Targeting overseas markets online
E-commerce offers huge growth opportunities – once you are online you can connect with consumers all over the world. However, there is a huge difference between a passive online global presence and a localised, targeted one, as Emma Scotton from KnowGlobal explained at the Business Show held recently at London’s Olympia.
Marketplaces and online stores
There are two e-commerce routes – signing your business up to an online marketplace such as Amazon, or opening your own online store. The benefit of online marketplaces is that you are able to piggy-back off existing software platforms and reach existing user-bases. However, it is important to be aware that other countries may have different preferences for online marketplaces – for example, while in the UK we may be familiar with Amazon and Ebay, Russia uses Ali Express and JD.com. Do your research – find out the preferred marketplace in the country where you are hoping to do business.
If you are looking to open your own online store, historically you would have one website that was optimised for e-commerce. To increase your visibility globally however, it is often better to have specific websites with country-appropriate domains (.co.uk, or .de etc.). This naturally will increase your ranking in search engines in those countries. This can be expensive and increasingly businesses are turning to sub-directories to fulfil this function, (.com/de etc.). This is not as effective as having a country-specific domain name, but can still improve traffic and help keep costs down.
Don’t get lost in translation
One obvious hurdle is translating websites for your target markets – a website is often the first and only point of contact with a customers and good translation is key. A direct translation using Google Translate is not enough – you must consider the cultural context and ensure that nothing is irrelevant or misunderstood. One infamous example of a direct translation gone wrong is Pepsi’s ‘Brings you back to life’ campaign. When launched in China, this slogan became ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.’ This, coupled with the fact that Pepsi changed its vending machines to a pale blue colour, which isassociated with death and mourning in China, lead to quite a large loss of market share in the region.
To properly localise a website, you should also consider whether your target market views the page left to right, or right to left. In addition, it is important to bear in mind that even countries that feel culturally close to the UK can have significant differences – for example, the US date format is different to the UK’s, which could potentially be confusing for a customer selecting a delivery date at check-out. There are simple plugins you can purchase to rectify this.
Processing payments online
Payment method preferences vary country to country, and you should offer the preferred method for each region you are targeting. It varies wildly even within Europe – for example, in Germany consumers are highly security conscious and do not like entering their card details online. There are payment processing services that process payments directly through banks instead.
Currency is another major consideration with global e-commerce. Consumers want to see what they are spending in their local currency, so prices should be displayed appropriately. However, currency fluctuations can make a huge difference to your profit margins and if you are forever changing your prices to adapt it will affect your brand’s reputation and dent consumer loyalty.
Lastly, a customer is much more likely to trust a website and make a payment if they are aware of the returns policy. Make sure this is readily available, and well translated.