Due to globalization, many brands feel like their natural development leads them towards an international direction. However, this change is not always easy, or the right choice for everyone. Before you take your business any further, here are some of the key factors that will help your cross-border eCommerce expansion become a success.
1. Define your local profile
This might sound obvious, but it’s one of the most important things to do: go local before you go global. Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your company in your current market and make a list of the additional value that you could add to the international market (eg. are you going to provide a one-on-one experience? How are you going to customise and broaden the choice for your future clients?). You need to have a clear view of the message and image you want to share across the world.
2. Go for native experts
Another factor to bear in mind is that you need to have enough resources and structural stability to add staff who can look exclusively after the international aspects of your business. Dealing with cultural specificities and different shopping habits will be way easier to handle if you have native, experienced people working on the convergence. Believe it, we’ve tested it ourselves at our Stylight headquarters: having an international team is the key to offer the best brand and user experience for each locale (check out our corporate blog for more information).
3. Conduct in-depth research for each country
Once you have evaluated your company’s strengths and weaknesses, and identified your unique offer, it’s time to take a closer look at the country you want to expand to. Expansion is definitely easier if the country selected has similar culture, language and shopping behaviours to your locale: still, you need to do your research. The first thing to do is to ensure that you have a customer base in the new country. Consider questions like: ‘Why would people buy via my website instead of doing it via a local one?’, ‘Which factors differentiate my products from the ones already available?’.
4. Have a look at what your competitors are doing
Always keep in mind the old saying: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. Evaluating your possible competitors and examining their business models can provide you with useful details of what works (or doesn’t) in that country.
5. Have internal and external manpower ready
Consider which services you would need to outsource or which ones you need to grow in-house to support your expansion. “You have to prioritise and understand what the core of your business is” states Nadine McCarthy, co-founder of Stone&Strand. Depending on the level of development of the market you want to enter, it might be necessary to delegate some of the non-head tasks. If your company can afford it, it is always a good idea to invest in growing your staff. Even if it’s challenging to set and coordinate a strategy for a big team, you will see the benefits in the long run, thanks to the control you can apply on the time and the quality of each activity.
6. Take a deep look into social media
Nowadays customers tend to express their satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, through channels like Instagram or Facebook. They might not write about their shopping experience specifically, but they do like content, follow or unfollow profiles, and advise other customers through comments on posts. Pay attention to all these signs and interpret which are your future customers’ needs and expectations.
7. Partner with local influencers…
Check which local influencers might suit your brand: they usually come hand-in-hand with an increase in a brand’s awareness, so consider them a good option to lead your awareness-trip. One example of its effectiveness is the collaboration between Stylight and the Spanish trendsetter Dulceida; this TV advertisement took us to the next level in terms of international awareness.
8. …and with local brands
It’s important to transmit the essence of your company, of course, but you need to think about which aspects you want to draw attention to. You need to keep the balance between being true to your brand and adapting your key messages and products to the new market. One of the best options is to establish partnerships with local brands or retailers. Take Stylight, for example: at Stylight, we focus on a scalable business model that allows our partners to continuously expand to further markets and subsequently grow each of them rapidly. Each of Stylight’s 16 websites is adapted to local fashion and lifestyle preferences through Stylight’s business development department. The team carefully selects a mixture of top retailers and brands from around the world as well as local boutiques, domestic brands and retailers from each market. This way, Stylight is able to offer an assortment that is inspiring for the users and reflects local demands. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect partner for your brand?
9. Pick goals and measure results carefully
In terms of goals and results, pick carefully which elements you want to use and measure the impact they might have on the new country. Besides this, you also need to be aware that it is really easy to lose perspective once the expansion process has started. How to avoid that? Make sure to plan ahead, by setting goals that match the expectations you have. This will help you to keep moving towards the right direction.
10. Be simple
Remember: simple ideas are the best ideas. We live in an ever-changing world that can be completely transformed overnight, so use ideas that are fast to launch and that provide you with almost immediate feedback. Make small but continuous changes!
Article originally written by Miriam Gaztelumendi