ADOTAS – In striving to accelerate a global online sales presence, many marketers fall into the trap of assuming it’s as simple as rolling out the same message, promotion, campaign or collateral in multiple markets. To get it right, marketers must approach international expansion with the goal of going “local everywhere.” This means making each country the focus of its own marketing strategy, one that reflects the many details that are unique to attracting audience attention in that region.
In a recent survey focused on global commerce best practices, Vanson Bourne, an independent specialist market research company, conducted 250 online interviews with senior decision makers in companies in Asia, Europe, North America, Brazil and India. Of those surveyed, only about half of the companies reported that their commerce offerings are fully localized for the markets they are serving: 57 percent lack fully localized customer service options, 50 percent do not have fully localized payment options and 44 percent lack a localized e-commerce layout. The survey results illustrate how far too often in pursuing the global goal, some marketers make the mistake of generalizing certain regions of the world, lumping them together as though they were single markets —a strategy that ultimately won’t produce the kind of success required to justify the initiative or mitigate the risks.
Customer expectations, shopping and communication preferences, and cultural norms vary greatly — and not just country to country. Regional variations and even more granular nuances can differ within just a few miles. Just look at the United States, for example: Messaging and tactics that strike gold in New England may fall flat in the Deep South, or even the Mid-Atlantic. Few would argue that painting the entire U.S. market with the same brush would be a mistake. Before investing the time, energy and resources to embark on a globalization strategy, here are some issues to consider when evaluating whether your company as a whole and your marketing strategy are ready for the world stage:
Are you confident in the market opportunity? Customer desires, attitudes and preferences vary widely from one locale to another—sometimes across both real and imagined boundaries. Begin by determining whether your target audience is actually ready for your products and services. Beyond that, determine whether there is infrastructure in place to reach them and to sell your goods. Is it a highly mobile population, or a mostly traditional online browser-based audience? Free shipping will not work as an incentive if common carriers don’t service your target audience. What other viable tactics offer worthwhile incentives? Finally, ensure that your messaging clearly identifies the tangible and sustainable competitive advantage of your product over incumbents and other competition, in language that resonates with your audience.
Do you fully understand the local customer? In today’s infinitely connected world, competition is plentiful and customers have many options. It doesn’t take much to turn them away. Failure to properly localize an e-commerce shopping experience can dramatically reduce sales, regardless of the marketing strategy that brings customers to the door. To be successful, the point of sale must be consistent with your marketing messages and align with your customers’ expectations for design and layout, transaction flow and checkout process, language and currency choices, and promotional offers and customer service options.
How will you target local markets? Devising a marketing strategy that reflects — and respects — local customers and standards before making entry is critical. Eliminating redundancies in service and processing, establishing appropriate levels of customer support, and ensuring compliance with local law requires individualized market research. Make sure the images, copy and other components you choose are compelling — and certainly non-offensive — in the native culture. E-market strategy alignment with local regulation, logistics and fulfillment optimization, and a fully translated e-commerce website are foundational tactics that will show local partnerships an awareness of local consumer needs and desires.
For digital marketers, real globalization success starts with some introspection — you must first take time to carefully assess the readiness and soundness of a localized global expansion strategy. Identifying and working with e-commerce platform providers with expertise and well-established capacity in navigating international waters are powerful allies in the transition to the global marketplace.
The right partner and solution not only meets a company’s needs for the near term, but also provides a flexible, controllable, scalable and transparent solution for the long term. By combining the best of both worlds — the ability to target local audiences with a high degree of visibility and control across a worldwide network — it’s entirely possible to develop and deploy a global presence that delivers desired results in each individual market and in the overall global marketplace.