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Beyond Borders: The Ultimate Guide to Internationalisation for eCommerce Brands

admin from Novosadmin in SEO

28th June, 2024

Guide introductions 

Welcome to “Beyond Borders: Unlocking Global eCommerce Success,”  the ultimate guide to internationalisation for eCommerce brands. Opportunities for retailers to reach exciting new markets are growing, but this doesn’t come without challenges. We’ve teamed up with five key partners, each a leader in a crucial area of market expansion to share their wealth of experience and insights in this comprehensive guide to help elevate your eCommerce success. We delve into strategies and best practices every retailer can take to break through the barriers of international growth and boost their efforts through a comprehensive guide covering each area of an international strategy. 

International markets can be hard to crack with tricky technical considerations and demanding new approaches, but by incorporating these best practices, retailers can leverage their presence and achieve sustained success on a global scale. 

NOVOS Team

Digital PR team

The NOVOS Digital PR team shares their strategies for expansion; exploring the power of Digital PR  in expanding your brand’s reach beyond borders can be key to amplifying your presence when breaking into new markets. Learn how to craft compelling narratives, engage with international media outlets, and amplify your online image on a global scale. 

Strategy team

The NOVOS Strategy team have provided fundamental components from keyword research to technical optimisations and actionable insights to help your website rank prominently across international markets.

Thank you to our fabulous partners collaborating with us on this guide, sharing their expert commentary and providing an insightful exploration across each topic we explore for the journey of successful international expansion. 

Our Partners

Vervaunt 

Vervaunt are an eCommerce paid media agency helping premium brands and ambitious retailers grow online, sustainably.  They share perspectives on cross-border conversions with PPC, uncovering key tactics for driving successful PPC campaigns in diverse markets. Discover how to optimise your ad spend, tailor messaging to local audiences, and maximise conversion rates across borders.

Quickfire Digital 

Quickfire Digital is a web development agency that specialises in building eCommerce stores on Shopify and Shopify Plus. Expanding your online store internationally unlocks exciting growth opportunities, but it demands careful planning and an awareness of different market dynamics.  They have provided advice for taking your Shopify or Shopify Plus store global, addressing common pitfalls and offering practical tips for a smooth market entry, covering essential development strategies for building scalable and user-friendly websites that cater to international audiences. 

Klevu 

Klevu is a tech platform that uses AI to increase conversions through AI-enabled eCommerce searches, product recommendations, and category merchandising. They share commentary around best practices for AI-driven tools in new markets and explore how artificial intelligence can revolutionise your approach to expansion. From personalisation to automation, they uncover the transformative potential of AI in unlocking new markets.

Rebuy 

Rebuy is an omni-channel personalisation solution, creating personalised shopping experiences that are engaging, individualised, and intelligent. Rebuy delves into the importance of personalised experiences in today’s eCommerce landscape. Learn how to leverage data-driven insights and AI technologies to deliver tailored experiences that drive customer engagement and loyalty.

Introduction to International eCommerce Expansion

“International expansion is a hot topic for eCommerce brands, as it provides a strong opportunity for additional revenue streams. The common misconception, however, is that a brand can enter a new market without tailoring their eCommerce site or strategy to said market – whilst this is possible, it isn’t an efficient or tactical approach to international expansion.”– Lauren Randell, Account Director at Vervaunt. 

Expanding internationally can bring great success for brands. Think about it from an SEO perspective – expanding from the UK to the US puts you in a market with over 5 times the population.

The opportunity is huge!

But what should you focus on first? Here, we will consider the essential setups and what we deem to be must-haves for expanding your eCommerce business internationally.

First, Do Your Market Research

Do your homework: Before diving in, research local consumer behaviour, preferences, and cultural quirks.” -By Nathan Lomax, Director & Co-Founder at  Quickfire Digital

 How to Identify High-Potential Markets 

“If you’re unsure which market to expand into, you should do research to identify which countries offer the most potential for your eCommerce site. This involves analysing market demand, competition, and the intersection of your products or services with the local interests and needs.” – Mark McMeekin Head of Digital PR at NOVOS.

Brand awareness vs local market players

It’s a common misconception with internationalisation that a brand can expand into a new market with little to no presence. Even if it’s an untapped market where there are no major players in your industry, generating brand awareness is key to success.

If consumers within a market are unfamiliar with your brand, they will lack confidence in your offering, thus won’t consider you during their research phase. Running awareness advertising is a key investment to building recognition and trust of your brand, especially as there can be a lack of comfort in purchasing from international brands due to uncertainties of taxes, shipping, returns and quality.

