Going Global: 5 Steps to eCommerce Internationalisation

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Steph Fenton
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“There are two big things you need for successful internationalisation,” says Venditan Managing Director Chris Maule. “Yes, you’ll need budget - but more importantly, you’ll need patience.”

Our nearest markets have seen Southern European B2C market growth running at a phenomenal 25% (eCommerce Europe). While Forrester report that, beyond the continent, cross-border shopping will account for 1 in 5 E-Commerce transactions by 2022, with US sales hitting a mighty $630 billion.

The scale of opportunity overseas is vast. But the truth is, many UK companies are still grappling with the investment itinerary that comes with internationalisation. In fact, Econsultancy report that 62% of businesses believe they’re missing key opportunities in global markets.

So we’re sharing our 5-step checklist to help you take full advantage of the cross-border boom and go global with your E-Commerce business.

1. The price is right

Step one is to take a hard look at your prices in the new market.

No matter how sophisticated your domestic pricing plan is, taking it straight to foreign consumers can price you out of the market—before your international expansion has even started.

Reworking your numbers for the new market doesn’t require a revolutionary approach. Just apply the same research and analysis you originally did at home, paying special attention to the local businesses you’re about to go shoulder to shoulder with.

Remember that markup pricing, vendor pricing, psychological pricing and keystone pricing are all proven strategies. But they’ll only deliver sales as long as you nail the essentials. Don’t make the misstep of being 10% more expensive than a local market competitor on Google Shopping.

2. First-class shipping

International shipping strategies start at home, so take a look at your existing UK base first.

The trick is to invest time with your existing partners. Get to grips with their international service categories, and make sure your shipping matrix can handle the right size and weight items through the right partners.

This is your chance to swot up on your existing operations, balancing delivery costs against the best possible end-user experience.

Free shipping really has “shown a lot of promise in reducing shopping cart abandonment” (Forrester Research), but just remember to stay vigilant about margins when you’re juggling different international costs.

Once all the detail is mapped out, make sure you model it accurately within your E-Commerce platform. Work hard to keep the subtleties of your service category selection with accurate size and weight data - and don’t forget to blacklist countries you won’t ship to!

3. Upgrading payment

With over 250 options from credit and debit cards, to digital wallets and direct debit schemes, all designed to optimise conversions for their global niche, the full selection of local payment options can feel overwhelming. But this isn’t the time to bury your head in the sand.

If you’re selling in Spain, for example, you can safely rely on standard credit and debit cards for 91% of your consumers (eCommerce Europe). But any effective German expansion means investing in payment systems like GiroPay and ELV.

The key is to narrow down your options for the territory you’re trading in.

For instance, as global traders, you can cover the biggest tactics by looking to Visa, Mastercard, AMEX and PayPal. Meanwhile, trading in Europe needs a focus on options like iDeal, GiroPay and SoFort, whereas AliPay and UnionPay are the top choices for China.

4. Get found, get followed

As you shift into full foreign marketing campaigns, just remember,

Getting concrete returns from your eCommerce digital marketing strategy is a tough enough task at home in the UK - taking it on abroad requires the same in-depth approach.

Paid Search is the faster way to results, making it ideal for testing and refining the findings of your pricing research. You’ll still to consider search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media, but remember the value of patience: as always these are slow burning strategies that take time to really deliver ROI.

“In markets where you’re a new brand, you’re competing with established businesses who know the market inside out. Often you may have to build yourself up from the bottom.” - Econsultancy

For long-term presence and visibility in Google and other search engines, make sure you’re following SEO best practices from the beginning—you’ll thank yourself later.

When it comes to social media, you’ll need to set up a specialist account for the market you’re expanding into, then build a local following, find evangelists and drive tailored content.

5. Relatable and translatable

It can be tempting to skip out on translation for certain markets. Take the Netherlands: when over 90% of the population speak English (European Commission), why make the investment?

The answer is simple: 9 out of 10 Europeans say they always prefer to shop on sites in their own language when given the choice (European Commission), so translated content is a must if local language competitors are serving up products that directly compete with yours.

But tread carefully.

Cheap and cheerful automated translation can be a tempting option, but nothing erodes trust and reduces conversion rates like translation errors. In our experience, every business should at least consider having a native speaking professional review (if not write!) the content.

Make sure you avoid these 5 mistakes when translating your website.

Final thoughts

Break it down. And that’s it - the first five steps for your international expansion complete.

Even when backed with the budget to pull it off, international expansion always comes with complications, and each country comes with its own unique challenges.

However, the happy truth is that international eCommerce isn’t as complex as it seems.

Get it right and you’ll delight your customers while maximising your own profits.

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