1. Personalize your marketing messages. 

You may never meet an e-commerce customer face to face — but you should know what the customer wants, when and why, just as intimately as if you spoke to him or her on a sales floor. More than half of respondents to one online shopper study expect the online marketing messages they receive to be relevant to their current shopping needs, style and taste preferences and preferred price points.

While personalized email campaigns and retargeting takes time and energy to execute, you’ll likely realize a higher return on your marketing investment: The same study indicated that 1 in 10 respondents spent significantly more with online retailers that served a highly relevant ad; 3 out of 10 spent slightly more.

2. Speak with — not to — customers. 

Content marketing can include blog posts, social media posts, images, video, podcasts and newsletters that you publish on your site, on third-party sites frequently read by an audience you want to reach and on your social media profiles. Create original content that shapes your brand voice and invites audience participation. If you’re an e-commerce retail site, for example, you could shape community-based content that invites customers to post photos of their unique style. If you’re a lifestyle site, perhaps you ask customers to share their top tips for sticking to a healthy diet, reducing stress or similar life hacks. 

Prioritize the messages that shape a sense of community: The more participatory your content, the more you make your e-commerce business feel like a familiar brand — despite that it exists virtually.

3. Make the online shopping experience seamless. 

Did you know that nearly 20 percent of customers choose not to buy from an e-commerce site because of payment security concerns? How about the fact that nearly half of e-commerce shoppers will abandon their online shopping cart because of unexpected shipping costs?

Marketing an e-commerce business is about overcoming the many obstacles customers experience from the time they click on your site, to the time they enter their payment information and click “purchase.” Consumers are accustomed to hearing news of security breaches at major retail, government and financial services organizations. Naturally, there’s a heightened sensitivity about the importance of keeping online information secure — particularly when it comes to trusting a small business retailer with sensitive financial data. 

Your marketing messages should tell your story and build credibility. Address the fact that you are a sophisticated e-commerce business that has the infrastructure to keep customer data secure, including the support of payment processing tools that are PCI compliant to adhere to payment security best practices.

On your website, include contact information where customers can reach a live human being if needed, and a physical location. You may not operate a retail storefront, but knowing you have a “real” place of business at which you run your e-commerce shop helps customers trust that you are a legitimate outfit that won’t disappear should they have a product issue or question.

4. Work to stay top of mind. 

Don’t assume that a customer who purchases from you will return — even if he or she is 100 percent satisfied. Your marketing strategy should deepen relationships: Monitor the types of offers and promotions customers redeem, and which ones they tune out. Offer them reasons to buy again — which may include a loyalty program, bounce back offers or referral incentives. When you don’t have a store, your marketing needs to work that much harder to help customers remember your brand, and consider you as an option the next time they’re ready to buy.

Marketing an e-commerce business isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. Know your audience, and commit to understanding more about what they like and where they shop. The more you know your customers, the better equipped you are to design creative marketing programs that empower you to offer benefits no one else does.

At some point during the evolution of many successful startups, the founders consider establishing a presence in a foreign country. For most companies, there are significant benefits to expanding internationally, including the sale of products and services to a new market, the development of a global perspective and the morale boost that comes with opportunities to travel and build global relationships. However, developing and managing an international team is not a trivial endeavor and any founders considering such an effort may wish to keep the following suggestions in mind:

Build and execute a comprehensive technology plan.

One critical consideration in adding a foreign team is how to optimize communication through technology. Little promotes feelings of isolation or detachment among foreign colleagues than the absence of clear, regular communication with other offices. And waiting to tackle the question of how and when to communicate until after your new teammates are sitting at their desks is too late. Fortunately, there are lots of useful ways to interact with remote colleagues — from expensive, high-powered videoconferencing systems to live interoffice feeds via Skype. By giving thought early to what technology makes the most sense for your team, as well as how and when to structure your use of that technology, you will overcome among the most potent obstacles to successful international growth.

Don’t neglect face-to-fact contact.

This use of technology is vital to helping an international team feel connected. However, not even the most advanced technology can yet fully replace the benefits of physical interaction. For this reason, despite the obvious time and expense required, you should do your best to make cross-office travel a regular practice — for yourself and your company’s employees.