Brand awareness is especially important if you are entering a market where there are major wholesalers or dominant brands that you will be competing with. Understanding your competition and their offering is crucial for developing a tactical approach to market entry. Consider their eCommerce offering, sales, loyalty programs and presence in the advertising space, as this will guide your strategy. – Lauren Randell, Account Director at Vervaunt. 

How to Localise your Content Properly

“Localisation goes beyond translation – it’s about tailoring your content and offerings to resonate with local audiences. Poor localisation translates to a bad user experience and fewer sales. Ignoring local regulations and cultural sensitivities can land you in legal trouble or damage your brand image.” –Nathan Lomax, Director & Co-Founder at  Quickfire Digital.

In 2024, Google found that 60% of customers, on average, have six touchpoints with a brand they’ve not bought from. In short, customers who feel engaged with a brand are more likely to spend their money.

Resonance is more important than ever, and this is true whether your customers are already on your website or search terms that may lead them to you. 

Klevu’s tip:

As eCommerce expands globally, entering new markets strategically can significantly increase your brand’s reach and revenue. Success in international expansion lies in adapting to local preferences and behaviours, not merely replicating existing business models. – Amy Halsall, Global Partner Marketing Manager at Klevu.

Paid media tip:

Localisation is the greatest hurdle to overcome when it comes to international expansion. Yes, you can technically run a single approach to all markets, but it won’t be an efficient use of investment as language barriers across ads and on-site are significant bottlenecks to acquiring customers. Lauren Randell, Account Director at Vervaunt

How to tackle languages on your stores

Translations

If you’re moving to a new market that uses a different language, ensuring high-quality translation is crucial. This goes beyond mere word-for-word translation; it involves adapting your content to resonate with the local culture, customs, and colloquialisms. High-quality translation ensures that your brand message is conveyed accurately and effectively, avoiding potential misunderstandings or misinterpretations. This can include everything from marketing materials and product descriptions to customer service communications and legal documents. Investing in professional translation services can enhance your brand’s credibility, build trust with new customers, and ultimately increase your market penetration and success in the new region.

PR tip:

“When crafting your PR messages, be aware of cultural differences and sensitivities. What is acceptable or engaging in one culture might be inappropriate or ineffective in another.”
Mark McMeekin Digital PR Manager at NOVOS 

Paid media tip:

“Language localisation can provide a sense of security and trust for the consumer to go forth and purchase in confidence. It also provides a streamlined user experience to see an ad in their local language and then on site, as opposed to a disjointed journey of mixed languages. Likewise, these ads can be more captivating and break down language barriers.” – Lauren Randell, Account Director at Vervaunt

Regional language differences

Ensure that your content is not only translated but also localised. This means adapting the language to fit local dialects, idioms, and cultural references, which can significantly affect how your message is received. 

Even if all your audience members speak the same language, like in England, America, and Canada, there are still language differences to note. Looking at the Ruffwear example below, which localises its product categories for the UK and US markets. Ruffwear sells dog harnesses, leads, and accessories. ‘Leashes’ is used in the USA, while ‘Leads’ is used in the UK.

 

Cultural differences 

Paid media tip:

“Localisation goes beyond language, extending to product popularity and on-site features. It’s important to consider how product popularity differs across markets, as well as seasonality, and then incorporate this into your strategy for product pushes across sites and ads. Likewise, consider popular payment methods in your chosen markets and ensure you are highlighting these to consumers as it can be the deal breaker of a sale.” – Lauren Randell, Account Director at Vervaunt.

Let’s look at an example from Ruffwear again. The target audience tends to be those who take their dogs to do activities, such as running, camping and hiking.

Aside from language differences, there can also be cultural differences across markets that have an impact on your target audience’s interest in your products.

Aside from language differences, cultural differences across markets can also impact your target audience’s interest in your products. The Ruffwear example has a slight difference in the assortment of ‘Activities’—this is because different markets have different priorities based on where they are based.

For example, in the UK, camping is very popular, which is likely why it is higher up on the navigation.

 

 

Regulatory Compliance and Data Security

Different countries have varying regulations regarding advertising, privacy, and consumer protection. To avoid legal issues, make sure your strategies comply with local laws.

“Play by the rules: Comply with local laws regarding online businesses, data protection, and consumer rights to build trust and avoid legal trouble.

What could go wrong? Ignoring local eCommerce regulations, data protection laws, and digital compliance can result in hefty fines and reputational damage.

