As shopping online from foreign retailers becomes more and more common, many e-commerce companies are jumping on the opportunity for global expansion. In the next few years, global e-commerce sales are expected to increase nearly 250 percent and hit the $4.5 trillion mark.
Of course, going international with your business is a huge undertaking that requires an immense amount of research, planning and preparation. Not every online business should expand globally. For some, the product is simply unnecessary or not popular in foreign markets. For others, the cost of production and shipping simply do not make sense.
However, if your brand is confident that international expansion is the next step to take, then you may be wondering how exactly to get started. Here's how to launch your brand into global markets in four simple steps.
1. Invest in a Global-Friendly Website
Obviously, your e-commerce site is going to play a key role in the success of your global expansion. Therefore, the UX that it provides to your new customers should be a top priority as you begin to expand to further markets. To make sure that your website is optimized for international business, you will need to know which features are essential for a smooth CX.
Editor's note: Looking for a web design service to help you with your e-commerce site? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you with information for free.
The best strategy here is to partner with an international e-commerce platform like Shopify that is designed specifically for global reach. Be sure to look for one that has location settings to customize your website based on where your customers are shopping from. Everything from the language to the price to the shipping rates will change depending on the market, so your best bet is to go with one that can adjust for all of this automatically.
Another important feature to keep in mind is how quickly your website loads in different countries. For example, if your main server is located in the United States, but a customer clicks on your link in India, it could take several seconds for the page to load entirely. While this doesn’t sound like a huge deal, it could actually lose you that customer. According to studies, 50% of customers will exit a site that takes longer than just three seconds to load.
Use a host that includes CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) to speed up your website. This strategy means that your website’s pages are distributed globally through a connected network of cache servers to boost loading speeds.
The quality of your site will affect the bottom line, so take care in the design and features that it provides. Make sure that your e-commerce host is ready to handle a global market and can support a better CX for higher conversions.
2. Gather a Diverse Marketing Team
Perhaps one of the trickiest parts of expanding globally is gaining brand recognition. In order to start turning a profit from international sales, you will need to build this sooner rather than later, but getting your name out there in the global market will require specialized marketing strategies.
Your best bet here is to gather a globally-minded marketing team that is up for the challenge and highly knowledgeable about each international target market. Since your online customer base will be dramatically expanding, the demographics, preferences, and needs of your audience will shift. Furthermore, there are some channels (of which you can reach global customers) that are simply not available or popular in places like the US. For instance, there are some that are extremely popular internationally. QQ/Q Zone is a common chat app used in China and Taringa and is also one of the most popular social networks in South America. Failing to utilize these channels properly could impact your reach and slow down your brand’s growth.
When you are , be sure that your team has an understanding of the culture and consumer behavior within that market. It may be best to hire local freelancers for each area of expansion to ensure that your advertising messages are written properly and are effective.
3. Guarantee Quality Assurance
Another major issue that international brands run into is ensuring a consistent experience, no matter where their customer is. This gets far more complicated as the company expands to markets that are further away.
For instance, it may be much cheaper to partner with a local dropshipper that is located overseas and closer to your new market. However, with the lower price also comes lower quality. If your international customers are receiving products of which are even slightly lower quality than other markets, it could hurt your brand’s reputation, especially as it could lead to negative reviews. Therefore, it is especially important that your company finds trustworthy partners around the globe to handle the assurance of not only your products but also your service.
The quality of service and support that your company offers may be affected as well. For instance, you will likely need to hire an international customer service team that can speak the various languages of your global customers. However, if they are not trained properly, they could also hurt your business’s reputation with ineffective service.
As your business continues to grow, be sure that quality assurance checks are conducted regularly to assess things. Stay on top of your customer reviews and address any issues as quickly as possible before things get out of hand.
4. Track Progress Relentlessly
Going international can be a little bit of a risk, especially if your brand name is relatively unknown in a vast new market. There is always a chance that things will simply not pan out or gain traction. Therefore, your team must track the numbers relentlessly to be sure whether or not this global expansion is the best move for your company.
Of course, sales numbers are an obvious metric to keep an eye on, but other numbers can signal whether or not your brand is gaining acceptance. For instance, website traffic, social media following, and repeat buyers will show that your customer base is actively growing and your brand is breaking into the new international market.
Remember, it can take time before you start to see any fantastic results. However, if things start to slow down or remain stagnant for a long period of time, it could be a sign that you should look elsewhere. Thankfully, with e-commerce and online selling, this is fairly easy to do. If one country or international area doesn’t work out, try another.
Going global is a fantastic adventure for online brands and it can truly expand your horizons in many ways. Of course, before you make this decision, be sure that you do lots and lots of research to find the markets that will be best for your brand. Invest in the right tools and focus on creating an experience that will delight your new customers. Remain consistent, seek improvement and watch your results to be sure that this is the best path for your company.