At Consero, the events business I co-founded, we entered into a two-year lease on a townhouse in Dublin at the same time that we launched our Ireland office. This enabled us to send multiple employees to visit our new Ireland colleagues right from the start, and we have sent U.S. staff to Ireland consistently for short visits ever since. We also periodically send colleagues from Ireland here to the U.S., so that every employee at the company gets to experience the benefit of an international team, regardless of where that employee works, or whether he or she has the time for or interest in international travel.

By keeping the employees in different offices interacting face-to-face, you can maximize the odds that they develop the kind of rapport that supports global growth, as well as provide your team with an experience that makes them value their employment experience even more.

Export your culture but let the office develop its own character.

For offices in different countries to feel like part of the same entity (rather than independent businesses with the same ownership) it is critical that common elements of the corporate culture permeate each of the offices. From a shared sense of the company mission to common aesthetic elements, replication of cultural hallmarks help to bridge geographical distance between teams. However, you must be careful not to stifle any inclination of foreign teams to adapt the look or feel of their environment to their unique preferences. By embracing such interest, you will empower your foreign colleagues to exercise their independence and take ownership of their element of the company, while allowing your other offices to develop a stronger international perspective.

International growth is an exciting challenge for any business. The process of launching a new business in a foreign country is never easy but by considering the above suggestions, you may just find the experience less difficult than you expected.

As your international office continues to grow, your job will be to allow it to weave its way into the existing structure of your organization. This requires a deft hand as well as the devotion of some dedicated time and energy; making sure to integrate your new team well will better your entire company now and in the future.    

Is your company ready to go global with ecommerce? Maybe it should be. Opportunities to sell globally are substantial and growing. While ecommerce retail sales in the United States are rising — expected to reach $523 billion in the next five years — that number is growing even more rapidly worldwide.

Globally, business-to-consumer (B2C) online sales is on pace to exceed $2 trillion by 2017. E-sales in Asia Pacific will surpass those in North America during that same year. The increased use of mobile devices in those regions, plus better payment systems and advanced shipping methods, are contributing to this trend. Consumers in many overseas markets can’t get the products they want in local markets. This presents a huge opportunity for U.S. retailers.

But launching overseas isn’t easy. If you think you’re ready to expand your online retail footprint across borders, you need to consider some important factors.  

 

1. Assess supply and demand.

To get a clearer picture of your probability for success in other markets, first assess your business from the local point of view in your product’s new space. Conduct a regional analysis around local competitors, product demand, pricing and consumer behavior.

According to ecommerce provider Pitney Bowes, organizations “need to make sure they have a full understanding of what they’re selling today and the current demand” in international markets. This knowledge will help you home in on the size of the market that exists, the supply-and-demand dynamic for your product and the price at which it can be sold.

For example, McKinsey found that most online spending in China can be attributed to just a handful of online retail segments: apparel, recreation, education and household products. This presents an undeniable opportunity within these markets. Similarly, another study discovered that Australia is one of the strongest markets for U.S.-based online retail. The duty threshold and minimal local supply allow goods to move across borders at an affordable cost. These early learnings either enable ecommerce operations to succeed abroad or doom them to fail in far-flung places.

2. Localize your product.

Businesses that launch physical products in international markets usually need to augment or adapt their solutions to support local preferences. Many U.S.-based businesses have failed to bring existing products to new markets because company leaders think that aggressive marketing or pricing can change entrenched cultural appetites.

One of the most famous examples is Mattel, the toy powerhouse. It failed to launch Barbie in China several years ago due to just such a disconnect. According to reports, Barbie’s look wasn’t attractive to Chinese women. Mattel disregarded local consumer tastes, including the “cutesy … pink clothes” aesthetic popularized by Hello Kitty. The “sexy” Western Barbie was simply off-putting. Mattel poured resources into the market, and Barbie has since rebounded in China. However, this type of mistake would be insurmountable for smaller companies.

 

3. Localize your site.

Authentic localization is a crucial driver for regionalized sales. Your ecommerce site experience should reflect the time and care you spent customizing the product itself. Consumers won’t make a purchase if they don’t understand your product or can’t tune in to your message. In fact, 87 percent of consumers who can’t read English won’t purchase products or services from an English-language website, while 60 percent of global customers rarely buy on English-language sites.

Believe it or not, some companies rely on Google translate to approximate different languages when expanding internationally. According to Russell Goldsmith, Director at U.K. translation company Conversis, this type of website shortcut is a mistake.

“If you care about your audience in that local territory, you could end up making things worse for yourself because anyone who speaks that language will see that it’s been automated, and that it’s not perfect for their language,” Goldsmith says.

