To advance your eCommerce business growth, you may be contemplating an expansion into one or more international markets. While this may seem to be a formidable challenge fraught with uncertainty and stress, the reality is the digital age we find ourselves in makes global expansion an achievable and worthwhile pursuit, especially if it aligns with the values and mission of your organisation.
A myriad of questions related to international trade will undoubtedly start flashing through your mind as soon as you embark on this journey. How will I transfer money to US partners? Which markets and cultures align best with my products? Should I use my local customer service team? There are countless things that need to be considered, so taking the time to research your options thoroughly will ensure that you make the right decisions when you finally take the leap and go global.
Let’s take a closer look at some concerns eCommerce business owners may have when evaluating whether to keep their consumer base local or expand overseas.
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Do Your Research First
Don’t make blanket assumptions about any new market you potentially want to enter. It’s important to remember that your existing products or services may not perfectly align with the consumer values, culture, and buying habits that are present in other locales. In most cases, you’ll likely need to amend your product or even its packaging to prepare it for an international market. But how do you know what changes need to be made?
This is why market research is so important. You can secure all the information you need by conducting a market analysis, ideally one which considers the local competitors that are currently occupying the market you’re looking to enter. Be sure to compare their products or services to yours, and evaluate their results to date. Then make adjustments to account for your strengths and to improve any weaknesses. You can also avoid costly preliminary mistakes by reviewing local regulations and laws to ensure you don’t become bogged down by overly regulated markets and high regulatory expenses.
Finally, evaluate the expected growth potential of the desired region to determine your best and worst-case scenarios. It’s worthwhile to consider the last five years’ performance in terms of eCommerce results. For example, a recent report by eMarketer studied the growth rate of eCommerce by region. Overall, worldwide growth for the year 2019 was 20.7%, while the Asia-Pacific region beat that number, coming in at 25.0%. Understanding what level of growth is likely will be key to you making the right call when it comes to bringing your business to an international market.
Making sure that your web presence is poised to accommodate a global audience is also key to mapping out your international expansion. With that, eCommerce business owners are advised to evaluate your existing online presence and determine how it aligns with your target market demographics, languages, and cultural traditions. Sites must account for different time zones, languages, currencies, and laws. Many phrases and words have vastly different interpretations in other countries and you must account for this. Creating a unique website design to align with your company’s presentation to both local and foreign markets may be the best approach.
Some business owners may even opt to create a new national website for the markets they’re looking to expand into. These localised websites don’t even need to be in English either. In fact, there are numerous benefits to producing digital and physical materials in local languages when looking to expand into foreign markets.
Alongside learning local languages to extend respect for the new consumer base that you’re looking to captivate, creating a localised website can also have benefits from the lens of website SEO, or search engine optimisation. Website owners are responsible for building sites that conform to local expectations. Geolocation affects how well a site might perform with regards to search and lead conversion. In other words, if you’re using the local vocabulary that surrounds your products and services within these foreign markets, your business could even be more likely to rank for localised organic search terms, boosting your web visibility.
Consider Using Third Party Platforms
That being said, a website could easily also be considered an overhead cost that you may not need to bear upfront, especially if you’re operating a smaller eCommerce enterprise. Depending on the market niche you’re in or the services you are looking to offer, it may be wise to avoid the initial expense of diving headfirst into launching your online store. Instead, consider what online giants like Amazon and eBay might be able to provide in terms of e-store management, payment processing, and shipping logistics.
For your company to enter brand new markets, partnering with these sites to test the waters before hiring local staff and initiating other costly ventures can be hugely beneficial. Consider building a localised, basic site that explains your products, services, and values, then use it to drive traffic to your Amazon or eBay store. Once you can prove that the market is profitable and you’ve also managed to build brand awareness within this locale, you can methodically advance into hiring staff and making a physical footprint by opening a dedicated online store or website, or even investing in a physical storefront abroad, if this is a component of your business expansion goals.
Get To Grips With Local Import/Export Regulations
Finally, each country has rules, regulations, and physical specification requirements for products that can be shipped to and used in that particular region. Depending on the nature of your products, you may face import restrictions, strict safety regulations, trade tariffs, and a host of other barriers to entry that may not be readily apparent to you now at these preliminary stages of your company’s expansion.
The key is to familiarise yourself with laws and regulations first by doing as much due diligence as possible prior to actioning on your expansion strategy. If you can nail down the compliance issues without losing the unique appeal that drives demand in the first place, then you know you have a winning expansion strategy on your hands!
Take Your Business Global With Confidence
No matter your market, if you can nail down the demand, logistics, customer service experience, and fair local prices for your products or services, you’ll have every chance of success in your eCommerce expansion pursuits. If international expansion is your goal, you need to put the right foundations in place to move forward with confidence. Learn from those who’ve already conquered the challenge, then take calculated, well-researched steps, and you’ll soon be a competitive international player in your niche.