Protect yourself:

  • Consult local legal experts to understand and implement necessary legal frameworks and standards.
  • Ensure robust data protection measures are in place, complying with GDPR or other local data protection laws.
  • Regularly update your policies and practices to keep pace with changing laws.” 

Nathan Lomax, Director & Co-Founder at  Quickfire Digital.

Quickfire’s top localisation tips

  • Offer your website in local languages with professional translation.
  • Adapt your products to suit local tastes and legal requirements.
  • Plan promotions around local holidays and events.

SEO essentials and Domain set up

How to Implementing hreflang

Hreflang is an HTML attribute that informs search engines which URLs to serve to users based on their location and language.

This is critical when expanding into different markets, as it is key to ensure that users can access content relevant to their location and buy products in their currency.

In this international SEO recommendations article, we’ve detailed the steps to ensure your hreflang is set up without a hitch.

Choosing your domain targeting 

Another vital factor is choosing the right way to target different markets. When deciding to set up a new eCommerce store, the first step you should consider is your domain. There are 5 options available to you:

  • Unique ccTLD
  • Subdomain
  • Subdirectory
  • gTLD with parameters
  • Unique domain

There are pros and cons to each and at risk of citing an SEO cliché, it really does depend on your priorities and capabilities. Migrating from one to the other can be expensive, risky and time consuming – so choosing the right option to begin with is essential.

 

Targeting Options Pros Cons
Unique

ccTLD 

(thisisnovos.com)

Clearest signals for search engines.Easiest approach to ranking in localised search engines.

Flexibility with localised strategies and branding.

Separate domain authority.

Site launch & rankings may be slower.

Expensive to maintain.

Localised strategies need more resources.

Subdomain

(es.thisisnovos.com)

Easier to maintain than ccTLD. Localised domain authority is weaker than subdirectory.

Weaker targeting signals to search engines than ccTLD.

Localised strategies are more difficult/fragmented.

Subdirectory

(thisisnovos.com/es/)

Easier to maintain than ccTLD.

Stronger signals than subdomain.

Less diluted domain authority than ccTLD and subdomain.

Higher chance of faster rankings for new market launch.

Weaker signals than ccTLD.

Harder implementation of localised strategies/branding. 

New market launches could dilute authority of smaller markets all living on the same domain.

gTLD with parameters

(thisisnovos.com?lang=es-es)

Easier to maintain than ccTLD.

Less diluted domain authority than ccTLD and subdomain.

Higher chance of faster rankings for new market launch.

Same as above, but can get very messy relying on parameters and may

require ongoing SEO reviews to ensure nothing breaks.

New Domain

 (thisisnovos-spain.com)

Clearest signals for search engines.

Easiest approach to ranking in localised search engines.

Flexibility with localised strategies and branding.

Hard to maintain association with the parent brand.

May compete with the parent domain.

Starting from fresh with 0 SEO.

Expensive to maintain.

 

As mentioned above, decide on the structure of your website for international markets – whether you will use separate domains, subdomains, or subdirectories. Each approach has its own implications for SEO and link building. If launching a new domain, be prepared to build links from scratch, whereas subdomains or subdirectories can somewhat leverage the existing domain’s authority.

Educating your team on the advantages and disadvantages of each option is important so they understand what is needed for a successful link-building strategy. – Katie Mishner, SEO Manager at NOVOS

Quickfire tip:

Make your site shine: Ensure your website is user-friendly and optimised for search engines in each target market. This means a mobile-friendly design, fast loading times, and regional SEO strategies.

Potential problems: Poor website performance and neglecting SEO can make your store invisible in new markets. 

Get it seen:

  • Conduct SEO audits to adapt to local search engine preferences and languages.
  • Optimise website speed and ensure mobile compatibility.

Implement international SEO best practices, like using hreflang tags for language and regional URLs. – Nathan Lomax, Director and co-founder at Quickfire Digital. 

User experience and CRO

Vervaunt tip:

“Consider the purchase behaviour of the consumers in your chosen market. Are they more price sensitive? What product categories are they most interested in? What ecom attributes are important to them? (i.e. next day delivery, free returns etc). Understanding the consumer and their purchasing behaviour can help guide your strategy to UX development and marketing.” – Lauren Randell, Account Director at Vervaunt.

CRO Best Practices

Product Recommendations

“To implement personalised product recommendations, you need a winning product recommendation strategy. Crafting such a strategy lays the groundwork for effectively reaching and resonating with diverse global audiences. 

