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Absolutely any brand of any size can go global. For many, it is as simple as setting up the backend of your site to allow for international currencies and shippers.

Here's how it works on BigCommerce, for instance:

In fact, many brands are pushed into international ecommerce rather than actually seeking it out. Someone finds you online, wants to buy an item and suddenly you’re shipping your goods to the UK rather than to Arizona.

But the stories you’ll find below aren’t just about an accidental expansion into a new region. Though those random international purchases can guide you to which regions may be best for you to expand, it is important to have a holistic strategy around cross-border expansion.

Why?

Because you have the opportunity to scale and grow your brand in a new international market –– one that may potentially be in lack of your particular niche.

This means increased sales and revenue far beyond the one-off customer request. Who doesn't want that?

A strategy is the only way you will successfully accomplish this.

Too many brands launch into a new market without having done their competitive and cultural research or website localization updates.

We’ll talk through all of those in this guide, but first, let’s see how 3 various brands successfully expanded — and what we can learn from their ecommerce localization efforts.

First and foremost, what is clearly most important to succeed in a new, global market, is to deliver localized information for:

  1. Currency: Showing customers prices in their own currency
  2. Customer service: Offering customer service in their own language
  3. Language: Offering a dedicated site in their own language (or having a multilingual website)
  4. Payment method: Offering payment methods most used and trusted in their region
  5. Shipping expectations: Transparency around shipping expectations, including any duties and tariffs.
  6. Social media: Social media and site content will need to reflect their cultural norms, including dress, holidays, climate and more. 

Here is how 3 brands, from a small business to an enterprise organization, found success abroad using the website localization process and tactics above.

Some of this could require a localization service, but some brands are lucky enough to have all the pieces in-house to build beautifully localized websites.

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.

O Boticario: Sniffing Out New Markets

O Boticario is Brazil’s second largest cosmetic company, and the world’s largest perfumery and cosmetics franchising network. The brand has more than 4,000 stores across Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, the United States, Paraguay, Japan, France and Venezuela.

While O Boticario continues to grow their brick-and-mortar and wholesale footprint across the globe, their online global expansion into already competitive arenas –– like the United States where brands like Avon and Natura have large market share –– is done with tremendous amounts of care and precision.

For all three of their cross-border commerce regions (U.S. Portuguese-speaking and Spanish-speaking), O Boticario is demonstrating just how to go global by localizing sites for SEO, sharing content across them for increased productivity and using analytics to further customize merchandise for the specific audiences down the road.

Ditching the copy & paste method

When it comes to brand-owned channels like their .com, pt. and es. sites, O Boticario is setting the mark in ecommerce website localization. From translations and localized content to unique merchandising based on consumer shopping habits in each location, the brand is providing immersive digital experiences that speak to local consumers.

Tailoring content and media by market

Effective website localization goes beyond just product selection. Consumers, across all markets, demand to see content and media that they can relate to. When your brand understands this, you’ll be able to create templated websites that follow a single format, but that can house new blends of content by market.

Here is how O Boticario accomplishes this.

O Boticario U.S.

O Boticario Spanish-speaking

O Boticario Portuguese-speaking

Understanding that customer service is king

Don’t forget to include localized language-based answers to frequently asked questions, contact forms in the correct language and more.

O Boticario does this well, allowing customers to find the answers they need without losing anything in translation.

Spanish contact page.

English FAQ page

Fully translated product information

Taking the extra time to fully translate product information means building increased trust with local shoppers that may have concerns regarding color, size, fabric and other key factors that go into the development of a product.

Plus, localized product page content helps your product pages rank for SEO in the regions you’re trying to earn net new audiences.

See below how O Boticario translates all product page information for their localized audiences.

English product page information

Spanish product page information

Portuguese product page information

The last thing you want to do is use a third-rate translation service or agency. Make sure that content is written by native speakers, with an additional proofreader to make sure your brand isn’t misrepresented in another language.

Seamless checkout

O Boticario uses First Data’s payment gateway on all three sites to collect transactional data holistically. First Data allows for global payments and syncs with hundreds of payment methods across the globe.

Better yet, First Data offers the Clover POS for brick-and-mortar stores to keep inventory up to date across all properties.

