Why businesses must look to localise when scaling their e-commerce performance in the current Covid-impacted environment.
As cross-border e-commerce boomed during the last decade, most vendors thought it was enough to calculate a shipping price for a new market, make sure it had the physical capacity to ship there, and simply switch the site on.
But as online consumers the world over have become more savvy about their shopping online, their demands for a satisfying customer experience have grown louder, and many are pivoting towards e-commerce solutions that speak their own language - both figuratively and practically.
According to findings from CSA Research, 78 percent of online shoppers are more likely to make a purchase on online stores that are localised (1). “Businesses that sell products or services in English to non-native English speakers have a better chance of converting the majority of online shoppers if their website is localised instead.”
And surprisingly, it doesn't matter how good communities are at speaking English when it is not their native language - most shoppers still prefer their own mother tongue online. Education First found that in Sweden – home of one of the best non-native English speaking communities worldwide – more than 80 per cent of online shoppers prefer to make a purchase in their own language.
Techsembly, the multi-store e-commerce & marketplace Software as a Service (SaaS) solution, tailors the global e-commerce presence for smart companies that want to scale globally, yet remain relevant to local markets they operate in. Techsembly believes that to cut through to foreign customers and gain their trust and loyalty, e-commerce operators must personalise the content based on their preferences. And language is just the first step of many in a successful implementation of that strategy.
“Localisation shouldn't be an after-thought, it needs to be an intrinsic part of your strategy,” explains Amy Read, CEO & Co-founder of Techsembly. “In today's world if you don't localise, you are effectively leaving up to 70 percent of sales on the table for your competitor.”
Going local means providing buyers a level of familiarity. Vendors should localise each and every aspect of the buying experience - from currency, prices, payment methods, website language and messaging interactions through to local time zones, dates and contact phone numbers. Even the use of graphics will impact people differently according to their home market.
“Tailor to the local buyer journey,” Varun Sedov, director of Content Marketing Consulting (CMC), recently wrote online: “Content consumption habits are hugely varied across regions in terms of preferences in both formats and channels.”
A CMC study found, for example, that 60 percent of respondents from Asia Pacific said they were likely to engage with infographics, a similar rate to the 58 percent of Europe, Middle East and Africa, yet that figure was just 47 percent in North America.
“Tech vendors must not only understand the unique format preferences in different regions but also the most effective channels through which to distribute content.”
The patriotic customer
The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic has spurred campaigns in many markets around the world to encourage people to buy local, a move which fuelled the rise of the so-called “patriotic consumer’.
People in markets like Australia and the Philippines, where either organised buy-local campaigns have been launched or politicians or industry groups have openly urged consumers to support local companies, will still shop overseas for products they perceive as better quality, unique or which are simply unavailable from local sources. But they have become subconsciously tuned to seek an experience they believe is localised, or personalised to their needs.
That has become a key reason for retailers to embrace local pricing, local delivery rules, local language and - put simply - a shopping experience which seems relevant to them.
There are few things more frustrating when shopping online than to find a perfect product on a site like Amazon, for example, only to see a notice declaring it is “not available for shipment to your country”.
If you are providing a marketplace or brand-exclusive online shopping portal open to consumers in multiple countries, it is essential that you ensure each country site offers only products that can be bought from and shipped to that market. Inventories must also be clearly managed across those multiple sites to ensure stock is always available for each relevant market.
Covid-19 has redefined the term ‘love local’ according to Ben Lazzaro, CEO of the not-for-profit Australian Made Campaign, who has been working with Australian B2B wholesale marketplace TradeSquare which launched in the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The pandemic very quickly highlighted our over-reliance on imported products,” he said. “I think it brought home to a lot of us that the way we choose to spend our money can have an impact on Australia’s self-sufficiency as well as our economic future.”
Facebook commissioned a study from Kantar Profiles between May and August last year questioning nearly 100,000 consumers in 16 markets in Europe, the Americas and Australia, along with Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, India, and Taiwan in Asia. It found that two-thirds of consumers said they had taken some measure to support a small, local business, such as making a special effort to buy from one or or respond to a promotion on social media.
“Brands and retailers can encourage loyalty by supporting local businesses and communities with a “glocal” (global and local) focus,” the research concluded. “As consumers have seen the pandemic’s economic effect, many have shifted focus to keeping small businesses in their communities afloat.”
There is a danger in thinking the push for localisation will wane when the pandemic eventually disappears. But as with many practices that have become more commonplace over the past 12 months - like Zoom calls in place of physical meetings and working from home - people appear more confident and comfortable shopping online now than they did before Covid-19’s debut.
Surveys suggest that the adoption of online shopping, and its share of the total retail pie, have accelerated during that time to reach levels previously predicted for three to five years into the future. Most retail analysts around Asia Pacific believe that trend will not reverse, that new consumer behaviour patterns will remain. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like H&M and Zara are recognising that, suspending store rollout ambitions and in some cases beginning to permanently close stores, focusing on a sophisticated, engaging online shopping solution instead.
David Pidgeon, chief operating officer at Redtag, an online accommodation and travel comparison site, recently wrote that customer expectations will continue to rise around the world as more and more consumers embrace online shopping, and become more confident and selective in the sites they custom.
“People will expect better service, faster delivery times, a more engaging environment, and a seamless shopping experience, and 2021 will witness a rise in technologies that continue to enhance the customer experience,” he said.
If you are an online retailer, you must by now face up to the challenge: Is your website engaging with customers in a way that recognises them as unique shoppers as if you are based in their own country?
Are you thinking locally as you scale globally?
It may well be time to contact Techsembly and learn about solutions that allow you to do exactly that - seamlessly, cost-effectively and reliably.