Begin by defining your goals, mapping out customer journeys, and gathering first-party user data. Common strategies include spotlighting bestsellers, promoting new arrivals, and conducting A/B testing. 

Additionally, consider AI-powered product recommendations. Too many choices can cause choice overload, resulting in decreased conversions and abandoned carts. Product recommenders, also known as recommendation engines, mitigate choice overload through tailored suggestions to customers. These recommendations are generated based on various data points, ensuring that customers worldwide are presented with options that resonate to their unique preferences and buying behaviours.”   – Nalu Medeiros Director of Partnership Operations & Success at Rebuy.

 eCommerce Searches and Category Merchandising 

Klevu’s tips:

Understanding local search behaviours is crucial when entering a new market, and effective category merchandising can lead to higher engagement and conversion rates. 

  • Implement multilingual capabilities. Support local languages and understand local expressions for better accuracy.
  • Employ AI to analyse interactions, continually refine relevance and optimise for conversion. AI can also automatically adjust product placements based on regional conversion likelihood and local trends.
  • Experiment with A/B Testing. Test different strategies to determine what resonates best in each market. 

How to leverage AI with Klevu 

Leveraging Klevu’s AI technologies can effectively tailor your eCommerce platform to these new audiences. 

  • Klevu’s AI-powered search engine enhances localisation by delivering relevant search experiences using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning. 
  • Klevu AI allows you to tailor product recommendations to each market’s cultural and behavioural nuances.
    • Sync with local preferences in real-time Use AI to continuously adapt recommendations to local consumer tastes and behavior.
    • Ensure seamless integration with marketing technology for better personalised results. Check if your tech stack integrates together in order to provide personalised recommendations based on data from your CRM, for example.
  • Klevu’s AI tools can also dynamically manage category pages, enhancing responsiveness.

Check out Klevu’s panel discussions – Discovering New Markets and How to Localise at Scale using AI Product Discovery, to learn more about global expansion.

Currency and payment options

It’s a no brainer, but shocking how often we run into issues with currency and payments on the site. You should be able to process payments securely and display products in the currency for the countries you are targeting. 

This is why it is necessary to choose a target action.

Quickfires Tip:

“Make it easy to pay: Boost customer experience by integrating popular local payment methods and letting customers pay in their own currency. Different regions have different preferences, and showing prices in local currency builds trust and boosts sales.

Common problems: Not offering local payment methods like credit cards or digital wallets discourages customers. Currency conversion errors and neglecting local tax laws can lead to financial issues.

Action steps:

  • Integrate popular local payment gateways like PayPal or regional options.
  • Use tools that dynamically convert currencies for display and transactions.
  • Comply with local tax regulations and factor taxes into checkout calculations.”

Checkout Personalisation 

CRO tip:

“The goal of conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is to increase the percentage of people who visit your online store and make a purchase. Personalising the checkout journey to accommodate diverse preferences and regional intricacies not only boosts conversion rates but also acknowledges the uniqueness of each customer within a global audience.

This can be achieved by fine-tuning web pages through techniques such as:

  • Adding regional social proof
  • Offering targeted deals and discounts
  • Providing free items or gifts that align with regional preferences
  • Displaying trust signals
  • Allowing guest checkouts
  • Optimising for mobile accessibility, recognising the prevalence of mobile usage in some regions of the word”  – Nalu Medeiros, Director of Partnership Operations & Success at Rebuy.

Quickfire tip:

“Deliver a smooth experience: Develop a robust international shipping strategy with competitive rates, reliable delivery times, and clear return policies.

Pain points: High shipping costs, slow deliveries, and customs issues can deter international customers.

What to do:

  • Partner with local fulfilment centres to speed up deliveries and reduce costs.
  • Clearly communicate shipping policies, including costs, estimated delivery times, and returns.
  • Automate the calculation and collection of customs duties and taxes to avoid surprises at checkout.”

Logistics and Shipping

Quickfire tip:

“Deliver a smooth experience: Develop a robust international shipping strategy with competitive rates, reliable delivery times, and clear return policies.

Pain points: High shipping costs, slow deliveries, and customs issues can deter international customers.

What to do:

  • Partner with local fulfilment centres to speed up deliveries and reduce costs.
  • Clearly communicate shipping policies, including costs, estimated delivery times, and returns.
  • Automate the calculation and collection of customs duties and taxes to avoid surprises at checkout.”

