Internet trading takes place on the World Wide Web, a metaphysical place without borders, so why would you limit your business strategy to domestic customers alone? By putting your business online you are exponentially increasing your potential clientele – so doesn’t it make sense to specifically target these inherently different markets?
Perhaps you’ve had your site optimized for the US and you’re looking for ways to drive even more traffic to your site and further increase sales. Of course you are. The Fortune 500 didn’t get where they are today by resting on their laurels. Think big. International SEO is the next logical step for expanding your business, but it’s not as simple as you may think. Your e-commerce efforts should differ depending on where you’re targeting them. Here are some tips to keep in mind when breaking into the international e-commerce market.
Know the Competition
No brainer – you should know what’s going on in the market before you enter. The best way to do this is to keep up with trends and news over time. This isn’t the time to research like a maniac and make a business decision based off a week of data collection.
To put this into perspective, let’s look at current news that can affect international expansion efforts. The EU and UK governments have invested considerably in policies to boost their digital economy as a route to future prosperity and to improve business opportunities. Obviously this is great for them, but it’s also (perhaps less intentionally) provided international businesses with a bit of a head start. This infographic created by Interxion shows that the percentage of Europeans buying goods or services online far exceeds the percentage selling them.
This is where you come in. You have a head-start; your business is already set up and able to cater for this disparity in figures. With less competition on home soil, the smallest international SEO efforts can go a long way. The EU has a target that by 2020 half of the population should be accessing 100Mb broadband connection. They are plowing money into getting people online to a pool with barely any other fish (aka businesses) in it – your customers are outside ready and waiting, all you have to do is dive into that pool and take a swim.
Know the Language
It seems the most obvious point, but if a speaker of another language visits your site and has difficulty understanding the content, that potential customer is likely to leave. Anticipate their needs and provide translated content. Although this is a big investment, it makes your customers feel welcome and businesses that care about customers maintain good reputations. Check out managing your online reputation in foreign languages to go into this in more detail.
Localize Your Content
If you’re going to operate globally, then you must take the time and effort to localize your content for each country that you target. Translating the content from your domestic site is not enough. Consider how careful you were when establishing your online identity at home – market research was paramount and the information you gathered for the US will not apply abroad. Go back to basics and think again about where you should be (think social media) and what you should be saying (what’s hot in the foreign market right now?). Refresh your memory on generating relevant content.
Consider Your Domain Carefully
Before you go global, consider long-term strategy for your domain. Maybe it’s a good idea to start thinking about using a TLD consistent with that market (.uk in Britain for example). Country-specific domains can boost your rankings when you’re searched for abroad, but note that many countries insist that you have an actual physical business location in that country before you can get one. Maybe then a sub-domain option is better for your needs. Do your research and decide beforehand to minimize the need of architectural restructuring down the road.