The advent of Covid-19 has rewritten the rulebook for retailers all around the world as consumers have turned from shopping in stores to moving onto digital platforms to browse, search and buy goods.
The speedy migration of consumers online has forced brick-and-mortar retailers to re-evaluate their online solutions, by upgrading their offer, joining marketplace platforms and – in many cases – taking their first step online by opening their own-brand standalone stores.
But the most under-rated online revolution of all during the past two years is the realisation by brands that localisation is a critical tool in breaking through the online clutter as a brand and gaining a key competitive advantage over rival brands.
There are three main reasons why a brand should localise:
● If you are a multinational brand, it is the best way to compete with local incumbent online retailers.
● Consumers expect it. Data from phrase.com shows that 78 percent of customers prefer to shop locally – and even more importantly, localisation increases a site’s conversion rate by up to 70 per cent.
● Going local demonstrates respect for your customers. If you want to resonate with them, you need to appreciate their culture, speak their language and show you understand their needs.
Localising the customer experience is important to all of Techsembly’s clients – and not just apparel brands. For example, The Peninsula Hotel offers tailored e-commerce storefronts by hotel and region, aligning with different cultural needs. The hotel chain’s Hong Kong store homepage might be promoting the Mooncake festival one day, while in Paris, the home page celebrates the city of 'Love' with local content, language and product mix in support. Techsembly achieves that using a single, shared back end.
Localisation should never be an afterthought
One of the mistakes brands make when developing a localised response is to adopt a knee jerk reaction and treat it as an afterthought. In the wake of uncertainty, companies try to quickly spin off websites tailored to new regions or markets, Sometimes, a company can decide to set up a spin-off website for a specific region or market only to find the logistics model is not able to deliver the goods to the customers quick enough, or cost effectively for either vendor or buyer. In the more extreme cases when this occurs, the brand itself is damaged as customers look elsewhere for a smoother relationship instead of returning to shop again – or they move to one of the major mass marketplaces, which offer slim margins if any for the brand.
If you decide to move into a new market, do your planning properly and start planning a localised solution immediately. Start with making sure the logistics arrangements are practical, stable and cost effective. Try to gage the appetite for your product locally, will they resonate with the local audience. If you have a local team or consultants on the ground, use them to help adapt your localisation strategy, as who better to know the needs of the local market then them. Empower them to be your brand advocates, to manage your localised website and be the bridge between the global and regional teams. Employ staff who can speak and adapt content to the predominant language and nuances of the market, so you can offer advice or information to shoppers on the site, and resolve any after-sales problems smoothly.
You also need to ensure you have the budget and marketing resources to serve a new local market. For example, allocate spend for customised SEO, social-media accounts and even ambassadors or Key Opinion Leaders who resonate with the localised audience you are targeting.
Before setting out to conquer a new market, it is critical to first undertake careful research. Make sure you dedicate sufficient time and resources to understand its demographics, people’s shopping behaviour and most importantly the channels they prefer to engage on.
How far should localisation extend?
Companies who have made the strategic decision to develop local solutions must decide at the outset how far that localisation will extend. Site language, currencies, product range, different endorsers or Key Opinion Leaders, Custom shipping fees, each require careful evaluation and decision making.
Techsembly supports all of these features in its enterprise solution, but obviously it is up to each business to decide how far they localise their offer. One thing you should definitely do, however, is tailor and adapt your product offering to the needs of the local market, because what sells in one region, may not work in another. European and Asian customers can have very different tastes, for example – especially in terms of colours and branding. Offering local language and currency is very important and for optimal engagement with new customers, you should use local models and influencers – not someone who is well known in Europe or your other markets.
Customising promotions to align with local events, holidays or festivals is a great way to localise your site and boost engagement with consumers. If you cannot customise the design or ingredients of a product, look to modify packaging to engage buyers.
Last but not least, always respect diversity and be inclusive. A great example of this is Lululemon which has developed a sportswear range for women in predominantly Muslim markets which is of looser fit and includes a hijab for women.
High-end gifting portal, Gifts Less Ordinary has successfully implemented localised platforms in partnership with Techsembly, opening unique storefronts in Europe, Australia, the US, the UK and for the Rest of the World, with transactions accepted in nine different currencies. The solution works through a single centralised platform, ensuring each local storefront is tailored to the needs of local audiences, but can be managed by independent users through a single back end.
Your next step
Localisation is part of the DNA of Techsembly’s Software-as-a-Service Enterprise Solution. Our mission is to help streamline multiple sites and features into a single solution for any retailer working in multiple markets who wants to engage with local customers in their language, terms and currency. Our centralised dashboard bridges local teams together no matter where they are, to have control over their own individual website all on one Content Management System to ensure consistent branding throughout.
Our team is happy to share our experiences and talk about ways to help your company achieve a truly local online e-commerce solution no matter how diverse your international markets are.