When companies make plans to expand into new geographies—particularly emerging markets like the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China)—they often consider launching multilingual websites to serve those new global customers.
That seems like a smart play. Localized corporate websites are a proven way to market and sell to Western customers who speak a different language. An expertly translated, culturally accurate website can be the foundation for a global e-commerce strategy.
However, many tech-savvy, mobile-first customers in emerging markets are not partial to company websites. Instead, they flock to virtual marketplaces hosted by third parties, such as China’s Tmall. They’re also using “Buy” buttons on social media channels as a seamless way to purchase items recommended by friends and family.
Read on to learn how you can accelerate your expansion into virtual markets and offsite social commerce.
Marketplaces Reshape Online Retail
Traditional ecommerce in Western markets has focused on brand-name sites that sell their own goods and services, and on multi-brand retailers such as Amazon and Walmart.
It’s a different story in emerging markets, where consumers prefer virtual marketplaces because they trust those sites more than standalone corporate sites. Convenience is a factor, too: they can compare product prices in one location. There’s also greater competition, which drives down prices.
These marketplaces also benefit sellers because they generate a high volume of traffic, which may be difficult for smaller retailers or sites to attract. They also simplify inventory management and fulfillment, which can be handled by the marketplace for a fee. Plus, marketplaces often leverage IT and big data more effectively than conventional e-retailers to help convert visitors from browsers to buyers.
The popularity of virtual malls has skyrocketed recently:
- Alibaba-owned Tmall has over 500 million monthly active users
- In Q1 2017, marketplace sellers accounted for 50% of the units sold on Amazon.com
- By 2020, virtual marketplaces will represent nearly 40% of the global online market
This growth is occurring in a number of arenas, especially China, South Korea and the Middle East/North Africa. Each presents good opportunities for marketing and sales via virtual malls and social media. Let’s take a closer look.
The Chinese market’s online retail sales reached 5.16 trillion yuan ($752 billion) in 2016, representing 26.2% growth from 2015. Chinese consumers favor virtual marketplaces operated by Alibaba-owned Tmall, the country’s largest online marketplace, and JD.com, which is now emphasizing fashion and lifestyle products.
Increasingly, Western brands are embracing Chinese virtual marketplaces because managing local websites in China is difficult. Bureaucratic and logistical challenges are ongoing.
To accommodate this market, companies should translate product information into Chinese and use technology integrations to feed the content to Tmall, JD Mall and other sites.
Marketplaces have made it fairly easy for companies to create and operate these virtual storefronts. For instance, Tmall has developed tools that allow merchants to customize their storefronts with brand logos, fonts and colors, as well as videos, interactive features and other content.
Once the brand has established a presence, the company can reinforce it with a localized corporate site.
South Korea is the seventh largest retail e-commerce market in the world.
Although Google dominates search worldwide, Naver is preferred in South Korea. Its algorithms are based on the Korean language and it offers a blogging platform, a virtual marketplace and payment methods.
Another influential player is Kakao, a mobile communication platform. The company recently launched its own shopping experience, which allows users to shop and send gifts to friends using its social platform.
Companies that want to operate online here should actively cooperate with these companies.
Middle East/North Africa
The Middle East is experiencing an ecommerce growth spurt. But as in China, extensive bureaucracy and regulations make it challenging for Western companies to conduct online business there. That’s why they’re using marketplaces such as Aido and Amazon-owned Souq, which claims over 45 million visitors per month.
Meanwhile, most African consumers visit physical stores or markets to make purchases. However, smartphone use and Internet penetration are growing, leading to greater utilization of MallforAfrica, an app that allows people to buy goods from stores in the U.K. and U.S., and Odjala, Africa’s first online shopping mall.
Shopping via Social Media
Smartphone use has also revolutionized commerce in social media channels. By utilizing offsite social commerce, your company can sell products directly to global customers via these networks.
Social networks now provide streamlined one-click buying experiences, which make shopping ultra-convenient for customers. The networks also collect and share valuable data with retailers, such as conversion and engagement metrics.
“Buy” buttons are being integrated in Eastern-based social and messaging apps such as WeChat and in Western-based social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
If you’re eying global markets for expansion, make you reach customers through their regionally-preferred social networks.
The Importance of Localization
To succeed in international virtual marketplaces and offsite social commerce, companies should look to localize their information into local languages. If your business already operates a localized corporate site or has created translated collateral, this content can be repurposed for marketplaces and social networks.
By leverage smart technologies, companies can keep up with ever-changing tech trends, and won’t waste their time or resources to achieve results.
Craig Witt is the Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at MotionPoint