April 17, 2014

The First Steps to Global Expansion: Research & Localize

Posted by Faith Albert Category IconConversions & UX Category IconInternational

Let’s prepare for war. Okay, okay, that might be a tad dramatic, but recon is a key tool when trying to dominate global sales. Additionally, knowing your product is pivotal to your success.

I know what your’e thinking: I know my product better than anyone. But do you know about your product in the global sense? Do you know the answers to the questions that will make it easy for you to convert customers and yield the highest return on your global investment markets? Craig Reed, Head of Global eCommerce at Pitney Bowles, notes that this intel should fuel your e-commerce global road map. And if there was ever a road you don’t want to get lost on, it’s this one.

Let’s get on the right track with a few leading questions.

  • 1. Does my target demographic reside in the markets in which I want to expand? Starting with markets that have the highest concentration of your target demographic will yield better results and allow you to experiment in the future.
  • 2. Is there a demand for my product in other countries? If your product is a loom for underwater basket weaving and you want to expand to a landlocked area, you won’t have success. All kidding aside, don’t just expand to expand. Have a plan.
  • 3. Can I legally get this product out of the country? I know it sounds funny, but there is a lot of red tape out there. For example, Econsultancy states that 1 in 10 products are restricted from leaving the US.
  • 4. Do I already have competitors in my expansion markets? Although obvious, this is often overlooked. Remember, if there is already a local leader, it will be hard to compete without reducing to competitive pricing.
  • 5. Do I need outside help? You can find success on your own in the beginning. But after initial success, you may want someone to steer the way. Although getting easier, building partnerships in these global markets can still be arduous without an insider’s guidance.
The B2C Ecommerce sales worldwide is forecast to raise however with declining % change each year.
The B2C Ecommerce sales worldwide is forecast to raise however with declining % change each year.

Use Your Research to Become Local

Remember that last time you were in a foreign country and you felt totally hopeless? There are languages, laws, customs, and a whole slew of other barriers that make things very, very difficult. The smallest tasks become nigh impossible to accomplish.

This is the complete opposite of how you want someone to feel when they visit your site. And quite frankly, time is not on your side when it comes to converting customers online. According to the Nielson Norman Group, the average person spends less than a minute perusing a website, and only reads a quarter of the text. Your message needs to be clear, concise and, above all, speak to the locale of your customer.

Native Tongues

We tend to think money makes the world go round, but it turns out that isn’t always the case. In a study done by Common Sense Advisory, 56.2% of customers say that price is secondary to being able to obtain information in their own language. Customers need to be able to purchase items in a language they understand. However, there are two ways to go about this. You can either invest a considerable amount of money and time in order to speak to each individual country through a contracted translator, or you can use simple text that is void of slang or localities, usually executed through a program.

Both are viable, but the latter option is better solely for visual products. This may fall under the common sense bracket, but Forrester Research shows that 95% of e-commerce customers in China are more comfortable with websites that are in their language, but only 1% of United States retailers cater to this need. An easy way to give your customer a sense of ease is to let them chose their own language. In countries that have multiple native languages, this will ensure that the correct language is displayed.


User Experience

You want your website to feel like a perfectly decorated home. It should be welcoming. Therefore, design can play a large role in making a good first impression. Researching what colors and trends exist in each market can go a long way. For example, Chinese netizens favor the color red, which they see as a sign of good luck. Think about how you are greeting the customer (usually in the top right hand corner of the landing page). “Hello, Faith Albert,” may not be the best option. Not every country addresses people First Name, Last Name. Details like this can go quite a long way.

Lastly, flexibility is crucial. When translating content, some languages will require more space and others less. Changing something simple in English could require massive changes on a global scale (literally). In addition, you will need a content management system (CMS) that is world-ready. This way you can easily make changes across all of your markets.


Tattly sells temporary tattoos designed by professional artists.
Tattly sells temporary tattoos designed by professional artists.

Tattly is an e-commece company run by Tina Roth Eisenberg aka “swiss miss.” The quirky site sells temporary tattoos. It is a relatively small site when compared to some of the giants in the global e-commerce sphere. Still, this site has seen some nice initial growth and is quickly learning that going global is a necessary process that doesn’t happen overnight, even if success does. In their first year, Eisenberg notes that Tattly “shipped to over 90 countries, had over 15k orders, [and] went from 15 designs . . . to over 225 today.”

When visiting the website you can clearly see that it has a global presence — “Made in the US, and shipped around the world!” Although it’s still figuring out how it fits in globally, Eisenberg says that she is always thinking, “what if I get a ton of orders? Can my business scale? Do I have a plan on how I will do that? Am I building my business on a system that will allow me to grow?” She takes the time to ask herself road map questions. The site’s design template is simple enough that is appeals to many countries’ design preferences. The site will be able to expand with little to no traffic jams and absolutely no wrecks.

Localizing for Sales

  • — Pricing: Use local currency for pricing your products.
  • — Culture: Research customs, laws, religions, and holidays.
  • — Design: Every country favors different design styles. In China, the color red is a sign of luck and can be found on almost all e-commerce sites.
  • — URL: Different countries tend to visit certain URLs with more regularity. For example, an article on DestinationCRM states that Brazil favors the extension .br.
  • — CMS: Invest in a quality content management system that is globally focused. The current leader in the industry is CrownePeak.