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To wrap up our guide on cross-border commerce and launching your brand internationally, I knew it was necessary to make sure everything we said wasn’t a “strategy in a bubble.”

In other words, I wanted to ensure that industry experts and brands who have done this before offered the same advice as this book does.

So, per usual, I asked them:

What’s your #1 tip for brands looking to launch internationally?

In total, I got 32 responses, all below, which turned into 8 categories of advice.

Dive on in. Learn from the experts and those who have done it before.

The International Expansion Playbook

What if you are ready to invest in international expansion and localization to own a brand new market long before your competitors?

That’s what this guide will teach you to do.

Just Do It!

David Tendrich, CEO & Co-Founder, Reliable PSD

Give it a shot. It's so easy to test traffic from other countries with PPC advertising that why wouldn't you try it?

The keyword research will also give you insight into how people in those other countries are searching for your products.

You might discover that they call it a "satchel" instead of a "bag," "bespoke" instead of "custom," etc.

Sammy Gibson, Director, Neon Poodle

Just do it! We sat down to discuss starting a branch in Europe last September, four months later we moved to start it, now we also have a branch in the USA.

If you have every faith in your product and believe you can expand, don't take the time to think about it or dwell on it. You need to move and move fast. I guarantee your competitor will be thinking about it, so beat them!

William Harris, Ecommerce Consultant, Elumynt

Do it. One of the biggest reasons people don't do it is because they're afraid of the unknown — so bring on an expert and eliminate that excuse.

Sure, customs, shipping, language, etc. — those barriers add up, but you aren't the first person to do it.

Find someone that's done it in a different niche, reach out to experts that have experience launching brands in other markets and do it. It will cost you less than if you never get around to doing it.

Find the Low-Hanging Fruit

Max DB, Founder, HeyMaxDB - Content Strategy

Find the low-hanging fruit.

Start looking at your traffic, add an email capture on your "We only ship to the U.S." page. Look at the countries that stand out.

That's where you should go. Always go where you have guaranteed customers.

Emil Kristensen, co-founder & CMO, Sleeknote

Paid advertising is a good way to explore international opportunities because you can see how different groups respond to your efforts and better determine which countries to proceed with.

It’s always a good idea to exploit low-hanging fruits.

An example is if your website is in English and expands to other English-speaking countries. You should always consider language barriers, and if your paid advertising shows good results in countries with a different language than your own, consider translating it.

Eric Carlson, Co-Founder, 10X Factory

International expansion is one of the easiest ways to grow revenue. When you open up foreign markets, you can access cheaper ad inventory & rapidly expand your market.

I often see EU & APAC countries generate cheaper conversions, especially in beauty & fashion, than the US.

John Lott, CFO/COO, SpearmintLOVE

Facebook has been a great tool for growing our international business. You can target by country, language and device to reach the right customers.  

Jordan Brannon, President and COO, Coalition Technologies

Brands looking for international growth in 2018 need to look for the low-hanging fruit / opportunities first, before pursuing major new markets with decidedly different audiences.

India and China are always tempting, but the cost to enter and the margins available aren't sustainable for most U.S. companies.

Low-hanging fruit are countries with favorable exchange rates and tax for U.S. goods, and that may not require significant, unique content, customer support or operational shifts.

Localization is Key

Bill Widmer, eCommerce SEO & Content Marketing Consultant

Create international versions of your site, like www.yoursite.com.au for Australia for example. This will help massively with SEO in your target country –– plus, search is often less competitive outside the US.

For added benefit, translate that version of your site to match the local language. This will further improve your search results, conversions and trust.

Daniel Wallock, Marketing Strategist, Wallock Media

If you're looking to expand internationally, then you need to start changing your marketing and social media content to appeal to an international audience as well.

You don’t need to make any major chances per se, but I would spent a lot of time trying to understand exactly where your customers in those new markets are hanging out and what makes them different and what makes them the same as your current customers.

Edin Sabanovic, senior CRO consultant, Objeqt

Make an effort to localize the content and take into account cultural differences, nuances of language (preferably use a native speaker).

Provide customer support and every other piece of content in the local language.

Timi Garai, Marketing Manager, Antavo Loyalty Management Software

Know your target market, and do localization right. Beyond translating your brand's messages and all the available texts on your site, make sure that you find your product market fit.

For example, if you are selling books, you need to do a market research to see what kind of genre or writers are liked the most in your target country.

