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A Survival Guide to the International E-Commerce Wilderness
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A Survival Guide to the International E-Commerce Wilderness

The e-commerce landscape is an increasingly competitive one, and the terrain is only getting more treacherous and the predators more aggressive. Brands are fighting for territory in a crowded space, determined to gain slivers of a jam-packed market by any means. US retailers see global expansion as a way to open up new streams of revenue – but that can also invite a whole new level of competition on an international scale.

The internet allows retailers of any size to cross international borders and quickly establish a regional presence, but that is where the simplicity of entering a global market ends. Successful immersion in a new territory requires brands to demonstrate culturally appropriate customer service standards. International shoppers want to be active participants in the global economy, but they also don’t respond well to outsiders.

Companies need to be prepared to interact effectively and with sensitivity in any communications scenario and in the languages and customs that shoppers prefer. This means taking the time to research the local customs and language preferences in the target territory. Consider these best practices as part of your strategy for market entry success:

Localise your message

There are usually multiple cultural sub-populations and demographics within a single country. While plenty of companies recognise the need to translate their materials when they venture overseas, they don’t necessarily consider the benefits of localising their materials beyond assuming that one country means one group to target. These are all significant portions of the target market that could still be won over with the properly targeted marketing, but when they aren’t being effectively spoken to, they have far less motivation to develop any sort of brand loyalty.

Be prepared for the omnichannel experience

Customers might be devoted online shoppers, but there will still be situations in which it makes more sense to run to a store to pick something up, or avoid shipping fees by returning something to a brick-and-mortar outlet. When that happens, companies need to make that process as seamless and enjoyable as possible – and that includes cultural considerations. Knowing what sort of features and options are most valued in the given market can make a significant difference in establishing customer loyalty within that region. Offering something even as basic as free shipping or in-store pickup in a market where consumers value those particular services can have a profound impact.

Implement multi-seller grid pages

In the same way customers expect convenience either in-store or online, they also crave the convenience of a one-stop shop. For example, this recent back-to-school shopping season capitalised on the trend of displaying complete options for full outfits and accessories. On a single page, shoppers could browse clothes, backpacks, laptops, cell phones, and jewellery. Retailers need to make it easier for consumers to simply stay on a single page when shopping. This multichannel, cross-retailer partnership trend allows the customer to enjoy an all-inclusive experience, while the retailers enjoy an increase in overall sales. When dealing with a new market, offering this kind of convenience will be what puts a brand ahead of its competitors.

Incorporate social media

Global marketers want to repeat the same success abroad that they’ve achieved using social media ad campaigns in domestic markets. This is a logical step, but one that requires a skilled language professional with knowledge of the local trends and language used in each new region. Just think about how we started with ‘cash machines’ or ‘bank machines’ in the US before we used the term ‘ATM’. These changes occur in all cultures and languages, which bring new dangers into play. Using a dated phrase or misplaced word will draw attention to a brand’s lack of relevance or interest in the target audience and will make native ads stand out for the wrong reasons.

While the back-to-school season has wound down for now, the holiday season is just starting to pick up speed. Retailers still have time to incorporate these best practices into a global strategy. Understanding the needs and preferences of your target population and carrying that understanding through across all retail channels will help your brand reach international consumers more effectively.

The research and time you invest now will translate to increased conversions and loyalty, making for a smoother market entry that makes it look like your brand has been a stalwart of your target region for years.

 

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Liz Elting

Liz Elting

Liz Elting is co-founder and co-CEO of TransPerfect, the world’s largest privately held provider of language and business services. Elting oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, which is headquartered in New York City.

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