In an ecommerce business, maximizing revenue is hard enough in your first market.
But if you’re ready to burst your borders and start targeting international customers in their own markets and languages, the complexity grows exponentially.
There are so many different things to think about that we can’t list them in one blog post—much less promise to solve them all for you with a few best practice tips.
But what we can do is help you organize your thinking by giving you nine areas for special attention when you’re going global.
1. Express your brand consistently
The nature of global ecommerce means you’ve got massive volumes of dynamic branded content to continuously update in multiple languages. It needs to be consistent in order to preserve your brand. A good way to handle this is by:
- Using glossaries. They document the word choices and phrases that best represent your brand, in every language you use. It’s a great basis from which to control how your brand voice is adapted for other markets.
- Making sure you have style guides for each market. Style guides lay down the linguistic law for their specific markets. These in-language guides contain instructions for controlling the expression of your brand, and take into account the subtle cultural differences that will maintain your user experience around the world.
Crafting your local identity is key to market success.
2. Test the local user experience
You’ve probably already put a huge amount of effort into UX for your home market websites. But the same user experience rules won’t apply to your new markets. You need to test everything: even changing the color of a CTA in a new market might lead to more clicks. Grab quick wins with cost-effective UX techniques like heat-mapping and eye-tracking—these can point to very simple changes in layout that can make a huge difference. We also recommend deep-diving into the ‘why’ with in-country user testing and interviews.
3. Think visuals
A strategic approach to your visual content can save you tons of money (in production costs) and make you tons more (in sales). Obviously, you can’t produce unique pictures and videos for each of your markets for every single product. That means you should use visuals that are relevant and understandable across cultures as much as possible—think magnifying glasses, stop signs or arrows, to name a few.
Where that’s not possible—or for high-visibility assets that sit in prominent places, like home pages—it comes back to testing. Does your audience respond better to images of your products or of people? Are individuals better than groups or vice versa? It’s these details that make the difference.
4. Harness the power of social
We all know the incredible power of social media—both for promoting your brand and for providing quick, personal customer service. But to do social on a global scale takes a lot of research and skill. Clearly, you have to be where your customers are, so find out what social channels your local audiences use and concentrate there. And get in-country social experts to help craft or adapt your social content.
Train those local social experts on your overall brand social strategy and tone of voice. And let them advise on how best to roll out campaigns. Your locals have the edge here.
5. Leverage User-Generated Content (UGC)
UGC is an increasingly important part of your customers’ buying journey. When you’re thinking global, you’ve got to make it simple for people to leave their reviews—and for others to take advantage of them. Non-language reviews like star ratings are a great option as they’re universally understood without translation.
Machine translation can also bring big wins here. Just because someone has written a product review in German shouldn’t mean a Spanish user can’t benefit from it. These translations don’t need to be perfect; your customers just need to get the gist—that’s why you can leave it to machines.
And don’t forget: finding and linking to user-generated visual content globally (such as vlogger reviews or images of your product in action) is a great way to give your brand authenticity across all markets.
6. Let people pay how they like
Each market has different payment preferences—and unless you provide a method people feel comfortable with, they’re unlikely to buy. So, you have to go beyond credit card payments.
Alternative Payment Methods (APMs) are rising in popularity across the globe. But there are big differences. The most common digital wallet in the US is PayPal, but in China it’s AliPay, whereas in the Netherlands it’s iDEAL. Offering your buyers their preferred payment option can make or break your online sale.
7. Help people find you with strategic SEO
When you go global, you rely on your new customers finding you online—but the way your new international customers search may not be anything close to how your home-market customers do.
So, your approach to international SEO can’t just be based on the way you do SEO in your primary market. Each new territory has its own nuances in the way people search, the key phrases they search for, and the devices they search on. You need an approach to SEO for new markets that is as strategic as that of your home market.
8. Do smart retargeting
Shopping cart abandonment is a maddening reality. But it does give you data. And that’s data you can use as part of your paid search retargeting. For instance, you could segment your audience into site visitors, cart abandoners, and customers, then build remarketing lists off of these.
Retargeting can not only get to the customers who’ve dropped out of your purchase journey, but also provide lookalike demographic profiles so you’re getting clicks from more likely buyers.
9. Stay compliant
There are all sorts of ways that ecommerce businesses can get into trouble with compliance and regulations when moving into new markets. There are the big, obvious rules like the European Union GDPR (which goes into effect in 2018) that everyone should know about.
But there are also country-specific details that can get you into hot water. For example, an ecommerce company operating in Germany got into trouble for their CTA ‘Send order’ which a judge ruled wasn’t clear enough to customers that they were obliged to pay at that time. Now ecommerce companies in Germany have to use ‘Zahlungspflichtig bestellen’ (“order with an obligation to pay”) for their purchase buttons.
As promised, this is just a quick rundown of some of the top-level things you’ll need to think about when you want to optimize your ecommerce efforts globally. In the next few weeks, look out for more in-depth blog posts (and a few mini-guides) discussing some of these topics in more detail.
Or if you can’t wait and have a question about any of these right now, you can always drop us a line. We love talking about this stuff.