Marketing your ecommerce site when selling internationally

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

We live in a world obsessed with growth. No wonder. If Amazon can grow at a pace of 30% YoY, anyone in ecommerce or retail is expected to do just as well. It’s been a tough race for some. Some others, didn’t make it through. And how is one expected to grow if the competition is increasingly tough? About everyone is generating worthwhile content for SEO, about everyone is investing in the same venues so the CPC’s are growing, about everyone is courting the same influencer, micro-influencers and even nano-influencers… The only way out of the race is to go international. And luckily for you, it’s easier than ever before.

Unfortunately, your success is highly dependent on how you drive traffic to your site today. Let’s review the most popular ways of driving traffic to an ecommerce store and see how they affect your likelihood to succeed internationally.

Driving international traffic to your ecommerce website if you depend on SEO

In order to receive organic international traffic, you need to make sure your content is translated. Simply put, the odds that a say, Spanish-speaking potential buyer from Latin America searches for “garden table” in English are pretty slim. Moreover, the translation quality needs to be good enough for Google not to penalise your site (so funnily enough it should not be Google Translate translation…).

There are many plugins available that you can use to get your site translated but most of them would not allow you to build your international SEO standing. Any plugin that simply translates a content using a javascript but does not create a local URL for your website, will not work.

In order to really start building your international SEO position, you would need to have a separate URL for each target market, in the proper language with the right translation quality and ideally an hreflang tag to make Google understand this is not duplicate content. You also need patience as it may take some time before you start getting worthwhile results.

It’s quite an undertaking and needs involvement from your existing webmarketing agency or in-house SEO expert. Again, simply installing a javascrit-based plugin will not work.

Driving international traffic to your ecommerce website if you depend on social

Seeing that even Amazon depends on influencers for promoting their Prime Day bonanza, social is now officialy “the thing” in ecommerce retail. I speak with an ever increasing number of retailers who say that all of their business comes from Facebook and Instagram. And it’s definitely not schoolboys trying to become millionaires in a week, it’s businesses making millions of dollars of GMV.

The bad thing about being fully dependant on social marketing is that it’s quite difficult to expand it internationally. The businesses I’m referring to receive next to no organic traffic from outside of their country of origin where their fame has been built.

Social marketing is all about engagement and authenticity and it’s difficult to build those if you don’t speak the language and don’t know the culture of the target country. There is no easy way to hack your way into these other markets, you probably need a social marketing manager for each language or each area of the world.

International Google Shopping campaigns – driving international traffic to your ecommerce website if you depend on SEM

Here comes the good news – in ecommerce retail SEM basically means Google Shopping and Google Shopping is fairly easy to put in place internationally.

Again, you need to translate your website and set up separate URL’s for each target country. You also need to convert the currencies to match the currency Google Shopping supports for the target market.

Then you do the same with your existing Google Shopping feed. The different feeds can be quite neatly set up in sub-accounts of your Google Merchant Centre, one per market. Then your all set for running your international Google Shopping campaigns. You also need to make sure that all the different feeds and sites are regularly updated.

It may sound like a lot of effort but it does pay off. You will probably be happy to notice that the CPC is often lower in the target market than it is in your domestic country and that you are able to buy traffic for less!

Don’t go at it alone

It’s almost impossible to just decide to start selling internationally and build an extensive international business on one’s own. You will need help along the way, either from your agency or from cross border trade experts. But if you are looking for profitable growth opportunities, it is by all means the least painful and the most certain way of achieving this goal.

5 main issues you may encounter when selling internationally

international ecommerce
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Expanding internationally seems like the most obvious way of growing your company. If you’re already the market leader for your type of business in your home country, where would you try to look for growth if not abroad? If you have strong local competitors and have to give up on some of your margins to remain in the game isn’t it obvious to try your luck elsewhere?

It is. Only, if you don’t do it right, it may come at a price.

Having worked with thousands of ecommerce merchants who tried their luck abroad, here are some of the challenges I have observed.

Different consumer expectations in different countries

It’s common knowledge for Cross Border Trade veterans but may be less obvious to merchants who until know have only contented themselves with their domestic market – consumers behave differently in different parts of the world and have different expectations. Germans, for once, has the highest return rate in Europe, with 41% of orders being returned. The return rate there is more than twice higher than in Italy or Spain. You should also expect German consumers to thoroughly read through your terms and conditions and privacy policy and point out anything which is not in accordance with the German law. Ouch!

International taxes

Once you start to export, you should make sure you’re up to speed with the local tax regulations in the countries you’re selling to. If you export to the European Union, once you have exceeded a pre-defined threshold, you need to register for paying the VAT tax on the goods that you sell in a given country (please note that this explanation of the VAT regulations starts by saying : “Due to the complexity of
the law, this information is not exhaustive”). The recently introduced GST in Australia works in a similar manner.

Countries with unreliable postal services

You’d be surprised by the number of shipments that will mysteriously get lost once you start delivering to countries such as Italy or Greece. In Russia, you should generally only deliver to business addresses. In the countries with many islands (such as France) delivery rates may vary a lot between a mainland and island addresses.

Custom duties

If you export to Canada a good whose value exceeds $150 (it’s called the de minimis threshold), the good risks being stopped at the border and your end consumer may have to pay an extra fee in order to receive it. Other countries have their own de minimis thresholds above which the products you ship may be eligible for custom duties.

How do you navigate across this incredibly (and increasingly!) complex landscape? The best advice is to look for some help, for instance with the experienced Cross Border Trade experts at WebInterpret.