Recruit a local team to help your ecommerce experience adapt to a new market. Make certain your message translates to appeal to consumers in terms of language, style, tone, shopping habits and terminology. It’s also a good idea to include a glossary of terms for translators to keep your brand’s messaging intact.

4. Set prices accordingly.  

When you enter a new market, you must price based on local currency. But price points that work in the United States don’t always work elsewhere. Competitive pricing is important in any market — and it’s determined by the local environment. More than half of consumers give more attention to an ecommerce site that has goods at local prices.

Many factors contribute to local pricing in global markets. These include: 

  • Cost to manufacture the product
  • Fluctuations in foreign currencies
  • Price an international customer will pay
  • Your competitors’ pricing
  • Local regulatory or tax environment

It’s also important to support each region’s preferred payment method. While it’s exhausting to track so many purchasing habits, it can positively affect how your product sells. According to Ontraport, 50 percent of Germans prefer paying with bank transfers, while many Chinese customers favor the international payment platform Alipay.

If a customer tries to buy an international product and doesn’t see a preferred payment option, she or he probably will leave your site and look elsewhere. Offering a wide range of payment tools increases your product’s global reach.

 

5. Focus on privacy and customer data.

If you’re building a global ecommerce site, you must understand how privacy and customer data pertains to overseas consumers. Customers want to know their privacy is being protected. They need reassurance their personal information won’t be used for unrelated business without their consent.

Cyber safety is a huge problem plaguing modern ecommerce. According to a Norton study, 40 percent of mobile shoppers in the Middle East and North Africa have been victims of cyber crimes. And 71 percent reported observing digital attacks in their region. Alternatively, European consumers are notoriously protective about their privacy online.

Put privacy front-and-center in messaging across your site experience to allay these fears. And back up those words by investing in the technology to keep customers’ private information, private. You’ll want a team in place to manage compliance and other security and privacy-related costs. An EU study points out two of the biggest challenges in cross-border trade: (1) the expenses synonymous with consumer-protection rules and contract law and (2) the costs of fraud and non-payment.

Expanding into the global ecommerce arena can be a challenging yet profitable new step for established and emerging brands alike. Keep the right priorities in mind to minimize the bumps, and you’ll accelerate your success in a new corner of the international online marketplace.

We’ve been working with music, lifestyle and culture bloggers from near and far over the last few weeks, organising a media event at first direct arena for our client first direct, which got us thinking…

A lot has been written about the do’s and don’ts of blogger relations – don’t expect something for nothing, don’t be too formal, email rather than call, don’t send freebies in exchange for content but, if you do, send doughnuts (?) – the list is endless.

In a world where everyone has the power to publish, bloggers are now another type of influencer, just like journalists or celebrities, and working with influencers is nothing new. We’ve been pitching ideas to journalists for years and continue to do so. Sure, most bloggers work differently to journalists but the rules of engagement are the same, especially since most journalists nowadays operate and publish digitally, too. Rather than talking media relations or blogger relations, here are our rules of engagement for any influencer: journalist, blogger or stakeholder.

Don’t blanket, make it personal

Just as any PR pro avoids sending a blanket email to hundreds of journalists at a time (with information that might not even be relevant), making contact with bloggers should be personal. Do your research and get to know the person We wouldn’t contact a journalist without knowing what they write about and what’s important to their audience, so get to know the blogger or journalist, their interests and background, what they write about, who their audience is, what kind of content they create and what they need before pitching an idea.

Think outside the ‘press release’

For some influencers, like some traditional print news desks, the press release in its traditional format is still expected but for some digital journalists or bloggers think about repackaging your news, information or story to suit, incorporating video or illustrations with links and access to an online library of potential content.

Don’t send freebies, provide useful resources

Sorry to dispel the myth but if you didn’t know already, bloggers don’t just blog for free stationery. Unless something is useful for a piece, it’s bribery. While free tickets to an event might facilitate a review or post, think about what else would be useful to the blogger – an opportunity to get something exclusive or a unique angle.

Understand your influencer’s own pressures

Any seasoned PR bod will know exactly what time a particular journalist is in a morning planning meeting and what day they are on deadline. This is no different for other influencers. For some people, blogging is a full time job and for others it’s a sideline after their 9-5 day. Get to know a blogger’s working hours and exactly what they are aiming to do. If a blogger is starting out, help them grow with content, associations and support.