With the acceleration of DTC eCommerce during and after the pandemic, retailers have seen huge growth in online revenues from core markets - with many seeing major opportunities in looking across borders and growing into international markets. Entering new markets is never easy, however.
What should you prepare? What are the quick wins? What are the common issues faced when expanding overseas?
Before driving international traffic, it is important to ensure that your site is ready to service users in the targeted regions and gives international users a positive customer experience. The key factors that should be considered are explored below and once these have been considered, you can certainly begin to acquire paid traffic.
Content for international users should be carefully considered to ensure that it is as relevant as possible. Depending on the countries you are looking to expand to, this could range from linguistic differences to different seasonal trends, promotions and bestsellers.
For example, Singles Day and Thanksgiving are not promotions you would want to run across all regions, but it would significantly impact performance if competitors engage in these promotions and you don’t.
Another example would be merchandising best sellers or seasonal products. For fashion brands, it is important to take into consideration seasonality of products and how this varies around the globe. In Australia, AW and SS collections will likely need to be timed differently throughout the year.
Specific promotional calendars for different regions are also important to consider, with local sites needing to be merchandised towards regional dates in the calendar. Examples include Three Kings Day in Spain, Ramadan in MENA, and Click Frenzy in Australia.
Preferred payment methods can vary from country to country, making it very important to ensure that users can pay the way they want to. Resources such as ePayments can help research which payment methods are important to offer for the new countries you are looking to target.
You should also consider how important it is to offer the primary payment methods, for example, not offering cash on delivery in the UAE is a much bigger barrier than not offering iDEAL in the Netherlands where users are still relatively happy to checkout with a debit or credit card.
Some common examples of international payment nuances include:
% of cash on delivery in Middle East markets
Rakuten pay in Japan
Klarna in Scandinavia
Afterpay in Australia
Clear communication for delivery and duties costs, as well as timing, is vital for a good international user experience. Ideally avoid lengthy delivery times and surprise duties on delivery, and build these duties into the pricing of the products.
There are many great examples of how this can be communicated clearly to an international user with all the pre-purchase information for duties and shipping costs clear before the checkout. Woolrich, LN-CC, and Tag Heuer all have clear information for delivery and returns on product pages, and make it clear that duties and taxes are included. Post purchase communication is also key, keeping users up to date with the location of their package and any delays should they occur.
Similarly to payment methods, it’s important to consider which currencies users will be happy to transact with. Some currencies such as USD and EUR open up a wide range of countries to target, whereas DKK only opens up Denmark. Looking at brand search volumes by country and session data in GA can help to prioritise which countries offer the biggest opportunities and grouping these countries by currency can show which should be a priority to add to your site.
Once you’ve established that your site is ready for international markets, it’s time to build a strategy for paid media and performance marketing. When building a case for international expansion through paid, there are indicators which can help guide you.
Using the Geo view on Google Analytics is extremely helpful for this. Looking back with a month-on-month, quarterly or even year-on-year view will bring opportunities to light. This can help inform which regions, countries or cities are best placed to venture first.
Once you have discovered this, it is worth investigating if there are any market nuances. This could come in the form of a dominant market language or countries which have multiple languages.
Some territories also have unique platforms (Yandex in Russia, for example) and dominant platforms (France is the largest user of Snapchat in the EU).
After these considerations have been evaluated, then there’s consideration about which platforms to use. At Vervaunt, we’d recommend using, as standard, Facebook and Instagram alongside Google Search and Shopping. This is typically where you’d expect to capture a large base of a new country. As mentioned above, also consider other relevant platforms such as Snapchat, Tik Tok and Pinterest.
The typical social channels of Facebook and Instagram can be a fantastic way to maximise traffic and users to your site within a new market. Traffic focused campaigns often hold a far lower CPC or CPM than paid search. In some cases, like that of Snapchat and Tik Tok, CPM’s are even lower than Facebook and Instagram, and so is certainly an area to consider.
