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How to Build a Global Strategy for eCommerce Excellence

Building a global technical commerce ecosystem requires looking at how each and every aspect of your retail business operates, both independently and as a cohesive ecosystem; across each channel in one market, and then across all of your markets around the world. With worldwide retail ecommerce sales projected to rise to nearly $2.5 trillion by 2018, now is the time.

retail sales worldwide

Before you can integrate new systems and start operating in new markets, however, you need to determine your commerce strategy. This should be built off of your commerce business goals, and refined by larger organizational goals, specifically brand and marketing. As you expand across borders, here are the most important strategic considerations.

Selling in Marketplaces

China is a buzzing market right now. According to Forrester, online retail spending in China reached $307 billion in 2013, and is projected to exceed $1 trillion by 2019. As a result, many retailers are flocking to the Tmall marketplace to establish a more personalized, Amazon-style online shop. It’s an easy entry point into the Chinese market, where brands can get to know the Chinese consumer and the retail environment through an established channel. In a market where 90 percent of ecommerce happens through marketplaces, this is a huge opportunity. But Tmall is not the only marketplace exploding, and China is not the only market that holds promise. According to eMarketer, 40.5 percent of US-based retailers sold to international customers through marketplaces like Tmall (China), Flipkart (India), Amazon (global), Ozon (Russia), Snapdeal (India), MercadoLibre (Mexico), and Rakuten (Japan) in 2014.

international retail sales

So why are marketplaces effective? Well according to Forrester, they offer brands an easy point of entry to global markets, with the benefit of offering a sizable audience up front, streamlining market entry, and providing localized offerings. There’s less inherent risk, and the potential for great reward.

Pursuing Partnerships

Foreign markets are exactly that to brands seeking expansion: foreign. If you’ve never operated in them, then you have no idea what to expect, and while you can and should do the research and legwork to learn about the new market - trends, consumer behaviors, etc. - it’s often wise to consider leveraging the help of a partner who knows that landscape inside and out. Forrester published a report on Identifying Partners To Help Streamline Global Expansion, where they go into great detail about this idea of globalization partners. To them, the three main advantages of utilizing a partner agency are to:

  • Build and launch digital commerce operations in new countries quickly and easily
  • Reach global consumers through different business models
  • Ensure their websites address differing consumer preferences

Agencies specializing in a particular market can give your business valuable insights and information that would be far harder to come by on your own, plus the expertise and know-how to accurately and efficiently get your business up and running. The below graphic walks you through the various questions your business must consider when entering a new market, and how a partner can help you answer them.

global business expansion

Maintain Brand Consistency

Keeping your branding consistent across all platforms is imperative -- if you can’t tell your story the same way in every market, then how can you expect a consumer to shop with you? It’s relatively easy to maintain your brand vision, voice, and strategy on your main website, but as you start entering new marketplaces, opening new retail stores in new countries, and having your websites localized -- the branding waters can be easily muddied.

To do this effectively, your goal should be to keep the overall brand direction at the corporate level, so that ownership of messaging across all markets is directed by one united team at the top. Then you can create small, local teams for every market to add local flair and personalized messaging that appeals to customers in that market, and also adheres to the overarching brand message. This will require educating new market partners, internal teams, and anyone else with a hand in branding about your brand strategy and messaging, so that the message can stay crisp and clear across all channels and markets. If you can develop a broad brand strategy and story at the global level, then you can augment and apply it to each individual market as you enter it.

Translation, Localization, and Transcreation

In order to strike the right chord with consumers in your newest target market, you need to customize your assets to target them specifically. English assets with photos of an American family won’t resonate with a millennial shopper in India. This means assets not only need to be translated, but localized or even transcreated. Localization means taking existing assets and applying localized touches, like figures of speech or images that are more culturally appropriate. For example, the New York City skyline won’t resonate with a Japanese shopper like a scene from downtown Tokyo might. Swapping out a simple graphic might seem like a small change, but it makes a big impact.

Transcreating content means completely overhauling existing assets, keeping in mind the initial business strategy, but allowing for local talent ingrained in the local community to tweak imagery and copy to preserve the creative and emotional intent of the content. Transcreation can often help assets resonate most powerfully in a new market.

How you decide to update your content is up to you -- and you can ask market-specific partners for their input, too. This is a frequently outsourced part of the globalization process, because it’s easy to find experts in any new market who can localize and transcreate for you. Not only is delivering localized content a great way to target customers in a new market, but it also frees up your internal team to focus on other globalization efforts.

Once you’ve got your strategic decisions sorted out -- marketplaces targeted, partners identified, branding message defined, and localization experts secured -- it’s time to consider what systems you’ll need to get the job done. In our next post, we’ll explore the system considerations you’ll need to identify and integrate to execute on your commerce business strategy.

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