Making your ecommerce website an international force
A lot has changed since the 2008 financial crisis and businesses have had to radically rethink the way they do things. From challenging long-established processes to creating more strategic supply chain relationships, the post-recession environment, though severe, has allowed – forced even – executives to be more inventive, cost-effective and resourceful across the board.
Ecommerce, unsurprisingly, emerged as a key focus area during the recession, with many business leaders recognising that it not only made their organisations more sustainable, but also opened up opportunities for growth.
It has proved to be shrewd thinking, as figures indicate that business to consumer ecommerce sales are set to increase from $1.5 trillion in 2014 to $2.3 trillion in 2017. Consequently, attitudes are beginning to shift from a cautious approach to a more ambitious one. It’s time to go global with your ecommerce business.
Our guide offers you some tips on how to transition your country specific website into an international tour de force.
Carry out thorough research
Moving your ecommerce business from being focused on one market to multiple markets requires thorough research and planning because the likelihood is that your existing processes and your website are only really optimised to deal with one language and one country.
Once you’ve identified what nations you are looking to target in the short-term – taking into account things like demand for your product/service and which currency you will accept payment in – you need to find out everything you can about these countries. From social customs to cultural quirks, nothing should be missed.
Why? Well, without this systematic study of target markets, you’re putting yourself in a precarious position whereby your new strategy is lacking in substance and where your workforce has a deficit of skills and the know-how needed to successfully engage new audiences. This is something eBay knows all too well when it attempted to expand into China between 2004 and 2006.
Internationalise your website
Now that you’ve done your homework and are confident that you’re in a position to deliver effectively in new markets, you can concentrate on making your website as accessible as possible to your new and global customers.
Again, there is plenty to deliberate on. Immediate aspects to think over include whether you opt for a country specific domain (such as www.thedigitalkid.dk or www.thedigitalkid.es) or numerous sub-domains (such as www.thedigitalkid.com/de, www.thedigitalkid.com/fr and www.thedigitalkid.com/in), whereby the national websites are a subdirectory of the global website. Your organisational structure, local market presence, SEO strategy and ecommerce capabilities will all influence your global website decisions.
Moreover, if you’re serious about positioning your website to be more global, investing in a multilingual content management system (CMS) is of the utmost importance. If it is likely that your current CMS option is incapable of managing multiple languages, then it is critical to factor this into your time and resource planning before embarking on a multilingual website project.
A purpose-built, agile and multilingual CMS, such as WordPress or Drupal, will make a massive difference to your operations, providing you with the ability to, for example, handle different characters, accents and language direction; manage multiple sites and micro-sites; and better automate your workflow across your languages.
Additionally, it is important you also enhance the generic aspects of your website so that they deliver a seamless experience. This includes adapting date and time formats, measurements and currencies (local-specific content); and changing cultural-specific symbols like (thumbs up is positive in the US and UK, but not in Italy and France).
Localise your content
One of the most important stages in transforming your ecommerce business into a global entity is localisation, whereby everything on your website is reconfigured to take into account cultural, grammatical and even colloquial nuances.
This is a task for experts, as localisation is an increasingly complex discipline. Successful translation is not about interpreting what’s on the page word for word, it involves deciphering phrases and considering the meaning of words in relation to their context, the audience they are intended for and the way in which they are presented.
Some of the things that are assessed during this process include abbreviations, acronyms, word combinations and colour palettes (orange is sacred in India, corporate in the US). The development of a multiple style guides – one for each target market – comes after this.
Assess, modify and evolve
By this stage, you are ready to launch your website. However, the work doesn’t stop there – you now have to maintain your website across all your new markets, ensuring that any new and relevant content is localised across the board.
During the early stages, it is important to be extra-vigilant, as however thorough you may have been during all stages of the process, mistakes can happen. Therefore, constant assessment is vital, allowing you to modify/correct errors or discrepancies when they occur, without impacting greatly on your audience’s experience of your website.
Take charge of your business
There are evident and multiple benefits involved with globalising your ecommerce business, but at the core of all of them is the ability to grow enterprises in the most low risk and effective way possible. Take stock of the above points and when it comes to expanding your reach, you can feel confident you’re in the best position to do so.