International trade has been going in since ocean-going vessels were first built. Large companies and governments loaded their ships and carried raw materials and finished products around the world. They returned with goods from those destination countries that were then sold to their own citizens. International trade agreements among countries still exist today – they regulate what private companies can and cannot do, what tariffs will be charged, etc. Today, we have a global economy of which trade is a huge part.
Now enter the Internet – the biggest disrupter to international commerce. All of a sudden small and mid-sized companies had methods to sell their products to consumers around the globe. And coupled with modern shipping methods, they could be efficient in the process.
To be certain, the Internet has spawned some international giants (e.g., Amazon, Alibaba), but the “little guy” can get a piece of this action and scale his business to an international market too. And there’s proof to that:
- The global retail e-commerce will reach $1.915 trillion by the end of 2016 and Asia-Pacific will remain the largest e-commerce market.
- According to Forbes, 57% of survey respondents in 24 countries have shooped from a foreign website in the last 6 month.
- The top-10 global e-commerce markets are the following: China, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, Canada, Russia and Brazil.
While the demand is obviously there, so does the competition.
A Good Product is No Longer Enough
Competition has grown, and the consumer in that other country wants the same thing that consumers in your country want. They want a customer experience that shows you care about them, that you are willing to do things that establish a connection and a relationship with them.
After all, they have choices about who they do business with too. So, what can you do to make your international customers’ experiences with your brand enjoyable? Here are 4 moves you need to make.
Develop Cultural Competence
It’s not just the question of studying the culture of another country. It’s about understanding that there are as many cultural variances in that country as there are in your own. You market to specific demographics here, and you will abroad too. You need to dig deeper into the culture, learn the nuances of behavior, language, and values of the target demographic.
If, for example, you are planning to market to Chinese millennials, then you should find a few, ask the right questions and listen carefully. See if you cannot find at least one who will be a critic of the content you plan to use – on your website and your social media platforms.
You will be able to localize your brand message, and this will go a long way to establishing relationships with your target market.
Granted, the history knows enough examples of how companies failed to account for the cultural differences. Puma recently made a terrible faux pas in the United Arab Emirates, when they’ve decided to create a new pair of sneakers, which celebrated the country’s 40th National Day. The pair was colored just the same as the country’s flag, which created a huge uproar in the society. A lot of people felt deeply insulted as the national flag is a very sacred symbol and cannot be trivialised like this.
Research Local, Regional, and National Laws and Regulations
There are regulations on advertising, products, and web-based commerce in other countries. For example, in some countries, certain products may have to be approved – pharmaceuticals are just one example. Approvals and licenses may be needed to advertise and to ship products into a country.
Unlike the U.S., many European countries have some pretty strict regs on comparative advertising. Comparing yourself to a competitor and claiming that your product is superior, without actual proof is frowned upon in countries like France and Germany.
If you use contests, sweepstakes, etc. as a part of your marketing plan, you may offend consumers in some countries as well as run up against some legal issues. Check these out first. There may be very different product laws in other countries as well.
Mind Your Website Design/Content
Here is where you have the opportunity to make the customer experience great or a total flop. These are the things you must consider:
Payment Processing: this should not be an issue given the number of international payment processors on the planet right now. PayPal is a great option, but not the only one. As the platform may not be popular/available in your target market.
Additionally, you will need to deal with the shipping costs and taxes. Inform the customer in advance how much will the shipping cost – you can include a simple calculator at the checkout – and the important taxes that may be due to pay.
Additionally, choose a payment method that would offer you a complete and detailed record of your revenues from foreign countries as your business may be eligible for tax refunds in a number of cases.
Mind The Use of Color and Symbols: Colors have different connotations in different countries, as do certain symbols. We use white for purity and weddings in the Far East and certain African countries, it is a color of mourning. But be careful. In traditional demographics, this may be the case. In more Westernized cities and among younger demographics, this is no longer true. The same goes for the owl. We see it as a symbol of wisdom; other cultures see it as evil and sometimes symbol of death.
The point is this: Be certain that your demographic will find your site an enjoyable experience that honors its preferences, beliefs, and cultural values.
Currency and Size Converters: If you have shopped a British website, you may have found prices in pound sterling. Then, you have to search for a currency converter to figure out the exact price in dollars. Give your foreign customers a more pleasant experience by providing both a U.S. dollar rice and …read more
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