Today’s e-commerce figures show an enormous opportunity for retailers who are willing and ready to take on new markets. The value of global cross-border e-commerce, estimated at $276 billion in 2015, should almost double by 2021 to reach $424 billion, according to Forrester Research.
With the growth of online sales channels and the easing of restrictive regulations, retailers are facing less barriers than ever to sell abroad, especially in the European Union. From the consumer point of view, safer payment methods, stronger consumer protection, and streamlined logistics all contribute to increased cross-border online shopping.
Cross-border e-commerce has become a global standard and knowing how to create a solid international strategy is key to taking on new markets.
1) Conduct an Internal Analysis
It’s important to have a clear picture of your business and the changes required to make your business international. Consider the following questions:
- Is your business stable in the domestic market?
- What kind of operational processes do you have in place and what will you need to do to adapt them to other markets?
- What kind of IT infrastructure do you have? Is it easy to localize?
- How much can you invest in adapting your content?
- Do you have people internally that have first-hand knowledge of the target markets?
- How many people can manage content localization now and in the long term?
Understanding your needs and available resources means that you will be able to make a realistic plan of action. Instead of targeting many countries all at once, you may realize that you only have the infrastructure and staff to handle one market in the beginning. It’s better to be effective in just one or two countries than spreading yourself too thin across an entire continent.
2) Define Your Goals & Target Markets
It’s crucial to tightly define which specific markets you are going to enter.
Identify the customer profile that you are trying to reach. Avoid just going into the market that is most popular, as it may not be the one with the most opportunities.
Start off by looking at your current customer base to see if there is a large portion in another country. It is often easier to enter a market where you already have a good reputation and presence.
You should also consider several other factors:
- What elements make a foreign market attractive for your company (population, GDP, Internet penetration rate, regulations, etc.)?
- Is there a demand for your product abroad?
- How strong are your competitors?
Once the relevant countries have been identified, you can begin assembling a team to manage the localization process.
3) Assemble a Localization team
Preparing to make your online store multilingual involves more than just simple translation of your existing content. It also means localizing and updating your product information as well as your website’s images, videos, measurements, currencies and other marketing materials.
That’s why it’s important to assemble a localization team, which often includes both internal and external members of the company. There needs to be an internal project leader that provides the content guidelines and sends new content for translation.
You’ll also need an external project manager that recruits a team of qualified translators and supervises the projects, ensuring on-time delivery.
A good team of translators is crucial to the success of any localization project. Not only should they have experience in translation and knowledge of the field (fashion or beauty products for example), but they also need to fit with the brand voice of your company. Ensure that you have translators whose style fits with your company’s brand voice through a rigorous recruiting process.
Being prepared and organized are the keys to successfully localizing your online store.
4) Scale Your Localization through Technology
There are two traditional ways to translate product descriptions:
- Manual translations provide great “voice” and have high translation quality resulting in good conversion rates. However, these translations are very slow to market, expensive, and hard to scale or integrate with modern systems.
- Machine translations are fast, cheap, highly scalable and easily integrated, but they result in poor brand voice and therefore generate very poor conversion rates.
Both of these translation systems are highly inefficient compared to using a hybrid system that integrates high quality human-powered translations with computer pattern recognition and powerful automated workflows.
Translation memory is a perfect example of this kind of technology: it is a tool that stores translations and analyzes repetitions within the current project and with previous projects. As the translators work, they receive suggestions based on content that they have already translated. This speeds up their turnaround time and increases the consistency of their work. Depending on the type of content, translation memory can reduce word count (and therefore time and costs) by up to 60%.
For more tips and best practices on creating an international online store, download our free guide From Overwhelming to Organized: Scaling Global Product Management, that we created with our partner Akeneo.