Cheers to 2016! New international sales opportunities waiting for you
Happy New Year! Clean slates, fresh starts, new (sales) opportunities, no regrets and more courage! Sounds like a cliche? Much as we like to repeat the old mantras every time January approaches, the fact is that people and businesses need to press a reset button in the form of regular re-evaluation of their strategies.
Fresh beginnings are part and parcel of them. Otherwise, there is a risk of stagnation, scepticism and lagging behind competition.
In fact, powerful cliches can potentially save some of us from scepticism. We don’t want to talk Paulo Coelho here, but instill some energy and enthusiasm with our New Year greetings.
Hence, we have decided to go for a little bit of cliche and inspire your New Year business decisions with a global touch. We want you as an online seller to stay enthusiastic and full of innovative ideas that will keep your business on the move.
We will start with this article about brand new eCommerce opportunities. We will go beyond the established marketplaces such as the UK, the USA and Germany and will try to show you why it may be worth looking for opportunities elsewhere. This will be our focus today: Emerging marketplaces and the importance of the rule sell global, yet think local.
eCommerce Hot Spots
The established eCommerce markets, such as the UK, the USA and Germany, have long been associated with the notion of eCommerce superpowers. Yet in recent years, they may be showing a slowdown in growth. This means that online sellers may have to look for opportunities in locations that are less conventional from their geographical perspective.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you should give up selling on the established markets: those are still likely to be the primary source of income for many online sellers. What we encourage you to do is consider extra options / locations that could take your business from doing ok to great.
If your domestic market is one of those named above, think about your selling strategy:
- Are you making the most of your sales potential?
- Do you have the impression that there is too much competition and your product doesn’t rock the buyer’s world?
- Finally, have you considered less obvious options and marketplaces?
Thinking outside the box and going beyond well-known solutions is likely to be a source of innovation, of discovering new business horizons and a way to generate extra revenue. Emerging markets, for instance in Latin America, Russia, Asia-Pacific, China and India, are worth considering in terms of going that extra mile to reach the global online buyer.
Sell global, think local
What creates international opportunities and drives global purchasing? Paradoxically, global means local. For starters, localisation is key to international success. Not only should you translate your offers into foreign languages, but also make sure they are fully localised. This includes:
- Size conversion
- Currency conversion
- Calculation of local taxies and duties
- Low international shipping rates
- Customer service for foreign buyers.
In other words, you need to be well prepared for a global expansion.
Secondly, on top of localising your shop, try to think local in as many situations as you can. For instance, consider local events and sales seasons. The Christmas shopping frenzy is a good example of an increased potential to maximise your sales at a hot-selling season such as Christmas. However, this is only one of the many possibilities of tapping into the potential created by periodic selling peaks.
A few other examples of local events affecting online sales:
- Mexico: Dia de los Reyes Magos: a tradition celebrated on January 6th when children receive gifts. In 2014, the average family budget for this day was $90 and in Mexico City total spending reached $41m.
- Japan and South Korea: White Day celebrated on 14 March. Men buy gifts, returning a favour to women who gave chocolate the month before. According to Koreatimes.co.kr, 15% more is spent on White Day.
- China: Singles’ Day celebrated on 11 November. With many special promotions, this day has become the largest online shopping day worldwide. In 2014, goods sold through Alibaba’s shopping platform were worth an astonishing $9.3bn.
To say that the knowledge of how, and where for that matter, seasonality affects sales figures is simply useful is an understatement. The fact is …
… if you put yourself out there at the crucial moments and you do it wisely, you can make more sales during a few weeks of peak-selling seasons than throughout the rest of the year.
Crucial moments? For instance, you can guess loads of buyers will be buying gifts around Valentine’s Day. Do it wisely? Red and pink dresses and products in these colours are likely to bring higher sales as opposed to blue and black ones.
Emerging markets.. emerging online sales potential
Top marketplaces, such as the UK, US and Germany, are well-developed and are full of well-informed buyers who are very keen on shopping online. The increasing use of mobile devices helps to drive online sales considerably. At the same time, not only is the number of online shoppers high on the top marketplaces, but so is the number of competing sellers.
This means you need go to great lengths to stand out from the competition. Or drive your prices down to be spotted or.. do both. In this case, emerging markets where sellers may be at a more experimental stage can be your alternative solution. In other words, you can use what you already know to impress your new audience.
In fact, shoppers and sellers in emerging markets have already gone global. For instance:
- China buys from the US, Hong Kong, Japan, the UK, Australia and sells mostly to the US, the UK and Hong Kong.
- Brazil, in turn, buys from the US, China, Hong Kong, the UK and Canada and sells to China, the US, Argentina, Netherlands and Germany.
So the international process is already underway and now may be a good time for you to become part of it.
What to consider when picking country-specific markets
Of course, when you decide to add more countries to your portfolio, especially the emerging ones, it should by no means be a random decision. Otherwise …
… it can turn out to be a waste of your time, resources and effort. This is not what you want.
What you do want is a good ROI and new opportunities that will help you grow your business. For this reason, your decisions should be well-informed and weighed against some solid facts, figures and trends in the country of your interest.
When picking specific markets, you should take into account:
- The amount of revenue that is already generated in the potential markets
- The maturity of the existing eCommerce infrastructures (broadband, delivery & payment systems)
- The level of popularity of eCommerce in given countries
- Your own brand strength, corporate growth and investment strategies
- How easy it will be to localise your products (check local tastes, pricing and language).
Exemplary Q & A before taking a leap into foreign marketplaces
Q: What to do to avoid local headcount?
A: Standardisation including branding, core technology platforms, website navigation and features.
Q: Will I be able to transfer my marketing strategies onto other marketplaces?
A: Cultures respond differently to different marketing tactics, slogans or even words. For instance, Percent-off sounds great in the USA, but in other countries may have negative connotations, such as faulty goods.
Q: Should I come up with different website designs, depending on the country in which I’m selling?
A: Your website should be standardised. However, local websites are likely to vary slightly in terms of design and navigation. Start off with research and study the subtle differences to ensure your foreign buyers navigate your page as if it was a local domain.
Delivery & fulfillment
Q: Should I offer free shipping and will it not kill my margins?
A: In many cases you can and even should offer free shipping, otherwise your offer may not stand out from others offering cost-free delivery. You don’t necessarily need to waive shipping costs, but add them to the product price instead.
So … don’t be afraid to ask questions
Of course the list above is not exhaustive and it is only to illustrate what kind of details you should take into account when you’re planning to test international waters. The more details you consider and the better your planning is at the beginning of your journey, the easier it will be for you to win foreign buyers and make international deals.
Be brave, take risks … and expand your international online sales
It is often good to test the unknown, but we encourage you to make it a well-informed decision.
For some online sellers, one way of testing the unknown would be to check the sales potential on emerging marketplaces, such as China and Latin America. Keep growing your sales on the established marketplaces, if this works for you, yet consider less conventional options as well.
Hence, be brave and take risks, but always keep facts, figures and forecasts in mind. This will help you to move in the right direction or adjust your course, should obstacles and unexpected events come your way. If you do it right, the Universe may conspire and help you to expand your business onto an international level 😉
So coming back to the somewhat cliched undertone of this article, may the New Year bring you incredible sales figures and loads of inspiring ideas that will enable you to stand out from other online sellers.
We wish you success with your domestic and international sales!