Expand your business across borders: 5 things you should know.
A guest post by the Bablic team. Bablic is the most cost-effective and advanced website translation service available to small & medium businesses, web agencies and more. Translate your website by simply adding one-line of code onto your pages using Bablic.
There are many possible reasons why a business decides to expand cross-border. It can be a saturated domestic market, or a larger demand abroad; sometimes it’s the ability to charge higher prices, or the absence of competition in another country. Whatever the reason, it is important to take into consideration a few important aspects, in order to make sure that our penetration into a foreign market is as successful and profitable as could be.
The 2 most important areas that need to be taken into consideration are localization and service. Let’s take a look at both of them in depth:
Localization is a very broad concept, and it means to adapt as many aspects of your business as possible to the tastes and preferences of your new target market. But what does localization mean in practice?
- Website language: The entire website should be translated into the new language. Studies show how customers tend not to buy from websites they don’t understand perfectly. The translation should be extended to every part of the site, including checkout areas, product descriptions, and all forms of communication (emails, in-site messages etc.). This used to be a very complex and expensive procedure. Fortunately now there are many easy and affordable solutions, such as Bablic, that allow to achieve a good result with minimal effort, perfect for startups and small businesses.
- Prices and checkout: Let’s face it, most of us don’t like making calculations. You should list prices in the local currency so that your customers have a much more immediate understanding of how much an order will cost them. Most payment systems offer this option by default. Otherwise, there are many plugins and add-ons available in the market. Additionally, you should check if there are any payment methods that are particularly popular in your new market such as special credit/debit cards, electronic wallets, gift cards or others. If there are, adding them to the usual payment methods may help you increase conversions significantly.
- Customer Support: this is an area that overlaps between localization and service. Ideally you should provide service to your new customers in their native language. Not only that, your representatives should be aware of common issues that customers in a specific area tend to face. This aspect can become expensive, so it’s important that you do this gradually. The first step should be to create a very exhaustive FAQ section (in the target language) where your customers can find as much information as possible, so hopefully they won’t need direct contact. Once your volumes justify it, you can look into outsourcing Customer Support to a native-language speaking external contractor or hiring a dedicated representative. Remember that all Customer Support representatives (especially those working for a contractor) should receive proper training, and don’t forget to constantly check on the quality of their work to make sure your customer service isn’t suffering. They are your voice when customers turn to you so they should represent you properly.
As everyone knows, service is a crucial part of any online store. When you penetrate a new market you should make sure that your operation is able to sustain the same level of service in all countries.
We already discussed Customer Support, so the 2 other main aspects that deserve attention are shipping and fulfillment.
- Shipping: Amazon.com was among the first to figure out that customers don’t like shipping fees to the point that they impact conversion rate severely. That’s why most items on Amazon carry the magic words “Free shipping”. You will probably have higher expenses since you have to ship to a different country, but instead of increasing shipping fees you may want to consider adjusting prices to keep your margin, while leaving shipping fees untouched (even better if free). Some research in terms of the preferred shipping company in the new location you’re entering should be done, it’s possible a company you’ve been using for years in your main market has a terrible reputation in another country, choose accordingly.
- Fulfillment: Lastly, ecommerce is a competitive space, so your customers expect delivery of your products within reasonable times. If you are shipping to a country that is not easy to reach, or where customs take long to clear your merchandise, you may want to consider having a fulfillment center on-site. Don’t worry, no need to go looking for warehouses just yet, there are many options to outsource this service to external contractors at reasonable prices. Please remember that holding stock in a fulfillment center may increase your costs as more merchandise will be kept on hold waiting for customers to buy. Use analytics to make sure you use the fulfillment center for those items that are on high demand, and therefore will be sold quickly.
In conclusion, the more you manage to create a friendly, familiar, and satisfying experience for your customers, the happier they’ll be buying at your store and of course a happy customer is a returning customer. A common trick to avoid pitfalls is the following: Imagine having to buy online from a foreign store. What are the things that you would NOT like as a customer? Now visit your store and make sure your customers will never have to experience them.