Some of our recommendations for a standard paid social strategy for new markets include:
DABA (Dynamic Ads for Broad Audiences) - In line with Facebook’s best practice, DABA has become increasingly effective for Vervaunt. Using the Facebook catalogue, it shows an ad to a user based on similar brands they have engaged with. It typically uses a variety of products but you can also create product sets for certain colours, best sellers or sale items. This is typically a prospecting strategy and can be great for acquiring new customers in new markets.
Localised Interests - Although Facebook is moving towards broad delivery (no specific targeting), using interests can be helpful in new territories for being efficient with spend. Furthermore, doing your research and ensuring you are being relevant with your interests is also key. For example, in the UK, we could use John Lewis but this wouldn’t apply in the US. We can therefore ask ourselves, what’s the US equivalent?
City Level Targeting - Similar to localised interests, city level targeting is another tool to be more efficient. This works particularly well in the US. Due to the size and complexity, using city level targeting helps concentrate spend to busier, metropolitan areas.
Lookalikes from Core Markets - By the time you come to internationalise further, your core markets will probably have solid first party data, along with web visit and engagement audience lists. Using lookalikes of core markets audiences will allow Facebook to find similar (lookalike) customers in new territories.
Dynamic Product Targeting - These ad types work in the opposite way to DABA. Instead of serving relevant products to new users, it serves products to those who have already viewed one on site or within the store pages. This makes sure you are maximising efficiency of spend in new markets and not losing customers who have engaged but not purchased.
Lead Generation - We are all seeing the impacts of iOS changes across the entire digital space and because of this, the collection of first party data is crucial. A fantastic way to achieve high lead volume, particularly in new territories, is to run competitions. The proposition can be simple, “win a free…” “sign up for a chance..”, but the results can be dramatic. We’ve found that the cost per lead can typically be below 30p and the volume of leads can reach over 1,000. This will also help feed remarketing pools.
Paid search, usually across Google, is a standard strategy for presenting your products to those in a new market who are actively searching for your brand or product. Some of our recommendations for a typical search strategy include:
Brand Demand and Awareness - Branded keywords are a nice way to initially plan and forecast your spend. Furthermore, as the impact of paid social traffic increases, there’s usually a correlation between an uplift in branded searches. Over time, it provides an indicator of scale.
Start In English - Not every client has a translated site or has access to a local language speaker or translator. Running ads in English initially is a good place to start. The only area to be aware of is to ensure that language targeting settings are set to English. This means it will only target those with Google set to English.
Dynamic Search Ads - This format uses the URLs from a website to create specific ad copy on Google. By doing this, it creates highly tailored and product specific ads. As a result, you pick up longer tail generic search terms. This will help capture further traffic.
Value Based Bidding - Google’s algorithm is becoming increasingly intelligent. It has far more scope of market indicators, user intent and journey than we can possibly see in a full working day. Let Google do the heavy lifting by utilising target CPA, max conversions, impression share, target ROAS - to name a few.
Supporting your search campaigns with a shopping offering is an area which we champion, not only in new markets, but across all strategies. Supporting a search ad with the shopping carousel helps solidify a brand in the top-of-page placement. It also helps to keep competitors out of the space, creating a fuller customer experience.
Once you have coverage, there are a number of strategic wins you can deploy:
Best Sellers Feed - Using Google analytics, you can identify the top selling products in your core markets.
Overlaying Data of Products Bought by First Time Users - Presenting this in your shopping feed will theoretically help convert prospects.
Use Smart Shopping - Smart Shopping uses value based bidding (Google’s automation), auction level bids and customer signals to determine when to push a product to a user. It also factors in first party data (such as emails lists) to help provide a strong remarketing offering. It allows us to focus on longer term strategy and allows Google to carry out the day-to-day optimisations.
