Your business is thriving locally and nationally, and you’ve identified an opportunity to start expanding globally.
All too often, businesses try to run before they can walk. Which leads to internal issues with miscommunication between teams, logistical issues, and fulfilment nightmares.
What happens then, ultimately, is that:
- Customers get angry
- They return orders
- You take a hit to both your bottom line, and your reputation
It’s enough to make the whole concept of expanding abroad seem terrifying.
But if you’re ready for it, whatever the size of your business, selling internationally could end up being the best move you’ve ever made.
This article is intended to get you in the right mindset to start thinking about your transition from domestic seller to global seller.
I’ll be covering seven key areas every business owner should be thinking about before and during that transition.
Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means an exhaustive checklist.
Becoming a global seller can be a long and often complex process. One which differs from business to business, but these seven points are things which apply to almost any business making the leap across borders.
Here’s what I’ll be covering:
- Shipping – how and when to roll out your international shipping options for maximum effectiveness.
- Localization – get to know your audience where you’re selling.
- Tone of voice and A/B testing – what appeals to shoppers in different countries?
- Social media – how best to utilize your social media channels (plus pixels)
- Paid advertising – target your paid ads wisely
- Payment methods – digital wallets break down borders
- Simplicity – keep it simple!
Ready? Let’s kick off with everyone’s favorite topic: Shipping.
Shipping items internationally can be a headache if you don’t plan properly.
Shipping overseas is more expensive than shipping domestically, of course. And it’s crucial that you communicate that to shoppers as early as possible.
Let them know that shipping costs are higher, and that there may be fees they’re responsible for once their item arrives.
That’s not always the case, but it can happen. And being prepared will help to mitigate any problems with items being returned or confiscated by customs.
Being upfront about your international shipping policies will also help to prevent angry comments and negative feedback.
Getting your shipping policy right is going to keep customers happy. It will also make sure that you don’t eat into your own profit margins by offering shipping at rates you can’t afford.
What about the on-site experience?
Localize Your Content
Many medium to large brands have different domains for the different countries in which they operate. US and UK domains of the same site, for example, might only be different in subtle ways such as the spelling of “memorize” and “memorize.”
Other countries might see the same domain, but in their own language.
But localization goes far beyond translation.
The images, videos, colors, and navigation present on your website should all be taken into consideration when setting up in an international market.
If you have a lot of photography of people on your website, and most of those people are white Americans, for example. Then it makes sense to change your imagery to something more appropriate when launching in China.
The same goes for videos and color schemes.
Your tone of voice is something I’ll touch on separately. But the overall sentiment of your site might need to change depending on the population of people you’re targeting, outside of your own country.
It might seem like just another added cost, or an exercise in box-checking if your product is the same internationally. But user experience can make or break a sale for you, wherever you happen to appear.
Tone of Voice and A/B Testing
Regardless of whether you’re a business owner with experience of A/B testing, or you have somebody on your team responsible for it. Getting a sense of what the most compelling way to communicate with your international audience is, is vital.
Your tone of voice and the language you use, should be A/B tested to see what works best. That includes the words you choose for your website and product pages.
If possible, have a native speaker write, or least proofread the copy on your website. That will help make sure the sentiment and tone reflect the market you’re selling in.
It’s okay for shoppers to know that you’re not based in their country. But speaking to them in a way that they’re familiar with puts you ahead of the competition. And it helps to build trust and a sense of familiarity which will ultimately translate into sales and loyalty.
Areas which can benefit the most from some careful A/B testing are any where there’s a clear call-to-action (CTA). Your homepage, product pages, and any pop-ups you have installed are great places to do some localized A/B testing.
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Using the name of the city you’re selling in can be another great way to boost engagement.
Speaking of engagement, what about building an international community?
Social Media Channels
Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, WeChat: Combined I’m talking about channels with billions of active daily users.
Reaching out to users in other countries using social media channels is a worthwhile and cost-effect way of building a new audience.
You might not be able to sell directly through apps in all countries. But as a means for showcasing your products directly to consumers, and building a rapport with them, all of these channels are invaluable.
Just like I was discussing with tone of voice, if you can afford it, it pays to have somebody who knows your business, who is based in the country you’re targeting, to take care of social for that area.
If that means hiring remotely, then so be it.
A word on using pixels
Pixels can help measure ROI on specific campaigns. Which will help you track which channels are working best for you, and which deserve the most attention going forward.
They’re fairly simple to set up, and are can be invaluable when dealing with multiple campaigns across different countries.
How about reaching people in a more direct and controllable way?
Paid Advertising for International Audiences
Being specific about the kind of audience you want to acquire can help to narrow your focus and increase ROI.
Targeted social media campaigns are one way to go, and paid ads on Google Adwords is another.
Segment your audience by location, interests, and long-tail keywords. Then A/B test different options to make sure you’ve got all of your bases covered.
Here’s another area where it’s important to have somebody onboard with local knowledge.
And when it finally comes time to buy, how do you make sure the process is as seamless and painless as possible for international shoppers?
Enable Digital Wallets
Digital wallets are becoming a must-have for eCommerce merchants.
Allowing customers to pay however they want in a way that’s easy and safe is, of course, a top priority for any business owner.
Digital wallets allow shoppers to do just that. And they are especially important when it comes to mobile commerce, where privacy is a major concern.
For international customers, being able to pay with a single or just a couple of clicks can mean the difference between a sale, and a no-sale.
And as a merchant, the peace of mind of knowing that your transactions are secure, takes a huge chunk out of the hassle regarding payments.
A digital wallet, if you’re not familiar with the term, is a way for shoppers to pay for things using stored card details.
The aim is to make payments safer and more convenient for shoppers, and the most popular providers include big names such as:
- Apple Pay
- Amazon Pay
- Android Pay
Payment through all of these major players can be set up in the backend of your eCommerce platform. And they should integrate seamlessly with your shop on both desktop and mobile.
They’re more than a nice to have, too. Enabling payments through digital wallets means shoppers don’t have to enter long strings of numbers every time they want to buy from you.
Which brings us to the recap, and perhaps the most important point of all.
Keep it Simple (or as simple as possible)
Expanding internationally can be complex. That much is for sure. The nuances of getting it right with a new audience will differ from country to country, and from region to region.
When it comes to shipping, be upfront and honest about costs. Also, start with a soft launch, offering international shipping on your website.
Make sure that you’re speaking to people in the right way. Hire somebody who lives where you’re targeting to help refine your messaging.
Use social media to reach new audiences, and install pixels to track ROI on campaigns.
And if all goes well, and you land a sale in another country, make sure it’s easy for them to pay by enabling payment through digital wallets.
Take it one step at a time, and good luck. The world is now your eCommerce oyster.
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Author: Shane Barker