August 12, 2013
International expansion can be a risky business for those organisations on the hunt for profits in unfamiliar foreign markets. However, for those brands and businesses that take the leap into the unknown, and do it successfully, the rewards can be bountiful.
Once unfashionable markets such as Russia and Brazil are becoming increasingly attractive as more and more of their nationals gain regular access to the Internet through mobile devices. Russia alone will see almost 140 million Internet users jump online which would mean that an estimated 72 percent of the Russian population will have access to the Internet in some shape or form. Comparing this to 2011 when only 43 percent of the population had regular access you can see why Russia, like many other markets, is increasingly investable as it breaks out of the ugly duckling stereotype.
It is not only Russia enticing successful international brands to its shores — China, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain and Brazil eCommerce markets are also on the rise. The expansion into foreign markets for online businesses can be difficult; fraught with many potential pitfalls as naturalization and integration into the unknown can often throw up many challenges as well as issues not previously predicted.
Doing your own research to identify the key differences within each market is essential. But, to get you started, we have highlighted notable differences you need to consider before you go ahead jump into bed with one of the countries:
Online shopping is a growing market in Russia, as there is still a general consensus that buying online is dangerous. The leading products bought online are household appliances and books, followed by mobile phones and computers. The most popular payment method is cash upon delivery, and the second most popular way is through established online payments platforms, such as Yandex Money.
Google is the biggest search engine in Italy, but search isn’t the biggest online sector. Social, and in particular Facebook, dominates the online behaviour in Italy. Facebook is the top social network in Italy in terms of referral traffic. High-street shopping is integrated in Italian culture, but as the tough economic climate continues within the country, more and more users are jumping online to save money on everyday goods as well as big brands and, of course, fashion.
Between June 2011 and June 2012, the online population in mainland China has increased by 52.6 million. The yearly growth rate is 10.8 percent with Baidu as the dominant search engine in mainland China, but in Hong Kong, Google owns 29.63 percent of the market, compared to Baidu’s 4.61 percent.
China has become a dominant online force that has led it to rival the U.S. to become the largest eCommerce market in the world. With an increasing population, online spend and Internet penetration, brands already successfully integrated into the market will be reaping the rewards of the brand loyal shoppers.
Sixty-eight percent of people who purchased leisure flights in France used a search engine for research before making the purchase, which can explain the seven percent increase of the sales in the market in 2012. Also, the research was done through multiple channels (i.e. PC, tablet and mobile). eCommerce websites in France with big tablet and mobile channels saw sales from these two platforms double in the last 12 months.
The most purchased product online in Spain is related to travel: 52.9 percent of online shoppers bought holidays, 49 percent travel services like car rentals and 41.6 percent show tickets. The biggest online buyers in Spain are in Cataluña, Madrid and Andalusia, followed by Valencia and the Basque country.
Ninety-two percent of the Swedish population use the Internet and, when searching, they entered brand names rather than typing the exact URL, even for sites they know well. Google, for instance, is the sixth most searched for site in 2012, with Facebook at No.1.
The country is expected to see the second largest eCommerce growth at $5.37 billion, behind India, which will reach growth $7.2 billion. The country does have a low average spend per Internet users at just $196.47 compared to the UK’s $1,757.46 and the U.S.’s $1,097.45 per Internet users, but with an increase of 21 million Internet users by the end of 2013 it is sensible to predict that the only way is up for the country’s global eCommerce market.
German online shoppers are happy to buy from U.S. or U.K. brands, but a form of security (like a seal of quality or good recommendations) is very important. This security is often more important than price.
Often one of the biggest problems online businesses can face when moving into unfamiliar territory is the optimization of their current platforms/offerings to reflect the cultural nuisances of the nation they are expanding into.
For those offering multi-national services or products, the introduction of the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”’ annotation is essential. When used correctly, this specification element helps Google index and serve the localized version of brands’ content to users who require an alternate language version. For example, when someone in Spain clicks on a URL, instead of seeing a usual URL from http://www.example.com/ it will see http://es.example.com/, enabling organisations to have the same content but in multiple languages without being penalised by Google for duplicate content.
The importance of multilingual search engine marketing cannot be overlooked by any organization branching out into foreign markets. Automatic, computer translations cannot be trusted — mother-tongue translation, accompanied with strong keyword research is the best and only viable formula for any serious business when it comes to converting title tags, search descriptions and on-page content.
Karl Young is a content and online PR executive at the award-winning search marketing agency, Search Laboratory. Specializing in multilingual search engine marketing and scientific PPC, the agency have been recognized as one of fastest growing technology companies by Deloitte.