Underinvestment in Traffic and Brand Awareness - The KPIs associated with awareness and traffic can often be met with a restricted budget due to the return on investment they provide (typically minimal). In line with marketing trends, telling a brand story and investing in the top-of-funnel piece is going to be crucial, even for the core markets.
Not Localising Interests - We touched upon this earlier, but time and research needs to be invested in to identify market interests, brands and demographic behaviours. It should not be a case of copy and pasting an existing country campaign into another.
Incorrect Pixel Tracking - A Facebook pixel allows events (purchases, product views, add to cart) to be tracked within the Facebook Ads manager. It gives us the opportunity to optimise our social campaigns toward different objectives. However, a pixel can only be applied per domain. Often, there are issues with international domains whereby the pixel is not implemented properly or the UK pixel, for example, is being used internationally. This leads to either a lag in tracking or incorrect tracking of results.
Scraping Issues - Google can be very inconsistent from where it scrapes your site from. One instance might be India, the other could be the US. This can sometimes impact the approval of products as it sees the wrong products due to the IP it is looking from.
Mismatched Currencies - With new currencies come a different range of values for your products. It’s easy to duplicate a shopping campaign across and change the country targeting. However, the GBP pricing wouldn’t match an EUR store and would therefore be disapproved.
Out of Stock Products - Similar to price, mapping the availability for a specific country store incorrectly can also lead to mass disapproval in the merchant centre.
Overestimating Brand Awareness - One tricky area which many paid media specialists run into is overestimating the brand and brand awareness. When it comes to forecasting, it can be easy to assume a similar level of brand performance as your core markets. However, there needs to be considerable investment into awareness to fuel brand efficiency.
Linking to Incorrect Subdomains - If your site is structured across different sub-domains, ensuring that all of the keyword/ad URLs are all directed to the correct one is crucial from a user journey perspective. Sometimes this can be overlooked.
Inconsistencies with Languages - Not having consistency between the language settings for your campaigns and the ad copy can lead to a negative customer journey and weaker CTR. Make sure you are targeting English ads to English user settings and local languages for localised ads.
What can you prioritise to make sure your new paid media markets are efficient? What are the quick wins, and tips and tricks?
Currency URL Parameter - depending on how your site is structured, you can force the currency by appending the URL of your shopping feed etc with ‘?currency=EUR’. This will help solve the issue of Google scraping the wrong price.
Google Partner Translations - This is a free service which is given to Google partners. They will translate any given English campaign to a chosen language. This can then be uploaded into Ads Editor. However, although this is free, if possible, we’d recommend using an outsourced translation service as they can be more accurate.
UTM Targeting on Facebook - The measurement of revenue for platforms such as TikTok can be difficult. However, if you correctly set your UTM tagging in place, you can use this to create a specific audience for FB. For example, the audience could be made of users who visited any web page containing ‘tiktok_cpc’. Not only will this help grow your remarketing pool, but it helps quantify (to an extent) the revenue generated from those users.
Automation (Google) - This has been highlighted on a few occasions, but let Google do the heavy lifting. Although the algorithm is a bit of a black box, using the target CPA, ROAS, and Impression Share goals helps you focus on the strategy rather than manual bid adjustments.
Test and Learn - Finding what works and what doesn’t across the entire user journey is fantastic for informing strategic direction. What landing pages work well for new customer acquisition vs an existing customer? How will your email flows differ per market and at each funnel stage?
Collect Insight from Customers - Collecting feedback from customers is a great way to identify any pain points in the purchase journey and also understand which channels are helping you acquire new customers. Our Census Shopify App can help with both user feedback and attribution
Exploring new markets can be exponentially rewarding for your brand, but it needs time and investment in order to make it work. You shouldn’t overestimate the amount of work needed to build out a paid media strategy for a new international market, and you need to make sure your site is ready for any traffic driven by paid media.
If you need any help with your internationalisation and want to discuss your strategy with our team, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and have a chat or get in touch at [email protected]