Immanuel Simonsen

International Business Expansion Opportunities Have Never Been Greater

It’s a global world indeed. And it’s getting more global by the minute. But while the realisation that growth is largely being driven by emerging markets is starting to pick up amongst business execs, going global can seem daunting. Indeed, taking business beyond your domestic borders poses its own set of challenges and concerns which local players live happily without.

In our digital age, however, barriers to internationalisation are lower than ever, and some recent statistics from IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group, via Internet Retailer) further incentivise why you should seriously consider embarking on international adventures if you haven’t already:

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  • By 2013, global BtoC sales will pass the 1 trillion euro threshold, compared to (est.) 690 billion euro in 2011.
  • Internet users will increase to approximately 3.5 billion from around 2.2 billion at the end of 2011. As Europe, North America, and Oceania (Australia) are the only regions with internet penetration above 40 percent, you know where that growth is going to come from.
  • The US continues to be the single largest e-commerce market, followed by the UK and Japan. But even though double digit compound annual growth rates are projected in those countries, they’re severely dwarfed by China’s e-commerce sales which grew 130% in 2011. With such outspoken differences in growth rates, it’s a no-brainer that it’s just a matter of time before the world’s largest internet market in terms of user numbers develops into the most valuable as well.
  • Europe has now surpassed North America as the largest regional e-commerce market, with an estimated annual value of $307 billion.

Build Local Trust And Boost Conversions

Since you’re unlikely to be the only one who’s spotted the tremendous business potential of targeting any given high-growth market, it’s imperative that you take your international expansion seriously. By seriously I mean acknowledging the fact that countries are different and consumer trust likewise. At the end of the day, trust – or a lack of – is what makes or breaks a business.

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Below a few important ways which will help you build trust and boost conversions in the local market. The list is far from exhaustive, so please add to the conversation by sharing your insights in the comments to make this a great “reminder” for approaching international expansion:

  • Having local domain extensions for the countries you’re targeting (e.g. .fr) will not only make it easier for local consumers to find you, it will also make you seem more trustworthy.
  • Offering your locale site in the native language can make a huge difference on your bottom line. According to research from IDC, users are 4 times more likely to make a purchase if a site is in their mother tongue. Avoid machine-translation as far as possible.
  • Payment methods differ tremendously between countries – even seemingly similar countries. In fact, 60% of all online cross-border transactions are not completed because the merchant trader doesn’t provide adequate payment methods for international payments, notes Julian Wallis from Ogone Payment Systems. Having local solutions in place is key to boosting conversions by increasing familiarity and thereby reducing perceived risk.
  • In relation, displaying prices in local currency can prove a significant trust-builder. Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), which automatically offers your customers the choice of paying in their own currency by identifying where the payment card has been issued, is an effective solution to dealing with this.

These are just a few, not overly-complicated suggestions to making your international expansion a pleasant adventure.

Immanuel Simonsen

Immanuel Simonsen

Research Manager at Webcertain
As the Research Manager of multilingual web marketing agency Webcertain, Immanuel heads up the company’s global market research activities and large content marketing projects. He is the author of several reports and guides, including ‘The Essential Guide to Rel-Alternate-Hreflang’ and ‘The Webcertain Global Search and Social Report 2013’. Apart from being a tutor at the International Marketing School -- teaching online marketing professionals on business opportunities around the globe -- Immanuel is a regular speaker at the International Search Summit, a leading event series dedicated to multilingual search and social media marketing.

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