Going Global Online - Think It Through Before You Click!
There is no arguing that being able to sell online is an exceptional channel for many companies to reach into multiple global markets. However, many small and medium sized companies don't think through the process fully before engaging in e-commerce. Remember, it is still a transaction with a person ( for business to consumer B2C) or with a company (for business to business B2B) and someone will be making a decision about your products and services. There is still a relationship to develop and the full customer experience needs to be considered. Global value chains have helped greatly with the facilitation of online sales but just like all aspects of your business, you need to consider your goals, options, potential road blocks and how you will keep your customers coming back.
From my recent experiences, here are some thoughts I can share to help as you consider global markets through a digital lens:
Do you have the resources to commit? Your global online presence will be alive 24 hours a day seven days a week. Thinking through who will create the content, monitor and respond is the critical first step.
Understand the personal and digital culture of where you want to reach. Not only do you need to adapt to different cultures personally, there are also key differences to how cultures use technology. Knowing how to use the web, e-commerce and social media platforms the right way in different markets can boost your acceptance.
Spend some time watching your competitors. Getting a feel for how your competition looks, talks and shares online can set you up for success. Going in blind may have disastrous consequences that can take a long time to recover from.
Know the laws and regulations of the countries you will be promoting in. It’s often not as simple as setting up a website and away you go. Local laws on business websites, setting up online sales channels and the ways in which you can promote your business will require adherence to the law and ignorance is never a good defence.
Choose your payment options carefully. You need to know what payment channels are available and what your customers prefer. What fees will these channels demand? How will you repatriate funds from your international sales?
Consider logistics carefully and know what options you have. You may need to consider an in-country distribution partner to ensure adherence with local laws. At the least ensure your shipments will arrive in good shape with proper packing, storage and handling.
It’s not just about the translation. Your online presence needs to be local. Choosing country-specific web extensions for your site is a great start. But with social media, you should engage local content editors who can ensure your brand is relevant and accepted.
Know how to build a reputation and follow up. Encourage your customers to share their experiences and follow up with the good and bad comments that will be coming your way. Thanking customers for their initial purchase and regular contests are great ways to stay current.
Talk to your customers and social followers. Ask your customers for their insights. If you are going to attend a trade show, let them know and do a meet and greet. Tell them to come visit you at your headquarters. People want to feel part of your brand so give them every opportunity.
Capture data and automate as much as you can. With programs like Hootsuite, Brandwatch, CX Social, Sysmos and others, your social and web presence can provide key information on your customers to help you learn and grow from every online interaction as well as what they share about your company.
So, step back, consider your options carefully, develop a good plan and then Saddle Up and make your digital presence work for you!