- December 18, 2021
- Posted by: Silvana Petrovan
- Category: Innovation, International, Marketing
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us a lot of different ways in which things so far can be done in the field of e-commerce. It has hit a lot of small and local businesses, that struggled to stay afloat during the lockdown period, but due to these constraints, they also had to think of different ways to expand or offer their services to people by using the internet.
That is not to say that some of these businesses did not have to close, as not everything can be migrated in the virtual space. But a lot of shops did find out that they can find success online as well. If anything, we should look at places like Etsy, where you can open your store and offer all kinds of handmade items, tech refurbishing or even just re-selling other items you previously bought as wholesale, or towards Redbubble, where artists can put up their own stores online and sell their apparel designs. It may not be much, but it can end up bringing in passive revenue all year round.
However, we are not thinking about small-scale reach, despite it being applicable to smaller businesses once they reach a certain threshold. Online commerce has reached an all-time high during the pandemic and the fact that a lot of people have orientated themselves towards border crossing services is less well known.
Retail, in particular, has seen an increase in cross-border activity, as well as an increase of the customers who wish to interact directly with brands and companies, rather than go through an intermediary. The research shows that in 2020, 32% of customers chose to buy from another country, and, more importantly, that 51% of them plan to do so moving forwards.
This is important for your brand and your activity, as despite the challenges, it can bring in a whole new avenue and a new set of customers, helping your overall income and profit to go higher. If you have considered this option, you may want to keep reading as there are a number of hurdles you need to jump before you can become successful in other regions.
Brands that are used to only dealing domestically should use their analytics to their advantage and see if, with some creativity, good marketing strategy, and investment, they can lure their customers with services that from a geographical point of view were unattainable before. However, to do so, you will need to put in the work and focus on a number of key factors, three of which we shall discuss here.
1. Marketing potential
In order to be able to embark on such an expansive (and sometimes costly) journey, you should use the data you have to your advantage. Whatever you want to sell to someone, you need to do extensive research about the potential market you want to infiltrate, the competitors you may have, and whether or not the product you offer is suitable for such a market.
It is not enough to know that the market is big and that there is space for your brand there, you need to analyze the growth trends, the seasonality, and if your product or service has any chance of at least having a chance at being successful. There are countless brands that we have never heard of, yet they are very successful domestically in their own spaces. If you want to have a chance, you need to optimize your offer for the spaces in which you have the best chance of growth and profit, otherwise, you will invest the money and potentially lose them all.
2. Localised content, not just translations
Yes, sometimes the marketing around a product is just that good, it will end up working for a lot of different types of markets and with the same slogan. You may find yourself not needing more than just the translation to a post, page, or blog in order to pique the interest of potential customers, and your growth will be organic. Yet, never forget that if your business is located in the western sphere, even in the same geographical area, the content might not hit the same spots for everyone.
You need to not only pay attention to localize your translations. Otherwise, you risk putting off people when they find you used words that clash with their own locally used ones(for example in Ireland they use “runners” instead of “sneakers” like in the U.S.), but you also need to be mindful of their customs and their buying relations. If the country is used to being addressed formally by brands, your modern, friendly approach may seem rude and stand-off-ish and ruin your chance entirely.
Moreover, translations may be off and there is always a need for a person specializing in that language or market to have a second look over your content. Also, make sure you are aware of the fact that not all regions use Google as their main search engine and that big countries have their own search engines that are way more popular, such as Baidu in China or Naver in South Korea. So in order to infiltrate their markets, you will need to rank high on their search and for this, you need to know their rules and technical requirements for ranking websites to have a chance at breaching the market.
3. Know where to reach your customers
Developing your own website, with different language options and custom localized content, optimized for different search engines is, unfortunately, not the end of the road in order to become noticeable. You will need a strong social media presence as well, as most age groups will end up spending part of their day on them. Yet, it is not enough to be on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in order to be seen.
Much like the search engines, depending on the country you are targeting they may have their internal platforms they are used to advertise on. Turning back to China, their key social networks are QQ, Weibo, and WeChat, and the companies that score high on Baidu are the ones that have links and accounts on all these social platforms. Moreover, if you plan on hitting the South Korean market, you should have a look at Line and Kakao, as they are way more popular than Whatsapp, even expanding to create a mobile payment app.
It may seem like a lot of work, but if you are serious about expanding and offering your product to more and more people, you have to keep these starting points in mind. From there, there is a lot to explore, trial and error with mixed marketing strategies, but nothing is impossible like this global pandemic keeps on showing us.