The past year has seen a massive shift in consumer behavior.
With the shuttering of retail stores around the world, the vast majority of shoppers are flocking to online markets. But as more merchants recognize the potential of eCommerce, they’re also discovering that online domestic markets are becoming saturated.
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For many, the increased domestic competition has made it essential to adapt to a new eCommerce landscape. They’re strategically targeting new global markets which afford a high opportunity for growth.
Fortunately, because technology has essentially eradicated boundaries, the markets they’re turning to could be based anywhere in the world.
The primary hurdle to growth in international eCommerce – as in all forms of eCommerce – is checkout conversion. No matter their location, your priority as a merchandiser is to guide shoppers who arrive on your landing page through to checkout and conversion.
What works for one geography may not necessarily work for another. It is important to pick an eCommerce platform that lets you customize your product pages based on the visitor’s location. Simply converting the dollar value of your product to the local currency is not enough.
But many eCommerce merchants invest more time in trying to find buyers than they do in creating the kind of shopping experience that leads to checkout conversion.
They’re overlooking a key driver of international sales: localization.
Localization is about creating a user experience that resembles their native buying experience as closely as possible.
So doing in-depth research to gain an understanding of your international market is essential. This means becoming familiar with regional operational, legal, and financial particulars.
It’s just as important to learn about cultural tastes, nuances, and sensitivities within your target region. This will allow you to customize your product and marketing appropriately.
Use a process template to help you define your goals, map out your strategy, and ensure that your operation adheres to its milestones and objectives.
One Market at a Time
For most sellers, scaling up their eCommerce operation in multiple markets simultaneously just isn’t feasible.
Scale one market at a time. Target a specific audience, get familiar with them, and find the right eCommerce platform to establish your business presence and connect with them effectively.
Create the infrastructure you’ll need to establish and grow your business, and identify local partners who can help it function effectively.
Finesse the Funnel
Look at your marketing funnel – including everything from language to payment to shipping. Determine where localization would have the largest impact and could be quickly implemented to scale international sales.
Evaluate your website activity to determine exactly where traffic is falling off.
For example, if shoppers immediately drop off after landing on your homepage, the solution could be to offer information in the local language.
If visitors move through your site but fall off and fail to convert at checkout, you may need to revise payment options, currency, taxes, etc.
Pinpointing those “falling off” points will help you determine where localization could have the greatest impact.
Speak the Language
The adage that English is “the universal language” doesn’t always apply.
Collaborate with a native translator – not just to communicate accurately, but also to develop the right message and tone for your site.
If providing phone support in the local language isn’t possible, focus on support via chat or email, or restrict real-time phone support to those areas that bring the greatest revenue.
Put Yourself on the Map
Leverage social media to build your footprint.
Selling on regional marketplaces isn’t always feasible for SMBs. Smaller merchants should look into the most popular local platforms – such as WeChat or Weibo in China – which allow them to easily connect to new customers.
Platforms like Facebook are universally popular, so use them: they can help you identify your audience and develop laser-focused campaigns for the segments you want to target.
Think Global, Act Local
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” messaging recipe when it comes to international marketing.
Play to your audience.
Johnnie Walker scored a global hit by tailoring its marketing slogan, “Keep Walking”. They localized the message, using over 100 culturally relevant quotes gathered from around the world. For Chinese consumers, for example, they chose Laozi’s “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
Their attention to cultural distinctions increased sales worldwide by 94% - and globalized their brand.
Use Preferred Payment Gateways
While American shoppers rely on credit cards, other regions like Latin America prefer alternate methods like Payoneer or Alipay.
A good global option: Amazon knows no borders, so offer Amazon Pay as a single-click payment option to increase conversion.
Make it easy for users to browse other markets so that when shoppers show particular interest in a specific item you can make it available locally.
Stay on the Same Page
Hiring remote employees is an important step when you’re scaling internationally – but it brings a host of logistical challenges.
The right software tools can facilitate and streamline your payroll, invoicing, communication, and time management processes. They’ll help you overcome logistical hurdles while optimizing productivity and growth.
What's In Store?
As you scale globally, managing inventory can be a challenge.
Keep your books in order by maintaining separate stores and handling their inventories separately.
Consider digital workplace tools to coordinate with the various stakeholders, organize your supply chain, reduce costs, and improve efficiency.
Use an eCommerce platform that offers multi-store capabilities - rather than directing you to one single site - for all your international marketing.
Handle With Care
Insure your international shipments.
Look into partnering with local shippers and warehousers in regions where you don’t have a physical site. They’ll likely be less expensive, and able to deliver faster since they’re familiar with the territory.
Return to Sender
Offer an international return policy. Enclose prepaid return envelopes, and add the mailing cost to the product price.
Display the policy – along with your guarantee, contact information, and shipping policies – in a prominent place on your site.
Assuring your customers that you honor returns is a good way to build trust – and building trust will play a key role in scaling globally.
One Step at a Time
Scaling your eCommerce operation beyond your current borders is an achievable goal.
As more consumers than ever are cross-border shopping, selling internationally has become an increasingly important focus for eCommerce merchants.
Global expansion won’t come without challenges, and it won’t happen overnight.
But with research, careful planning, and strategic implementation, your eCommerce operation will be well-positioned to secure a firm foothold on the expanding international stage.