Selling to the World: A Map for Global Marketing Success
For e-commerce businesses looking for international sales, it isn't enough to just know who their customers are and what they want. Skill, finesse and cultural understanding are also important. Events, holidays and seasons can help retailers connect with customers, and nothing helps them feel at home better than a homepage hosted in their country, in their language, and steeped in their culture.
Apr 5, 2013 5:00 AM PT
When Dr. Martens customers from around the world search for its site, it's possible they'll end up on one designed specifically for their country.
"They have specific sites for specific countries," explained Gil Levy, managing partner with ECommerce Partners, to the E-Commerce Times. "That's the best thing to do. All the customer service and everything will be for this specific country. You can merchandise specific to that country. It's not just the price and the product, but it's the whole experience."
E-commerce businesses that want to sell their goods or services overseas need to consider everything from language to cultural expectations when designing their sites and overall marketing strategies. One of the simplest ways to build an online presence and do effective marketing in another country is to have a website hosted there.
"We recommend having a domain name within the country, and a domain within the country that is commonly used," said Levy. "If I work with a client in Australia, for instance, I use the domain 'au.' You also have to be sensitive to language and translation."
On the Ground
In order to have the kind of country-specific knowledge to do effective global marketing, it's important that e-commerce businesses -- or their partners -- have a deep and broad understanding of the markets they're targeting.
"We have people on the ground in each country," said Levy. "We work with companies to go over taxonomy and user experience, and once a site is up and running, we have all the tools."
Having several websites for different countries might be an option for larger companies, but for smaller ones there are other, less expensive possibilities.
"Larger websites have four or five different websites based on the country," Sidney Dunn, director of international sales with GlobalShopex, told the E-Commerce Times. "For a medium-sized merchant, they can do things such as IP recognition, or just make it very accessible by streamlining the international process."
Sometimes, effective global marketing is as simple as being aware of what's going on in the countries a business is targeting, and using those events, holidays, and seasons to make a connection with people in those countries.
"For marketing, it's all about the seasonality," said Dunn. "Think about the World Cup happening in Brazil, and start marketing around that."
Everything's Different, Everything's the Same
Even while expanding their global marketing, businesses need to make sure this marketing is in line with their overall marketing strategy.
"It's imperative to operate on the same system across all geographies to provide a truly seamless international expansion plan, saving both future implementation time and costs," explained Mike Willoughby, president of PFSweb, to the E-Commerce Times. "Having a global marketing strategy is key to achieving success across all markets."
Understanding the demographics in a particular country and targeting marketing to those demographics is vital to effective global marketing.
"Define your target audience per country, have a deep understanding of their culture, and localize your brand messaging and content," advised Willoughby. "Create a relevant digital communication strategy targeted to that region's audience, ensure your campaigns support brand loyalty and customer retention, and engage your customers. Optimize your search marketing strategy for each region. This consists of identifying the local search engines, localizing content, and performing in-depth keyword analysis by country."
Finally, understanding marketing regulations and even unspoken cultural codes is necessary to ensure that a marketing campaign doesn't fall flat or offend the very customers it's intended to reach.
"Understand the marketing regulations per country," said Willoughby. "Rules such as opt-in and cookie laws vary by country and must be taken into consideration when developing your digital marketing strategy."