U.S. Merchants Need an Active Approach to Global Ecommerce

TheWashingtonPost--FedEx-Global-Operations-CenterBack when the WWW truly offered global potential to sell and market your products anywhere in the world, many U.S. companies became accidental exporters because most websites were in English and it was commonplace for your website to turn up in Google.Fr or Yahoo.De.

This was because there just wasn’t enough organic or paid local content to satisfy the search engines or the searchers’ desires. Just 5 years ago the U.S. was the biggest online market and the rest of the world was playing catch up.

Well much has happened in the last five years in the global digital space and now the U.S. online market is dwarfed by countries like China. Whereas China still has room to grow it online audience, the U.S. has very little growth still left in it since internet penetration is at near peak in the States. China is just one example of many where growth rates will exceed the U.S.

Meanwhile all around the world, more and more local content/websites has been produced by local ecommerce or brand competitors . Usually these sites are in local languages, express a deep understanding of local customs and tastes and have begun showing up in search engines everywhere in the world. Suddenly the e commerce and brand playing field no longer tilts decidedly towards the U.S.

Google may be the most dominant search engine in the West but there are a few other international search engines that are just as popular. Russia and China are good examples of where Google is not the dominant search engine. While there are similarities in how they operate, each search engine has its own unique way to display results on SERPs and offer the best possible search experience for the online user.

That’s the bad news but here’s the good news! Consumers in global markets have grown so far more sophisticated and in many cases they would love to buy from companies in the U.S. and other overseas suppliers. But they just don’t know about you or you are making it very difficult to buy from you. There is still a hell of a lot of what we call ‘passive international marketing’ undertaken by U.S. companies who rely on third parties to handle international marketing and in some cases fulfillment, too.

This trend is not evident in Europe where for the past 3-4 years European companies have taken more active approach to these markets, investing heavily not just in international marketing like multicultural SEM, but also through CRM getting close to these new customers by properly investing in them. In short they are not ‘leaving money on the table’ and are getting the rewards.

Selling overseas while it started with U.S. is now facing stiff competition from companies like Alibaba and ASOS coming from the other direction into YOUR domestic markets. In truth the world is fast being one gigantic global marketplace, but the winners will customize the user experience to align with local customs and online habits.

Take Switzerland, for instance. It has four official languages and apart from the native Romansh language none were “born” in Switzerland (German, French and Italian). In the case of Indonesia, it has approximately 700 languages spoken at any one time. The exact same item can be called something different just miles apart. For example, while in most of France a sweet roll in chocolate is referred to as ‘pain au chocolat,’ but in the southwest they call it ‘chocolatine.’ If your SEM keyword is wrong in the wrong market your results will be unsatisfying.

Operating in multiple global markets is always a daunting task, but you can dispel the risk of failure if you have the right strategic digital marketing like digital research and multilicultural SEM, Paid Social, SEO, Conversion testing etc. Always understand the motivation of your consumer base – whatever target market you enter. Put local insights and in-market customer needs at the heart of your strategy. With 40% of the world’s population now online, it makes good business sense to best at your best in every individual market.

Greig Holbrook is Founder and Managing Director of Oban Digital.

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