For example, spiritual books can sell the best in Spain, while in Sweden thriller stories are what people like the most. So you need to localize your product offerings, too.

And don't forget to offer preferred payment options.

While in the UK people like to use their credit card during online shopping, but in the Benelux people like to transfer their money directly from their bank account. All in all, try to find the best tone and technical solutions that your target audience is used to.

Jason Ehmke, Senior Client Data Analyst, AddShoppers.com

Regionalize your content. Some styles or colors won't be as popular in one country as they are in another.

Some colors have a very different meaning in another country. Do your research and make sure what you're presenting is applicable to the audience in the country you're expanding to.

Work Out the Economics

James Brown, Client Engagement Manager, RANDEM

Before you pull the trigger, ensure you have worked out all the economics of selling your products in the new territory, and that these economics –– along with currency exchange rate risk –– are sufficiently favourable so that you will remain profitable and successful.

Many businesses who have had much success on their home turf have gone on to replicate their success with customers abroad, resulting in great sales figures, but have nonetheless gone broke, as the cost of serving these customers turned out too heavy for even their local sales to support.

Bill Bailey CEO, Nodal Ninja

Watch your analytics and know which countries are driving the most traffic. Work to overcome language barriers through translation helpers and use currency conversions.

Look for potential distributors in your target countries.

Customers prefer to buy locally, as it is much more convenient. Value Added Tax (VAT) and shipping can be very high in some countries.

Consider offering added discounts or promotions to help offset these added costs without sacrificing too much loss in profit. A little profit is better than no profit. Soon one person will tell another and so on.

Understand Regional Customer Expectations

Ross Simmonds, Founder, Foundation Marketing

Finding success on an international scale isn't an easy task. It's easy to simply put up a Facebook post and change your currency settings to announce your launch, but it needs to be more intentional than that.

  • Spend time understanding the customs of the new places in which you're looking to target.
  • Take time to understand what networks they're using on a more regular basis.
  • Establish a launch strategy that ensures that when you do make that first initial push into a new country –– the audience you're looking to target within it has no choice but to listen.

One simple tactic that can be a game changer for international expansion is partnering up with brands, writers, media outlets or influencers who have a following in that particular space. Collaborate with them to create a launch story that they know their audience will love and find authentic.

Josh Mendelsohn, VP Marketing, Privy

Do your homework first! Make sure you know exactly how you will fulfill international orders and what that does to your margin before you start selling. And if you're creating multi-lingual product pages, use a professional translator who will make sure you avoid any unintended mistakes.

Kaleigh Moore, Freelance Writer

Make sure UX remains positive for international customers.

That might mean doing focus group work or having an extended beta test to be sure you get things right. You only have one chance to wow a new customer, so you have to get this right.

Jamie Turner: Author, Speaker and CEO, 60SecondMarketer.com

If you're a brand that plans to expand internationally, there are two important things you should keep in mind.

The first is that we're all the same. And the second is that we're all different.

What do I mean by that? I mean that:

  1. We're all human beings and human beings behave similarly across all borders.
  2. Your brand has to act like a local no matter what country you're doing business in.

In other words, we all behave the same (when it comes to buying products) and we'll buy more of your products if you act like a local.

David Feng, Co-Founder and Head of Product, Reamaze

Understand local markets by researching purchasing trends and advertising trends.

Identify cultural and sub-cultural phenomenons so you can take advantage of them while relating effectively to local social crazes.

Understand international shipping and payment policies and how they will affect your (and your customers') costs.

Plan your localization, if applicable, and put a structured plan in place to adapt your product, team and workflows. Stick to all of the above.

Erik Christiansen, CEO, Justuno

Focus on personalization. Deliver personalized messages by understanding WHO your visitors are. One method to achieve this is by leveraging geo-targeting to deliver messages in a different language or show specific offers to visitors from different locations.

Sweta Patel, Director of Demand Generation, Cognoa

I would say test an area before you establish the product globally. You want to know which areas will dominate when it comes to selling your product.

For example, one startup which entailed a provider and a consumer side started with their providers in certain areas first.

Once they had their providers set in the specific areas, they started creating demand in those areas. Make sure you validate your market before you deploy globally.

The Timing Must Be Right

Christopher Cowden, Director of Operations, Grace and Lace

Make sure your timing is right.

If you have solid momentum with your core region, then looking internationally may make sense to you. Same advice as before, get counsel. Find experts who have already paid the price of making the mistakes you need to make to be successful.

