In 2017, retail ecommerce sales worldwide reached $2.304 trillion, a 24.8% increase over 2016, according to eMarketer. Ecommerce made up 10.2% of total retail sales worldwide last year, up from 8.6% in 2016, with this growth largely driven by Asia-Pacific, where 14.6% of overall retail spend went toward ecommerce. Global mcommerce sales rose 40.3% last year to $1.357 trillion—6.0% of total retail expenditures—powered by China, Japan, South Korea, the UK and the US.
With ecommerce growing so dramatically all over the world, setting up shop in distant locales may seem like a no-brainer. Not so fast. While a global ecommerce strategy is well worth consideration, it does require careful planning and consideration.
A key first step is to do your homework. It’s a ridiculous understatement to say that every culture is different, but it seems easy for some marketers to forget. What resonates in New York City may not resonate---and may even be downright offensive---in Beijing or Dubai. It’s incredibly important to learn about the culture and customs of each market you plan to enter.
That’s why it’s recommended that you actually localize your operations. Set up a team in each target region that includes local talent. You’ll have the expertise you need in-house to translate not just your marketing copy, but your brand as a whole into the local language. You will gain understanding of what your brand values mean in that country’s context.
Timberland boots, for example, were popular among teens and lumberjacks in the US in the early 1990s. At that same time, in England, they were a luxury item, and practically couture. Levi’s in that era were equally valuable and aspirational in Eastern Europe---a symbol of a coveted and long-awaited freedom---while they were tablestakes for US consumers. These are things you wouldn’t know unless you were there, or knew someone within those cultures at that time.
And of course, it goes without saying that all creative should feature local faces and scenery. And it ought to be written in, rather than translated into, the language of that region.
It’s not just those creative aspects of marketing that require local insight. It’s also the much more concrete aspects of ecommerce and digital use in general. For instance, with Asia driving much of the world’s mcommerce, anyone planning an online retail business in this region would need to consider a greater investment in their mobile presence.
Similarly, shoppers in different regions expect different payment methods. Some countries may have popular mobile wallet options, while others still rely heavily on plastic cards. What’s important is that you know what’s expected in the region in which you’re setting up shop. You’ll want to make it as easy and as frictionless as possible for consumers to transact on your site.
Regulatory considerations add another layer of complexity. Some countries may not allow certain items to be sold online (alcohol, for example) or may not allow items that aren’t certified to a certain standard, were constructed in a particular region or cost over a certain amount. There will be duties and taxes and shipping restrictions. It will be your responsibility to know every by-law and restriction. Ensure you have the team you need to keep you informed and compliant.
There is a tremendous benefit to taking your retail presence global. As the world gets smaller and flatter, the opportunities continue to grow and become easier to access. It’s all there for the taking---just be sure you do your due diligence before setting up shop.
Photo from Creative Commons