How to Create a More Globally-Compatible Online Business
In what should come as no surprise, the online global e-commerce market is intended to continue along its path of intense growth. Both B2B and B2C online retailers are seeing an upward trend that is expected to reach nearly $5B in sales by 2021.
In order to grab even a small portion of this market, e-commerce businesses must be prepared to tap into their global customer base. But adjusting for global acceptance is by no means an easy task. The international online retail market is vast and varied; how can small online brands ever hope to capture attention when there are plenty of other options available for customers online?
The good news is that creating an online brand that is compatible and competitive in the global market is not as impossible as it may seem.
Here are three easy ways to get started.
1. Choose Your Target Carefully
The reason why many brands fear expanding to international markets is that the thought of reaching customers in every single country is overwhelming. Dealing with international shipping rates, language differences, and varying currencies seems like a nightmare. But the truth is you don’t (and more than likely should not) need to market to every single global customer base out there.
Aside from a fully loaded platform with features required to handle a global audience, in order to find your international target market, you will, of course, need to dive headfirst into your analytical datasets. Start by looking for pockets of global customers that already exist in your current audience. Is your website driving traffic from any particular country or region, or is there a significant segment of social media followers that are international?
From here, you will need to look at the bigger picture. Research global buying trends that are relevant to your industry. Take a look at statistics and studies measuring the demand for similar products in global markets. If you think you spy a possible opportunity, be sure that you can logistically fulfill orders there as well. You may need to contact new suppliers and shippers, so don’t put the cart before the horse and start selling before you have all of the kinks worked out.
Setting your scope too wide (or too narrow) can cause your efforts to misfire. Do research to determine which markets exactly are going to be the most profitable and relevant for your brand messaging. Understanding who your real customers are, what they like, and how to reach them is going to be the most important first step towards global expansion.
2. Pay Attention to Local SEO Standards
Any good e-commerce company knows that SEO is the lifeblood that connects their brand to their customers. This is especially true if your brand is not necessarily familiar within the market and cannot rely on recognition alone to attract customers. Obviously, global markets will be even less familiar with your company’s name and products as you expand into new regions, so your SEO strategies must be highly effective if you are going to make an impact.
Taking your SEO to the international level means that you will need to make careful adjustments to your website’s content strategies — depending on the markets you intend to reach. Simply converting your current website into a new language via Google Translate is not going to work, and could even lead to disastrous mistranslations. Furthermore, much of your content will need to be reformatted for specific markets, including currency, shipping rates, and contact information for global assistance.
Now, driving in new traffic to your international site is another task altogether. Keep in mind that not every market uses the same search engines, and not all search sites follow the same rules when it comes to ranking and PPC (Pay-Per-Click). You may need to adjust to ensure that your website is compatible and formatted for country-specific search engines as well as the big players like Google and Yahoo.
Finally, be sure that your pages are sending language preference signals to search engines by utilizing ccTLD local domain codes and hreflang metatags for proper localized search results. This is to ensure that your website is formatted correctly for global optimization, which can affect your rankings.
3. Add in Globally-Friendly Website Perks
While the product that your international customers are buying may be the same, their preferences and purchase habits may be vastly different than the audience you typically market to. According to a report from KPMG on global consumer behavior, a customer’s preferred shopping method and interaction with online retailers can vary widely depending on their location.
For example, some customers in different regions are more influenced by price, promotions, and features, while other markets are heavily motivated by price. Some customers also base their purchase decision more on the brand’s reputation and customer reviews than others, so these factors are important to consider when it comes to formatting your website to fulfill certain preferences and motivations.
Your international e-commerce site will need to include the sorts of features that support the kind of UX that will turn consumers into customers. Do your due diligence of research into the consumer trends of your specific market.
- Are shoppers in that specific region open to a more tech-forward experience with features like sales chatbots?
- Or would they prefer a more human touch with instant live chat from customer service reps?
- How common is mobile shopping within that market?
- What about social media shopping?
Finally, be sure that the most basic but important shopping features on your global website are available for a smooth, issue-free UX. Your website should either automatically adjust based on the customer’s IP address for localization and adjust time zones, currency, and language features.
As technology becomes more sophisticated and a common part of our day-to-day, global communities are starting to become more precisely segmented. We are now easily able to connect with businesses, customers, suppliers, and organizations on the other side of the world with impeccable presentation. So, while this opens up a door to great opportunities, it also means that online brands are faced with a whole new group of competitors.
In order to stay relevant in an international market, e-commerce brands must be ready and willing to change to reach global customer segments on a personal level. Going global is not easy and there is plenty of room for error if you are not prepared. Be sure to understand where your efforts will pay off, research your markets carefully, and make the necessary adjustments that will drive global conversions.