Doug Root, CEO & Website Guy, Atlanta Light Bulbs

Test the waters in Canada, Mexico and places nearby. International customers have their challenges. We do a lot of international business and we use a quote system and make direct contact before closing the deal.

Unfortunately there is a lot of fraud out there, so make sure you have the checks in place on accepting credit cards.

We offer Canada & Mexico the ability to purchase with credit cards, but outside of that it is wire transfer only.

Greg Johnston, Managing Director, Be A Part Of

I would just say, make sure to have your home country perfected and solid before expanding.

Expansion brings many twists and turns, border fees etc... unless you are expanding to the U.S., as a U.S. business you are in the biggest market possible.

Make it work there first....perfectly.

Use Marketplaces + Local Partners

James Thomson, President, PROSPER Show

Think Tmall in China -- biggest consumer channel in China, and the marketplace helps brands to protect their content.

Donald Pettit, Sales & Partners Manager, SalesWarp

Do your homework, and find a local partner. Identify cultural trends, recognize buyer expectations and gain an understanding of the customer buying journey.

A partner can provide these crucial insights and help you to avoid any cultural misinterpretations.

There's nothing more cringe-inducing than to find a piece of content that wasn't sensitive to the nuances of its intended audience. A local partner can help avoid these embarrassments.  

Jason Boyce, Co-founder & CEO, Dazadi

Expanding internationally using an online marketplace's infrastructure, like Amazon FBA, is a great way to learn what customers in other countries like to buy from your catalog.

It's a low-cost intelligence-gathering source that will save you a lot of heartache, because different cultures like different things.

Lastly, if you are selling other people's brands, make sure to speak to those brands about whether you have the rights to sell in foreign lands. It will be painful if you land a bunch of inventory only to find that someone else has the exclusive selling rights in your new territory.

Remember: Global Shipping is Hard

Aaron Houghton, Co-Founder and CEO, BoostSuite

Shipping consistency and speed will be your number one biggest hurdle as you figure out how to acquire customers in new countries.

Test shipping a few of your trickiest products to friends or family in a few countries before opening up sales to those countries through your online store.

Harrison Dromgoole, Content Creator, Ordoro

One of the most significant hurdles to selling globally is shipping. It’s complicated enough domestically, even more so internationally.

To ease up on the process and cut down on your shipping workflow, look for shipping software that can autofill customs forms or route orders to international 3PLs (third-party logistics providers) if you’re tapping them for fulfillment.

Ed Lasher, Marketing Guy, Bob Johnson's Computer Stuff, Inc.

Be careful.

Plan ahead for increased shipping rates and make sure to check for any country-specific regulations or restrictions that might prevent your product from being delivered, even if you sell something you think is innocuous.

Did you know you can't ship calendars to Malaysia, shoes to Nigeria or yarn to Italy?

Rupert Cross, Digital Director, 5874

It’s important not to jump too far ahead and be too ambitious –– not everything will sell in all countries.

Don’t overprice shipping as this is a quick way to lose customers –– localised site needs localised shipping.

It’s also important you get your translations right. Customer service via Google Translate isn’t great, so it’s best to hire a freelancer. It’s not as expensive as you might think and will improve your visits and sales dramatically.

We recommend using a PIMS system to save time and effort with product listings and sync stock.

The International Expansion Playbook

What if you are ready to invest in international expansion and localization to own a brand new market long before your competitors?

That’s what this guide will teach you to do.

Want more insights like this?

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Table of Contents

IntroThe Complete Cross-Border Ecommerce Guide to Growing Sales in APAC, Europe, The Middle East & Latin America
Chapter 1 Cross-Border Commerce 101: The History, The Lingo, The $900B Opportunity
Chapter 2 How 3 Brands Conquered Global Markets with Localized Websites
Chapter 3 The Cross Border Ecommerce Checklist
Chapter 4 12 Common Mistakes When Selling Across Borders
Chapter 5 The Tools You Need to 10X Your International Revenue
Chapter 6 How Worldwide Consumer Preferences Determine Your Global Ecommerce Strategy (Alipay, COD, Lazada)
Chapter 7 International Ecommerce Strategy: How to Market, Scale and Win at Every Stage
Chapter 8 Your Quick Start Guide to Cross-Border Ecommerce in China, India & The Middle East
Chapter 9 The Complete List: All 49+ Global Marketplaces
Chapter 10 32 Ecommerce Experts Give Their #1 Piece of Advice on International Ecommerce