Above is the backend of BigCommerce and the toggle you use to switch on your preferred payment gateway for your customers on localized storefronts. 

Keeping social in mind

Be sure to localize your social media accounts for your new locations as well. Below, you can see O Boticario’s new U.S.-based Instagram account.

Vivino: Wine Delivery for Every Corner of the Globe

Founded in 2009, Vivino is an online review and marketplace for wine globally. With more than 3 million wines listed, nearly 7 million users and office locations in Denmark, the U.S., Ukraine and India, Vivino is one of the largest wine databases and companies in the world.

The company began as a simple iPhone app for Denmark residents, but quickly scaled –– realizing the opportunity for a wine ecommerce business in the process.

Only about 5% of wine sales are made online today –– but Vivino holds a large share of that market.

And, with grocery and gourmet food sales skyrocketing (and Amazon’s purchasing of Whole Foods likely to only encourage that growth), Vivino is primed for global leadership status.

This is why the brand decided to launch localized wine ecommerce sites in the UK, Belgium and The Netherlands, Italy and Spain.

These 4 markets are strategic for the brand, as they are emerging markets in gourmet and online wine ordering and delivery.

In general, Vivino excels in key areas such as:

  • Localized language and SEO
  • Localized product features and reviews
  • Presence in emerging markets

Understanding consumer preferences across borders

Vivino re-directs shoppers based on their IP address to the appropriate URL. With a dedicated digital flagship site for the Vivino community based in the U.S., the localized ecommerce sites for the emerging online wine markets further engages communities in specific locations.

This helps to ensure Vivino stays top of mind in the world’s largest wine-consuming countries.

Product pages reflect the same branded style across all the properties, but various localized media mentions are used based on the location, as well as language-specific reviews for increased trust and social proof.

“The BigCommerce design platform is extremely valuable in that it helps with localization, provides a local development environment and allows us to quickly move into markets and generate sales,” says Will Pearson, Commerce Operations Manager at Vivino.

Product pages are localized by:

  • Media mentions
  • Consumer reviews
  • Preferred wines by region
  • Psychological triggers
  • Language
  • Currency

Let’s take a look.

Vivino UK Product Page

Vivino Italy Product Page

Vivino Spain Product Page

Vivino Belgium + Netherlands Product Page

Vivino Case Study

A global strategy helps Vivino grow 200% YoY. Get more of the details here behind the technology they use to power a worldwide wine checkout.

Neon Poodle: Proving SMBs Can be Viral Sensations

Even if your business is small, you can still think very, very big. Yes, localized international domination BIG.

Neon Poodle is a great example of this. The brand launched in Australia in 2012, offering kid-friendly neon signs for interior designs.

The brand immediately took off in Australia and New Zealand, leading the founders to think much larger than Australia itself.

Today, the brand has launched a localized site in the EU and will be launching their U.S. version shortly.

The duo is a testament to how a small business can optimize for worldwide ecommerce sales, launching in one region after the next.

Here are a few things different about each localized site:

  • Products: Each site will have specific products based on the styles of each region. For the EU and U.S. markets, the founder is attending localized trade shows to determine trends, and then work with her supplier to house the warehouses in those regions for the specific goods.
  • Shipping: Various regions require different shipping methods.
  • Payments: Various regions require different payment methods.
  • Pricing: Local currencies are used.
  • Blog post content: Specific blogs for each region.

Neon Poodle AU

Neon Poodle UK/EU

Neon Poodle Case Study

Learn how 2 founders manage 3 international sites and grow their brand 232% YoY. 

Localized warehouses and trends

Sammy, co-founder of the Neon Poodle, travels consistently. One week, she is in the U.S. Another in the UK. And yet another back in Australia. This isn’t just a time-traveling habit of hers. She is on her way to various country-based trade shows to see what is trending for each individual market.

“We have warehouses in each location. One here in Europe, in Holland. One in Brisbane, soon to move to New Castle. And another in L.A. That’s our U.S. base,” says Sammy.

The brand uses BigCommerce to manage localized inventory across the board, and BigCommerce’s Ecommerce Insights to determine product market fit for each region.

“Looking through the BigCommerce analytics and Insights helps us to determine our demographic. That’s the most important. Then, based on those demographics, we target various cross-border customers on Instagram and social media,” says Jason, co-founder of Neon Poodle.