Marketing

Digital PR

Understanding Media Landscapes

Media landscapes and journalistic practices vary significantly from country to country. Invest time in researching and understanding how the media operates in each target market. Building relationships with local journalists and understanding their preferences and working styles will enhance your DPR efforts and increase the chances of media coverage.

Although culturally quite similar, an example of how media landscapes and journalistic practices can be different would be the big differences between the UK, USA & Australian media. The assumption would be that they’d be similar due to speaking the same language, but each of the countries have a uniqueness about them that make each of them a different challenge. 

Adapting DPR Tactics

DPR tactics that work well in one country might not be effective in another due to cultural differences and varying media consumption habits. Research the types of stories and content that resonate within each market. Tailor your DPR strategies to align with local trends, interests, and media practices to achieve better results.

An example of this would be that we quickly understood that when working in Germany, journalists in that market preferred a far more methodical approach and, compared to journalists in the UK, published fewer stories. That immediately made it more difficult to secure coverage, but it also focused our thinking because we knew that our stories had to have credible data.

Collaboration with Traditional PR Teams

International PR teams may not always be familiar with the nuances of digital PR, especially in markets where it is not as prevalent. It’s essential to provide education on the importance of digital PR and how it integrates with traditional PR efforts. Developing a cohesive strategy that aligns both traditional and digital PR can amplify your reach and impact.

Resource Allocation

Expanding into new markets requires sufficient resources in terms of budget and personnel. Ensure you have the necessary resources to support your international DPR efforts effectively. 

Repurposing Content

Repurpose content that has been successful in other markets to maximise its value. This approach saves time and resources and ensures consistency in your brand messaging. Tailor the repurposed content to fit the cultural and market-specific contexts of the new regions to maintain relevance and engagement.

For example, if you’ve secured with a back to school campaign in one market, logically that could work in other markets, however it’s important minor changes are made to ensure that it fits the culture of the new market you’re looking to secure coverage from. 

Paid media targeting

Undefined targeting is one of the most common mistakes carried out by brands when entering new markets.

There are two prongs to this approach: those who enter markets targeting the whole region and those who enter assuming the customer behaves the same as their home region. Both of these approaches can cause numerous issues, including inefficient budget spending and poor conversion rates.

Starting with location targeting, a common approach is to go broad and target the whole country. Whilst this is doable for small-medium countries, budgets can be too diluted for larger ones. For instance, we never recommend targeting the whole of the US. Consider where the opportunities lie and dive into city specific targeting, which is a much more efficient use of investment. This can be tailored around high converting cities, store locations, or those that house your target consumer. –  Lauren Randell, Account Director at Vervaunt

Personalisation

Thriving internationally demands a thoughtful and intentional personalisation strategy. By implementing personalised product recommendations, regionally optimising your checkout process, and leveraging AI tools, you effectively address the diverse needs of customers across the global marketplace. 

 

Merely having a global presence is not enough – success in international eCommerce requires deliberate strategies that address the unique complexities of a global marketplace. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the cobblestone alleys of Paris, an intentional personalisation strategy can serve as a guiding star, illuminating the way toward achieving success on the international stage. 

What is eCommerce personalisation? eCommerce personalisation, often referred to as ‘commerce personalisation’, is the practice of tailoring online shopping experiences to individual customers by delivering relevant content, product recommendations, and offers based on customer preferences, behaviour, and demographics. It’s about delivering the right product to each individual precisely when they need it. 

 

Personalisation plays a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of online shopping experiences, ensuring that each customer enjoys a unique, tailor-made experience aligned to their specific needs and preferences. An effective personalisation strategy has proved to be a valuable revenue driver in the global market, on par with the quality of items being marketed:

  • Companies that excel at personalisation generate 40% more revenue than their eCommerce counterparts 
  • 70% of shoppers spend more with brands that offer seamlessly personalised customer experiences from platform to platform

Below, you’ll learn how leveraging personalisation can influence customer satisfaction and revenue across borders. –  Nalu Medeiros, Director of Partnership Operations & Success at Rebuy

Conclusion

Klevu’s top tips for international expansion:

  • Localise content and functionalities. Adapt all content, including product descriptions and customer communications, to fit cultural contexts.
  • Understand local compliance. Be aware of local regulations, such as data protection laws, that might impact your operations.
  • Adjust pricing strategically. Modify pricing based on local purchasing power and competitive landscape.
  • Optimise logistics. Consider local logistics and preferred payment methods to enhance the customer experience. 

If you want to expand internationally, please contact us for more information or an introduction to any of our partners mentioned in this guide.  

admin from Novos
Article by admin

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