Is now the right time to go global?


Nicola Winters

Head of International


International

It has been a tough few months for businesses and with a recession officially in place, there is a lot of uncertainty among businesses in the UK.

Despite lockdown restrictions slowly being lifted, we have seen the biggest decline in UK GDP in the second quarter compared to other countries, and with news of job cuts hitting the headlines almost every week, for companies selling in the UK, things may seem bleak.

Globally, however, things aren’t so bleak. Global internet traffic has grown by 30% this year, and online habits formed in lockdown (i.e. increased use of connected devices, increased use of social media), have remained despite restrictions easing. GlobalWebIndex found that seven in ten internet users are spending more time on their phones compared to pre-pandemic levels, with five in ten spending more time on their laptops than before, social media users have grown by 10% over the last year, and online sales have increased by 55% year on year globally.

Cross-border ecommerce – a solution?

Over half (57%) of people worldwide now buy from international countries, and it is predicted that cross-border ecommerce will have a 22% share of total worldwide ecommerce by 2022.

International expansion has always been an excellent way of growing your customer base and profits, but even more so at a time when you may be experiencing reduced national sales. Many countries have seen an increase in online spend as a direct result of the pandemic; launching into these markets allows you to capitalise on cross-border ecommerce and bolster reduced sales in the UK.

Read more about the what, why and how of cross-border ecommerce here.

What about the cost?

Setting up shop in a new country sounds expensive, but having a physical shop or warehouse isn’t a requirement of cross-border ecommerce. Localising your website, paid ads and social platforms can help you to attract international traffic without the need for a physical space in these markets.

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Is this the right time for you to expand?

International expansion is an effective way of growing your customer base and increasing your online revenue, but it does not come without considerations.

If, and how, you launch into new markets should be dictated by three things: budget, time and resource.

Budget

As mentioned above, there is no requirement to physically set up shop in new markets in order to trade online internationally. While this does reduce the costs associated with expansion, there are still costs to consider when choosing how you want to appear in new territories.

A full website localisation project, which includes translation, optimisation and cultural adaption of your entire website, can incur high costs. Blindly choosing to go ahead with an entirely new international website with little consideration for short-term ROI can be detrimental, particularly if you are experiencing reduced revenue right now.

Before you commit to a full website localisation project, assess traffic and conversions from new markets on your domestic website’s analytics. An increase in traffic, conversions and search volume from these countries suggests demand for your product or service within this market. Analysing these metrics can help you to determine a forecast for international expansion, which can then be tested to identify what KPIs you would need to hit in this market to break even and make a profit (i.e. is a full website localisation worth doing right now).

If it looks like the cost of a full website localisation project will outweigh the short-term return, there are other ways to sell internationally that may be better suited for you, such as international ecommerce platforms like Amazon (as well as local alternatives such as Zalando and Fnac) and international re-sellers. You can also set up test international landing pages to be used in your paid media campaigns.

Time

International expansion typically requires a long-term strategy or plan and has two phases: testing the water, followed by a full launch.

Depending on the size of your site, a full website launch can take months to localise, with more time required to set up market-specific social channels and paid campaigns.

If time isn’t on your side, for example, you are looking to capitalise on a shift in behaviour as a result of the pandemic, there are ways to test new markets without needing a lot of time and resource. Options include creating localised landing pages on a subfolder of your site and running international PPC campaigns to drive traffic and conversions in your new market, using marketplaces and international re-sellers to sell without the need for a new or localised website, or launching a micro-site to test the waters without the need for a full website localisation project.

Any of these ‘soft’ launches will allow you to gain international sales while simultaneously testing the waters in these markets to understand if it is worth the time and money to launch in full.

Resource

In addition to the time and budget required to set up in new markets, there is an ongoing need for resource in each market you enter (unless you are working with a reseller, in which case they look after most of the work).

For each market, you will need resource allocated to paid media campaigns, ongoing content marketing, website optimisation and local language support to assist with customer service. You may also need to allocate resource to country-specific logistics such as delivery or payment methods.

If you are working with a reseller, you may already have a little support provided. However, if you have chosen to create a localised version of your domain, you will need to put resource into paid campaigns and content marketing to ensure that users in this market are provided with useful resources, fresh content, and local pathways to conversion.,

You may also need local language market support to assist with customer service. As well as local digital marketing experts for the content and ads.

Another resource consideration is logistics – what delivery methods will you use, what payment methods (these can vary across countries).

Get a free international market report

International expansion can be a great way of increasing your online revenue, brand awareness, and customer base.

However, it is not a decision to be made lightly and we understand that not everyone has the expertise or confidence to make these decisions.

As a Google International Growth Partner, and digital marketing experts with 15 years’ experience in international expansion, we are uniquely placed to help brands who are looking to expand internationally.

We are offering companies a free report for international performance to understand what international opportunities there are in their industry. Simply answer the questions in this form and we will get in touch with a bespoke report.


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