In the last year, the way we behave as consumers has changed. While the beginning of 2020 saw leading UK businesses placing digital innovations and their benefits firmly on the agenda, the onset of the global pandemic sped up the way we embraced the online world.
Now, businesses have adopted digital platforms, growing their offerings. As a result, they are perfectly positioned to be able to expand their market and aim for international consumers.
How consumer behaviour changed
As almost half (46.6%) of workers set up at home during the first UK lockdown and access to high street stores became limited, many businesses with physical outlets had to make the move to digital retail faster than they were planning. Meanwhile, existing online businesses saw record sales, with retail behemoth Amazon tripling its profits, seeing a 37% boost in earnings.
This surge in online sales was likely down to the fact that around 40% of consumers did more shopping online during lockdown, based on findings by Deloitte’s Digital Consumer Trends survey. Additionally, delivery services have been running throughout the lockdowns, making it easier than ever to order online and receive your goods in a few working days.
The move to living in a digital landscape, where our favourite independent stores are suddenly offering an online service and cafés have set up digital order forms, has created new opportunities for businesses. Both larger companies and SMEs can now use their digital connections to reach an international market.
If you’re a business owner, it’s likely that you will want to make the most of the online provision you’ve built and see if you can develop an overseas market. This can be achieved, however it’s important that you are aware of what international expansion entails and what to consider when you make such a critical decision.
What are the benefits of international expansion?
There are plenty of opportunities for SMEs that are planning on extending their services internationally. The main one is being able to tap into new markets. Now that your business has seen success on home turf, the natural next step can be to sell into another country. This could allow your business to build a whole new customer base.
Also, and importantly, you’re growing your business. New audiences are experiencing your product or service, so you’re tapping into a fresh source of revenue. From there, you can weigh up whether you want to expand further into other countries.
Additionally, by “going international”, you could be staying one step ahead of your competitors, especially if you reach a certain market before they do. This gives you the chance to establish your brand in that territory and reach this new lot of consumers first.
Putting in the research time
If you’re certain you want to grow internationally, you’ll need to put the research in. How well do you know the market in your target countries? You’ll need to study the areas you’re thinking of growing into before you make any decisions.
For instance, you’ll need to know who your customers will be and what the current market is like for the industry you work in. You’ll also need to know how much appetite there is for the product you sell.
Consider the language and culture
Translation software is not only unreliable, but if things don’t go to plan when you’re trying to establish your business overseas, it can potentially be damaging before you’ve even set up there. Therefore, factor in the language spoken in the country, along with the culture.
You could establish a local team in your target country early on in your operation to make sure there are no crossed wires and to make sure that operations run smoothly from the get-go, or you could look to hire native language speakers to work in house or on a freelance basis.
Additionally, try focusing on forming an international SEO outreach strategy. This is a marketing approach that can leverage the experience of native speakers, who can not only help with the nuances spoken in that language but can explain where some marketing messages can be useful and where they might fall flat. This is because they have first-hand knowledge of the culture in that location.
“Outreach allows businesses to build brand awareness as well as improving the authority of your website and effective international outreach should call on the services of those who are from native speakers from countries around the world,” said Chris Shelbourn, Head of SEO at digital marketing agency, Ingenuity Digital. The agency specialises in international SEO and works with several businesses that have an international reach, including electronics and forex clients.
“This means that, whether you want to set up in Spain or Japan, your business will be speaking directly to your new target market in a way that’s accessible to your new audience.”
The significance of online visibility
Are you technologically ready to make the move abroad? Over 85,000 businesses launched online stores during the lockdown in the UK. This move reveals just how significant having an optimised online portal is, especially right now when social distancing restrictions are limiting customers from browsing in-store.
You may have made headway with your digital outlet for your UK base, but there will be adaptations you need to make to target markets in other countries. This is the case for operating overseas. Thinking carefully about your digital platform and the changes you’ll need to make to attract your new customers, can be key to your international success.
Showcase your website in a way that makes it easy to see what your business offers, especially in countries that might not be familiar with your brand yet.
“Search terms differ by country,” said Chris. “To make sure your website is seen by the people who need your products, work out what the relevant common phrases are in your target region and language. That’s the starting point for all international SEO.”
If you have your sights set on a new market overseas, take the time to assess these different factors before you begin. Do your research, call on the experts, and make sure you understand what’s involved before you take the plunge.