In ecommerce, as in any other business, it’s often a case of ‘stick to what you know’. We market our products and services to the audience we know best, which usually means focusing our efforts on those closest to home. However, figures consistently show that, by limiting our reach in this way, we are losing out on huge potential gains in rapidly expanding overseas markets.
In 2017 alone, China was responsible for 67% of all ecommerce sales worldwide. In Europe, meanwhile, Sweden came out 2nd in the leader board of countries, with 84% of the population with internet access making online purchases, just 2% below the UK; an impressive margin.
Although ecommerce doesn’t command the same percentages in Russia and India, with an increasing standard of living, we are sure to see similar gains before long. It pays then to have a forward-looking strategy, taking into account all the aspects of cultural difference which can make or break a business abroad.
In this article, we’ll look at the essential (but often overlooked) elements that make up a successful overseas campaign – helping you avoid the pitfalls that too often hamper companies hoping to expand.
Tailor to Local Expectations
Many ecommerce sites now feature foreign currencies and languages as standard – particularly those run on Magento, designed to run multiple languages and payment gateways ‘out of the box’. But this is no longer enough. For a global business to succeed, it is now essential to tailor your whole site. From product mix to site design, your offering should reassure the user you speak to their needs, not just in their language. We’ll take you step by step through the main challenges, with Magento as our main focus.
Customer Experience: Translating your Design
It’s common knowledge for those who trade regularly in China that Baidu is preferred over Google, RenRen over Facebook. But what might not be so obvious, for those trading in Asia’s largest country, are the major differences in design.
Unlike in the West, where minimalism dictates top to bottom design, in China the opposite applies: due to factors including poor off-site search options, low internet speeds (particularly in rural areas), Chinese websites tend to be more text-heavy than in the West.
Though this may seem ‘cluttered’ to our eyes, because of a preference towards full utilisation of space, Chinese buyers may be turned off by a more stripped down, spartan look.
Product Mix and Localisation
During the research phase of your global business plan, you should look at localising your product mix. This doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul of products. Products can often be modified by changing their size and style, build quality or quantity. In the process, you will probably need to look at connecting with local couriers, as well as advertising in local publications.
Yet it’s important to stay true to your values and outlook. Don’t dilute your brand just for the sake of extra sales. Try to focus on what makes your business unique and adapt it, where possible, without compromising on what makes it unique.
Payment Gateways: Paying Attention to Local Customs
In Japan, over half of the population prefer to use a credit card when buying online, but in Germany approximately 70% prefer Direct Debit and Bank Wire Transfer. It’s essential to find out what the preferred payment option is within the country you’re trading. It’s possible that, even with the correct payment option available, you may not be aware which payment option to implement.
As before, research here is key: find out from local traders which payment options they offer, search on the internet to find out what payment options similar sites offer.
Communicate in Other Cultures
When it comes to picking product names and rebranding, ensuring your worlds translate is key to making the right impression. Not just small firms, top retailers have demonstrated the challenges of translating unique product names and descriptions.
For example, when General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, the company was unaware that “No Va” meant “It won’t go”. Likewise, when KFC unveiled their fast food chain in China, they had no idea the literal translation of their infamous slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” meant “Eat your fingers off.” Unsurprisingly, the Colonel’s secret recipe was not as popular as expected.
Solution: hire a good translator who is familiar with all regional variations of speech in the area you are trying to break into. In a country as large as China, spoken Chinese can vary dramatically. It pays to do your homework and not to scrimp on hiring a professional.
Breaking into New Markets Faster
With Magento, opening out to new markets has never been easier. You can customise your platform to run multiple Magento stores (in separate languages and currencies), all under a single license. In the following case studies, we’ll hook at how selling internationally with Magento works in practice.
Beaumotica Go Global with Magento
A few years ago, Dutch-based Beaumotica used the Magento platform to expand into foreign markets. “Magento 2 was the best choice for us,” said Henry Van Der Borg, Managing Director of Beaumotica, “The platform was built for scalability and performance and would prepare us for international growth.” As Beaumotica discovered, the Magento theming and layout framework makes it easier to create and manage content in multiple languages. In addition, Magento Admin and backend enhancements made it easier to import and export products, add attributes, and create custom catalog views.
Nestlé Abroad: Reaching Overseas with Magento
With the help of Magento, Nestlé was able to launch in 30 markets in just 18 weeks, and continues to launch two new markets every week. “The key to our success is the wealth of out-of-box functionality of the Magento platform, and the extensions to the platform that help us meet the requirements of each market,” said Vanderlei (Vandy) Santos, Global Digital Transformation Lead at Nestlé. “We also receive significant help from the Magento experts to discover the best ways to leverage the Magento platform.”
Dufry Takes Off with Magento
When Swiss-based Dufry went global online, they chose make the transition with Magento. The Swiss travel retailer Dufry operates over 2,200 duty-free and duty-paid shops in airports, cruise liners, seaports, and other tourist locations. Dufry chose Magento Commerce for its ability to launch multiple sites across different geographic locations, supporting different languages, currencies, and products. In their first year on Magento, Dufry launched 12 international online stores, and another 16 in the year following their Magento implementation, exposing their products to 2.5 billion potential customers.
Reaching New Customers Abroad: Summing Up
We hope we’ve shown, not only how important it is to conduct extensive research, but how essential it is to choose the right software. Magento is an incredibly sophisticated, feature-rich platform (see what it can do in our complete Magento Guide). We believe, in the right hands, it’s the perfect tool for getting your message across to your audience. In land or overseas, Magento has all the tools for the job.