Around 30% of the UK’s GDP comes from products sold outside of the UK. E-commerce and branding expert Victoria Greene explains how British businesses can sell overseas online.
For businesses that are already reaping the benefits of opening up an online store, your next natural move will be expanding to overseas markets.
Aside from ensuring that your business is ready to ship to all corners of the globe, you will also need to coordinate your marketing efforts to meet these new shoppers and convince them to buy.
Here are some ‘rules of the game’ for e-commerce brands who are looking to diversify their marketing efforts to new foreign audiences.
1. Overhaul Your Website
Developing a website that works across multiple countries will be one of the most important tasks for SMEs looking to expand their e-commerce brand. Everything from your business’ domain name to currency payment options will need to be reconsidered to suit your new overseas customers.
Readjusting your SEO strategy to provide useful content for localised search audiences may include things like setting up new country IP addresses (e.g. “.fr” for France), as well as other technical on-page tweaks like catalogue translations, adjusting image tags, and so on. Most importantly, your new marketing strategy should involve producing engaging, regularly updated content for your new audience, taking into account any seasonal factors that could have an impact on sales.
2. Know Your Limits And Be Transparent
Once you have established new shipping arrangements, you will need to make these processes clear to your new customers. For example, if you now ship to California, you will need to update your company website to make it expressly clear that your estimated delivery time may be considerably longer than delivery timings for the United Kingdom. Around seasonal periods such as Christmas, delivery times are particularly important – no-one wants their carefully selected presents arriving in January! Ensure you are 100% clear about the estimated delivery times around this busy period, to avoid disappointment.
The delivery costs will also be higher, so make sure that this also doesn’t come as a shock to your customers. In particular, you should consider customer support and returns methods for your new customers. Localise the return addresses and ensure that you provide good email support services (preferably in your customers’ native language).
3. Get To Know Your Customers
For any e-commerce brands looking to establish themselves in foreign markets, knowing what your customer needs is essential. With regard to seasonality, trading abroad can be a whole different ball game – with vastly different weather patterns and annual celebrations from country to country. Your festive Christmas campaign will do little to drive sales in China, Israel or Morocco.
With Australian customers in particular, the appeal of purchasing from a site in another country is the range of choice on offer. Without international shipping, these customers wouldn’t be able to purchase anything from your store. Creating customer personas based on thorough market research will help you target your key demographics.
4. Have A Social Media Strategy
As an e-commerce business, having an international social media strategy is essential, as you want to create a buzz online before you launch your products in any new markets.
In the first instance, you will want to look at your target audience’s online habits. Which social media sites and blogs share the most popular and relevant content to your niche? Secondly, you will want to analyse your competitors’ output on social media. How do they adapt their marketing efforts from season to season? Find out how they project themselves in these markets and discover how your brand could go one step further.
Here are some more tips on embracing social media strategies to craft credible marketing messages overseas.
5. Automation Is Key
Coordinating your marketing strategies across global networks can be greatly improved with automation, where possible. Any e-commerce platform worth your time will allow you to open an online store internationally, alter the pricing and language settings to fit your location, and sync it up with your social posts – creating a seamlessly integrated environment to suit all timezones.
6. Analyse Your Ad Data Across All Channels
Taboola, Outbrain, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In – these are just a few of the many advertising platforms you will want to explore when promoting your e-commerce store around the world. Automating budget spend and response data using a platform like funnel.io will help you manage your advertising budget effectively, all from one easy-to-use dashboard.
Around key seasonal periods that could impact your sales, it’s worth doing another round of keyword research to see if you can pick up any (temporarily) high volume, low competition keywords that will give your SEO a boost. Use these keywords to direct your content marketing efforts during these times.
7. International Trade Is All About Personal Relationships
Within the e-commerce sphere in particular, it can be easy for businesses looking to forge new relationships abroad to rush to the internet to make new connections. However, networking in-person by attending and exhibiting at foreign trade shows can help you build faster and stronger working relationships with retailers and customers alike.
When nurturing any sort of relationship with a new business contact, you will need to make the effort to get to know them and their needs. Offer them useful information first, before you dive in with your pitch.
8. Seek Expert Advice
In establishing your brand at home, it is likely that at some point you would have enlisted the help of a digital marketing expert to help get your website off the ground. Of course, the impact your messages may have on audiences at home may be very different to the reactions you get from foreign audiences.
A straight retranslation of your marketing materials may not resonate with your new audience. In fact, in some cases, it may harm your reputation abroad, as customers only want to buy from brands they trust. Wishing your Chinese customers a Happy New Year on the 1st of January (rather than mid-February) would be an easy, but embarrassing, mistake to make.
In order to understand the nuances of the cultural norms and seasonal festivals in your chosen exporting country, seek consulting advice from local marketing professionals. Even some basic internet research can help you avoid any obvious faux pas and get you started.
Marketing consultants may also be able to give you some insights on things like international intellectual property laws, but make sure that you also seek legal and trading advice from qualified sources.
For e-commerce brands, improving trade links with other countries takes more than just opening up to exporting your goods. Carefully considered strategies within your marketing efforts will help build your reputation both here and abroad.
Writing for the Institute of Export, Victoria Greene loves to help businesses grow in new and exciting markets, such as fashion, technology, and artisanal foods. She’s a freelance writer and runs her own blog at victoriae-commerce.
The second PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards, in association with HSBC, is taking place in Leeds in early 2018. The awards recognise firms of all sizes who are achieving export potential. Find out more, and enter for free here.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement