The foreign exchange markets are unpredictable. They are complex, volatile and massively impacted by global political and economic events – current and anticipated.
For Electronic Retailing (e-tailers) buying stock from overseas consist of two main currency-related issues:
Variable true cost of stock purchases, combined with a fixed market price equals unpredictability of returns: When buying stock from international suppliers, moving exchange rates can cause the price you pay to fluctuate. If exchange rates move against you, you may have to pay more amount to acquire the same stock, increasing the cost price of your product. Your prices to the market, however, will normally stay the same. This means that anticipated profits are uncertain – and can even become a loss as a result of currency movements.
High costs associated with making overseas payments: When sellers pay for imported stock in a foreign currency transferred by a bank, the typical cost of the currency conversion is around 2-3 percent of the payment value. If the bank also adds transfer charges to the cost your stock cost price will be increased even further.
E-tailers selling overseas, whether directly or via global online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Groupon, Alibaba or region-specific sites (such as Sears, MercadoLibre, Rakuten and so on) can face problems in pricing their products profitably and repatriating payments at the best rates.
When setting prices in overseas markets, you should consider the exchange rate volatility of the appropriate currencies and built into your prices enough of a buffer to absorb any everyday exchange rate movements. This means you will have some protection if the rates move against you and will not end up selling your products at a loss.
REPATRIATING PAYMENTS PROFITABLY
Although price buffering protects you against some movement in currency value, you may still lose up to 3 percent of your total international sales revenue when transferring the foreign currency you earn to your domestic bank account.
This loss is incurred through exchange rate conversion costs; online marketplaces will invariably take larger commissions on currency conversion than a specialist foreign exchange provider.
What’s more, you also have no control over when the funds are converted into your home currency – this is initiated automatically as and when the marketplace receives a payment for you. If you do not need those funds immediately; having the opportunity to wait for a better rate before converting it could make a significant difference to your bottom line.
Online marketplaces have made it comparatively easy to engage in cross-border selling. But they don’t necessarily provide the best solution when it comes to handling payments in foreign currencies.
As an e-tailer, you need a straightforward, cost-effective way to make or receive payments overseas – and to get the best deal when it comes to converting your funds into your home currency.
Generally speaking you don’t have time to watch the markets so you can take advantage of favourable movements in foreign exchange rates. You don’t have access to the specialist resources that large multinationals have available in-house, but you still need to find a way of making the markets work for you – without spending every spare minute in front of a screen.
Here are three currency tools that help you take better control over your international sales proceeds:
E-TAILER COLLECTION ACCOUNT
Online marketplaces can facilitate your early cross-border initiatives. But don’t rely on them for repatriating your payments without investigating the alternatives.
Using a currency specialist, alongside the online marketplace, could enable you to transfer your money back to your domestic bank account with a commission rate of just 1-2 percent instead of up to 4 percent (which is the standard commission rate charged by online marketplaces to do the same transfer) – you have the power to decrease your losses by half.
‘Rate-watch’: As you are unlikely to have the time to do this yourself, work with a currency specialist who will proactively contact you when the currencies in which you are interested reach the trigger rates you have identified. Benefit from making currency transfers when the market movement is in your favour.
If you are importing stock from overseas, moving exchange rates can cause your input price to vary, potentially to the detriment of your profit. You should consider using forward contracts to create certainty and lock in to a definitive exchange rate.
There is every reason to look at cross-border opportunities. Global cross-border e-commerce is set to grow to pound 28 billion by 2020 with the UK expected to have a 60 percent share of that market. But beware the currency pitfalls; their hidden costs can turn overseas profits into unforeseen losses.
An experienced foreign exchange provider will take the time to understand your business, its processes and objectives, in order to identify how you might be exposed to FX risks and give you the tools best suited to protect against them.