This is the fifth part in our series on understanding and thriving in cross-border eCommerce. Just as in Parts 1–4 of this series, we want to emphasize that, with the right mindset and armed with the right tools, brands can avoid becoming overwhelmed by the challenges of international commerce.
You can check out Part 4: Emerging Legal Challenges to learn how your company can address the complexity of order fulfillment. In Part 5, we deal with a more outward facing element of international eCommerce: branding from a global perspective.
In their recent report on building a “hyper relevant” brand, Accenture placed an emphasis on understanding the context of the consumer.
Report co-authors Robert Wollan, Rachel Barton, Masataka Ishikawa and Kevin Quiring conclude that hyper-relevance requires two steps: Utilizing more personalized data about customers and gaining the trust of customers. In other words, personalization is only as valuable as your brand’s ability to build consumer trust.
For international brands, this is a multifaceted challenge. Navigating multiple languages, currencies, preferences and expectations is complicated, to say the least. So, how can international brands create a customer experience that appeals to a global audience?
When speaking to an international audience, it’s important to make target customers feel comfortable.
Let’s start with the basics.
Building a Brand That Resonates Across the Globe
“While there are many companies out there catering to various products and services, it’s the brand that resonates with customers,” Namraata Badheka at PushCrew argues. “Your brand can make a customer associate a feeling with your company. It’s your brand that differentiates you from the others and communicates a positive feeling or a negative one, to your customers.”
At the international level, however, the very definition of branding broadens a little. “In addition to the mental image your brand evokes in consumers, there also exists a group of ideas or associations consumers have regarding your company,” writes Richard Aviles at Sales & Orders. Aviles points out that user experience, customer interactions, associations and feelings are all part of successful branding.
Globalization With Your Market, Localization With Your Language
Expanding to new markets means understanding those markets — and having those markets understand you. Mayflower Language Services reports that 75 percent of consumers choose products that have information available in their native language.
If your site and content are the same across all geographies and channels, you may be missing out on an entire audience. Lavish Kumar at nopCommerce agrees, writing that “making your online store site multilingual is an effective way of acquiring greater sales.”
Translation doesn’t have to be an arduous process. Claire Eskwith at Amplexor notes that digital translation, localization and content management tools are making this easier everyday. At the same time, brands should be careful that going multilingual doesn’t damage the user experiences they have been developing.
This is where having strong partners becomes key. Your company will ideally hire a localization company or a full-service eCommerce solutions provider to localize your brand for the markets it serves.
Stepping Up the Personalization Game
Personalization is not the same thing as branding from a global perspective, but it does answer some of the challenges of selling across borders. At the same time, it is one of the most challenging parts of marketing.
Research from Evergage found that only 12 percent of marketers are satisfied with their personalization efforts — a number the firm attributes to the challenge of bringing customer information together.
So, what should personalization look like in practice? Tina Mulqueen, CEO at Kindred Marketing Company, says the idea is to offer a winning experience to the target audience from the start, encouraging interaction with your brand — and then to use the customer information you collect to offer even greater personalization down the line.
In terms of introducing personalization to a globalized brand, Kashyap Kompella at EContentMag recommends homing in on a single channel and a handful of tools. If you’re looking to improve conversion on the international site, for example, focus on A/B testing tools. If you want to scale a personalized experience, you may do well to invest in a marketing platform that can handle customer data.
Personalization at this level is not necessarily easy, but it’s a worthwhile investment. Again, this is where partners are crucial. Having a partner that can help you deliver relevant messages to any market can pay off handsomely.
“Companies that deliver customers timely, relevant, and truly personal messages … can build lasting bonds that drive growth,” write McKinsey consultants Julien Boudet, Brian Gregg, Jane Wong and Gustavo Schuler.
Creating an Internationally Relevant UX
UX “should be a top priority as you begin to expand to further markets,” says Taral Patel, a digital marketer with E2M Solutions.
Get as in-the-weeds with this as you can. Just as we recommend having a local footprint to keep your logistics running smoothly, it might be a good idea to host a localized version of your shop in each market where you operate. This can speed up site load times and increase your conversion rate.
Further, don’t assume that what makes sense to customers in one market will make sense to customers in another market. “Our research found that customers struggled with language, dates, addresses, pricing, availability and delivery options when shopping on websites outside their country,” writes the Nielsen Norman Group. “Companies could stop losing overseas business by implementing some quick solutions to many of these usability issues.”
Overcoming Branding Challenges
There are certainly hurdles for any brand to overcome when going global. “If international ecommerce sales were easy, everyone would be doing them,” writes Robert Allen at SmartInsights. “There remain many major obstacles to a successful international ecommerce strategy, and you will have to take account of these when planning how to sell your products in new markets.”
Allen goes on to point out that these obstacles will vary depending on your market, product and previous experience. In other words, the key to branding from a global perspective is to run an honest assessment of where you are, where you can go, and when to work with localized partners who can help create local experiences for consumers.
The long and short of branding from a global perspective is to take on localization as much as possible as you start selling in new markets. While the strategy in doing so may depend on your niche and current market, the fact remains: the strategic approach is the best approach.
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