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What Is Exporting? Exporting Definition and Trends

Exporting definition and trends

Whether you're selling in person to local buyers, or making ecommerce sales through Shopify or another platform, you may not realize that there's a wide world out there for selling your products—a world that transcends beyond your borders.

Take the United States, for example. The U.S. is a huge market for selling all kinds of goods. Yet 95% of consumers and 75% of the world's purchasing power reside outside the U.S.—and you can reach them with the power of exporting.

In this article, we'll explain what exporting means, examine the export market around the world, and explore how you can use exports to unlock new foreign markets for your products.

What is exporting?

In global trade, exporting is the process by which companies from one country sell their goods and services to companies or consumers in a different country. Common exports exchanged from one country to another include energy and natural resources, raw materials like food or textiles, and finished consumer products like electronics.

Manufacturers and retailers that sell their products to customers in foreign markets are exporting them. Exporting is one way that companies can rapidly expand their potential market, generate more revenue, and grow their businesses.

Which countries are the biggest exporters?

  1. China
  2. United States
  3. Germany
  4. France
  5. United Kingdom
  6. Netherlands
  7. Japan
  8. Hong Kong SAR
  9. South Korea
  10. Singapore

Top 10 USA exports in 2022

  1. Petroleum refining
  2. Oil drilling & gas extraction
  3. Car & automobile manufacturing
  4. Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  5. Organic chemical manufacturing
  6. Plastic & resin manufacturing
  7. Natural gas liquid processing
  8. Semiconductor & circuit manufacturing
  9. Navigational instrument manufacturing
  10. Nonferrous metal refining

Source: IBIS World

Source: World Bank

United States exporting

While the United States is the second largest exporter the world, it's worth noting that the country has a trade deficit. That means the U.S. spends more on imported goods than it receives from exporting.

Nevertheless, exports are big business. In fact, the United States Census Bureau reported that the US exported $2.134 trillion worth of goods and services in 2020. Demand for U.S. goods and services remains high.

Top 10 USA exports in 2022

  1. Petroleum refining
  2. Oil drilling & gas extraction
  3. Car & automobile manufacturing
  4. Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  5. Organic chemical manufacturing
  6. Plastic & resin manufacturing
  7. Natural gas liquid processing
  8. Semiconductor & circuit manufacturing
  9. Navigational instrument manufacturing
  10. Nonferrous metal refining

Source: IBIS World

Top 10 countries the U.S. exported to in 2022

  1. Canada
  2. Mexico
  3. China
  4. Japan
  5. South Korea
  6. Germany
  7. United Kingdom
  8. Netherlands
  9. Brazil
  10. India

Source: Trading Economics

How to export products

While the benefits of exporting are clear, the path to building an export business is trickier. Here are some tips for starting your exporting journey.

  • Get government support. U.S. businesses interested in learning how to start exporting can get free support services from government agencies including the Small Business Administration (SBA), the International Trade Administration (ITA), and other state and local agencies. This support ranges from regulatory assistance to educational resources and even financial grants.
  • Conduct market research. Before you begin exporting, you'll need to research foreign markets in order to find out which countries have the biggest potential to sell your goods. That means understanding which kinds of products consumers in a foreign country are interested in, as well as what competition exists in the international market.
  • Understand trade barriers and restrictions. You can also take free online training courses in exporting to see whether your products and services are eligible to be exported. Some countries have a specific process for approving new imports, or restrict certain products from entering their borders entirely.
  • Find shipping and distribution partners. Shipping products internationally can be complicated, with additional challenges around packaging, tracking, and payments. Partnering with an international shipping partner and third-party distributors in your new markets can help you minimize expenses while providing a reliable shipment experience for buyers.
  • Follow local regulations. Once you're ready to get up and running, it's important to make sure that you're abiding by all export regulations, both in your own country and in other countries. This may include securing an export license, as well as paying export duties and taxes.

Exporting FAQ

What is exporting in economics?

In economics, exporting is the practice of producing a good or service in one country and selling it to consumers in another country.

Why is exporting important?

Exporting goods to buyers in a foreign market is a powerful way for companies to quickly access a significant new pool of customers—often with less competition than they face in domestic markets.

What is direct exporting?

Direct exporting is the practice of selling your products directly to a customer in a foreign country, rather than going through a third-party distributor. With direct exports, you complete a transaction with a buyer, then ship their purchase directly to them.

What are the risks of exporting?

Exporting products can pose numerous challenges, including political instability, legal and liability challenges, cultural differences, and the risk of lost revenue due to theft, fraud, or nonpayment.
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