutions for help in this process (LINK to useful contacts). The Enterprise Europe Network also offers a general guide for SMEs to e-commerce in Europe which includes information on overseas markets.

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