Even if you’re not selling internationally, chances are, your competitors are. Cross-border trade is growing fast. Entering new markets is becoming easier through the growth of third-party support for budding global retailers. A recent survey by OC&C Strategy Consultants predicted that global sales from US online retailers will be worth $11 billion in 2014, soaring to $50 billion by 2020.
With more and more of the world buying online, displaying your wares in the global marketplace can result in a high return on investment. But knowing how and where to start is still a challenge.
Of course, with millions of other sellers shouting about their products, you’ll need to try even harder to get yours in the mix. Thinking that if you build an international website, buyers will come, is clearly no longer true (if it ever was).
Today’s web-savvy consumers are using a number of channels to research and make purchases. They’re well-informed and looking for the best deals. To be successful, you need to adapt your strategy and find out where your buyers are.
A multichannel approach is likely to be the best option. In addition to adapting your own website, marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon are leading channels for international e-commerce, with a significant percentage of their sales coming from overseas buyers. Specialist sites, such as Etsy and Fruugo, are also growing internationally, while country-specific sites are the key to reaching many markets, such as China and Japan.
The first step to reaching global customers is adapting your website. Some marketers favour country-specific sites for each market, with top-level domain names (such as www.mycompany.it for Italy), while others recommend subfolders of a single international site (e.g., www.mycompany.com/it).
The first option is best for some markets, such as France, where a country-specific domain name is seen as more trustworthy. Subfolders need to be set up to geotarget each market correctly, but once this is done, they can be easier to manage. Many businesses experience a drop in traffic when they move their website to an international domain. Setting up redirects correctly and taking time to geotarget each market can help you avoid this drop-off.
Language is an essential factor to consider when targeting overseas markets. Research by the Common Sense Advisory found that most people are reluctant to buy goods without information in their native tongue. For optimisation purposes, it’s important to research keywords in the local language, rather than simply translating them, and use native-speaking professional translators to incorporate them seamlessly into your site content.
As well as translation, it also pays to localise your site for each target market. This involves considering everything from the preferred payment methods and currencies to any cultural quirks in your target market. You might choose to adapt the style and level of formality, or select different images, depending on the culture.
Translation and localisation will both help your site appeal to search engines, as well as potential customers. Google uses clues such as the currency and addresses to identify the relevant country your site is aimed at. And all things being equal, a professionally translated site will rank higher than one with poorly written or machine-translated content.
Once your websites or subfolders are ready to be launched, you’ll want to promote them through strategies such as social media and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. One advantage to targeting non-English-speaking markets is that a relative lack of content can often mean that PPC advertising is more cost-effective.
Of course, your own website is only one way to reach out to global customers. In my next post, I’ll look at the advantages of using multiple channels to target new markets.
Blog post by Jeremy Clutton, strategic account director, Lingo24.
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