Want to sell overseas?
The internet has created new opportunities for smaller, independent retail businesses to sell to customers outside of the UK. If you’re ready to start exporting, Google’s country sales director Peter Fitzgerald highlights some of the tools available and things to consider.
Digital-first for flexibility
Even if you use a multi-channel retail strategy for your operations in the UK, consider a digital-first model for new markets. A light ecommerce presence instead of a more intensive physical one means retailers can change and internationalise more flexibly and more quickly.
Consider, too, setting up an agile team within your business devoted to international exports. If it can operate quickly and autonomously as a separate entity, it can make appropriate decisions for new markets quickly and projects can evolve faster and more fluidly.
Researching your new markets
When researching your target markets have a look at available data to prioritise the countries where your products or services will appeal most. Some of the online tools available for exploring potential markets include the Google Global Market Finder. This uses worldwide internet search data to show country keyword searches, estimates for bids and competition for each keyword by market and language.
Once you’ve identified markets, drill down to discover your target customers’ expectations and ways to exceed them. Make sure you understand how consumers use the internet in their path to purchase. Research data from free export tools will allow you to better understand different target markets.
When it comes to customers abroad, don’t rely on hunches. Instead, employ data analytics tools and analyst research to localise your offer according to market suitability and performance. This will enable you to not only alter to your site, product, marketing and pricing appropriately, but also to keep your finger on the pulse of market changes.
Localising your website
Localising your website for different languages and currencies was once seen as a hurdle, but a range of tools now makes this far easier. For example, the UK’s largest independent online beauty retailer Beautybay.com used Google’s free translator tool to translate its website into 80 languages for overseas consumers.
Use marketplaces to test and learn
If you’re not quite ready to set up your own website, marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay or Alibaba can provide a cost-effective first step into a market, providing the opportunity to test and learn with limited investment.
Many businesses are reaping the benefits of using services such as these which provide access to localised marketing, supply chain and payment options that can boost the uptake of your products. And because they hold information about consumer demand and supply, marketplaces can furnish valuable advice on gaps in the market.
If or when you later develop a website, your marketplace presence will have established valuable exposure among an extensive customer base.
Whatever you do, it’s essential you act fast. First-mover advantage matters to business success, so don’t be afraid to test your offering in a number of different markets quickly. In ecommerce the cost of entry is marginal compared to traditional bricks-and-mortar businesses.