8 Areas to Consider when Expanding Online into a New Country

Lets assume you’ve been testing new markets generically and have determined, through analysis, that you will get a good return in a specific country. There are a lot of things you could do to optimize in a country so where to start? Here I thought it would be helpful to outlines eight areas to consider.

1. Fully Optimized Country Site

You could make your first step the localisation of your domestic eCommerce site. This can help because it gives you control over what the buyer experiences when interacting with your brand. It can also be quite expensive depending on your current technical set up so consider if this should be your first move. Doing so though will make the rest of the items below more achievable.

2. Country Specific Marketplaces

You could instead start by focusing on a local marketplace. This can give you ready access to a local market or region (think listing on Shopee in South East Asia rather than trying to work out driving buyers to your site in the region). It can also be done at a much more reasonable cost but can increase day to day management if you list on many marketplaces. There is though technology available to help here though. More on marketplaces here.

3. Human Level Translation

Whether localizing your own site or using marketplaces to expand you’ll want to consider your translation strategy. Human, machine or a combination? More detail here.

4. Local Marketing

Marketing is how we get traffic domestically and it’s how you get traffic internationally too! Now you have a local presence with a translation quality you’re happy with you can start marketing in country.

In some cases, such as with Google, you must have a local presence in the right language and currency to actively market. In others it just makes more sense to do so before driving traffic so you don’t lose customers when they come.

5. In-Country Fulfillment

Fulfilling locally is the best way to optimize your shipping experience. If your products are in the country you are optimizing for you get them to your buyers much more quickly and the amount they pay for shipping will be what they expect.

It can come at a fairly significant up-front investment though so consider the following before doing so:

  • Do you have a large enough quantity of goods to store in multiple places?
  • Do you have a small amount of high selling items?
  • What are the shipping prices and times you offer from your domestic country to the new one? Are they acceptable?
  • Do your products take a long time or are they difficult to ship across borders?
  • What quantity of sales are you doing now and does it justify the cost of warehousing?
  • What are the tax implications of storing your goods in another country for shipping (there probably are some!).

6. Optimized Local Pricing and Sales

Rather than simply having the same sales internationally as domestically you should consider the local market. There are different timings and sometimes completely different sales seasons abroad. For example, swimwear and outdoors equipment sell better in October than in May in the Southern Hemisphere.

Mothers day in the UK this year was on March 22, in Germany it was May 10th and it was May 26th in Poland. You can, and should, benefit from such differences when optimizing locally.

Then there a country specific sales, like Singles Day in China and Black Friday in American (and now more generally in the West).

These are just some examples but there are many more. Build up a calendar in the country you’re expanding into.

7. Local Customer Service

Setting up local customer service is a quite costly step but useful if you have a question heavy business. Most retailers can manage by translating emails until revenue in a country can pay for local CS. Questions after all are usually repeated.

Some business though have many more detailed questions, especially unique products and specific technology. B2B sales can also require in language discussions.

8. Personalization and Loyalty

Finally, for this list, consider personalisation and loyalty the same way as you do domestically. If you’re offering discounts to registered buyers or those who buy consistently over time, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be doing the same in a new country. If you have a loyalty card scheme online, see if the technology you use is compatible with all countries you’re trading in actively.

Ultimately, when expanding actively into a new market, you should be considering it as an expansion of your domestic business so be sure to review all the areas you consider in your home country.

That’s not to say you should do exactly the same, different countries have different norms and will bring you differing returns, but you should start with the intention to be all in and scale back those intentions when it doesn’t make sense.

For more information download our eBook to learn how to set yourself up well for Cross Border eCommerce.

About Mark Ellis

Mark is the VP for Growth and Partnerships at Webinterpret, a leading Cross Border Technology company. Before that Mark was leading the operations for eBay's European cross border program. He has over 20 years of eCommerce industry experience, guiding and delivering strategic change in retailers, working with companies such as Dyson, Regatta, Boots and Arcadia Group, leading multi-million dollar programs for industry giants like Dunnhumby and working with small businesses delivering innovative retail solutions.

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