“I also use the Ecommerce Analytics to see what people are looking at. If a product's not getting as many looks as it should, I ask: ‘Is it the photo that's driving problems?’ Or, ‘Can I change the photo and then have a look to see if people are going to click on it or not?’ Or, ‘Is it the product is just not good? Do I look to remove that product and add a different one?’

“It's all about seeing the end-to-end customer flow, coming in from the specific domain they are on (relating to their region) and then all the way through to where they check out or drop off.”

BigCommerce's Ecommerce Insights tool above helps brand merchandise effectively for their localized audiences. 

Setting realistic shipping expectations for localized shoppers

When you have your own warehouses to serve the localized markets you have expanded into, you’re winning in the cross-border game.

Why?

Because like anywhere else, speed of delivery and cost of shipping are vitally important. With a local warehouse, you can pick, pack and ship cost effectively and quickly for both you and the consumer.

For Neon Poodle, the brand ships to any international locations, but only the localized regions have free shipping.

Key Takeaways for Going Global

As merchants look to new markets, it is imperative that you focus on building an organizational model that works, regardless of where you are going. Sure, localization is done country-by-country; however, the blueprint in which your team is globally distributed should be consistent and interchangeable across markets.

You can’t go without a plan. Once you have the foundation put in place, key stakeholders and a process that empowers in-market teams to work with autonomy, confidence and efficiency, you will be successful.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Don’t cheap out on supply chain: Blend analytics and operational mindsets
  • In-market specialists: Internal or external, make sure they have gone global before or are setting their sights on doing it right, right now.
  • Technology enablement: Make technology work with you, not against

Don’t cut corners on the supply chain

When rolling out a global strategy, spend extra time building a logistical foundation that can scale, much like Neon Poodle’s.

Here are a couple tips:

  • Stock Management – Understanding how to arrange your warehouse is just as important as the product you stock in it. Create efficiencies by taking an analytical approach to your warehouse blueprint. As you arrange and distribute bins, take a customer-focused approach and consider buying trends by market, creating a segment within your warehouse that mirrors how consumers shop.
  • Total Landed Costs – Always be transparent with your customer. If you do not have a localized warehouse, communicate duties and tariffs to your international shoppers up front. 

Go with those that have gone before

Investing in cross-border commerce is a huge risk.

It helps to work with professionals that have done it before and know how to execute on a localization strategy.

Whether you hire in-house, leverage external 3rd party partners, or choose to do the cross-border legwork yourself, not having global experience is a huge red flag.

Remember, though, that global experience it is not restricted to just one domain or discipline. Even bringing on an advisor, developer or specialist to help you understand the market can help alleviate bottlenecks and setbacks.

To avoid complications, make the following a requirement when evaluating talent for key roles within your cross border commerce strategy:

  • Business Affairs: Minimum of 3 to 5 years’ experience
  • Creative: Understands template design that allows for localized agility
  • Development: Has previously developed localized, multi-store websites
  • Marketing: Has an equal distribution of analytical yet creative ideation
  • Shipping: Has global experience and a firm understanding of local packaging demands

Make technology an enabler of efficiency and success

Leverage technology to automate and optimize workflows as you scale. For example, when localizing your website, build a technology infrastructure that allows your creative and marketing teams to customize by region –– but not have to deal with various image sizes and formats.

Using a SaaS platform like BigCommerce helps.

All the examples above use the same template for each region, working to localize the content rather than the look and feel. This helps to communicate holistic branding, and makes it easier on your internal teams.

Have your web designer and developer keep in mind the following:

  • Homepage – Keep the content block flexible. Make the theme easy to edit via your ecommerce CMS and allow it to be segmented by country/region (AKA multi-store).
  • Navigation – Build your site with dynamic navigation. This allows your marketing team to properly merchandise and prioritize content and product by region.
  • Publisher Friendly – Keep content publishing easy, as your teams will have to customize and modify content by location.

In the end, you’ll reduce your exposure to risk by investing in people, process and technology. And by looking at others who have already been successful in launching a cross-border commerce strategy.

In Chapter 3, we’ll get more specific about the people, process and technology your brand might need to go global right now.

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