The world has become increasingly dependent on technology. The Internet has become the preferred avenue for conducting business. With mobile technology expected to grow exponentially over the next 5 years, setting a goal to start a successful online business is a great idea.
The Internet attracts 3.5 Billion users every day. If you want a successful online business, you should know whom to market to. It may seem obvious to market to English-speaking countries since everyone on earth must speak the language, right?
Here’s a bit of trivia that may change your way of thinking: How many online shoppers speak English? According to J.P Morgan’s report for the Department of Commerce, only 27% of online shoppers speak English. Thus by not considering non-English speaking markets in your online business development strategies, you are potentially undercutting yourself a windfall of revenues.
For purposes of comparison, let’s examine consumer spending patterns on eCommerce websites.
A study conducted by research firm PWC identified the top 5 countries with the highest percentage of monthly online shoppers in 2015:
- China – 96%
- Germany – 81%
- UK – 81%
- India – 78%
- United States – 72%
A study by German research firm Statista revealed the top 5 countries with the highest annual online spending per consumer in 2015 as follows:
- Hong Kong – $2,868
- Norway – $2,448
- Israel – $2,171
- United States – $1,757
- Denmark – $1,744
Despite its comparatively low rankings, the United States is still a major market for online businesses. It spent $341 Billion in online purchases in 2015, an increase of 14.6% over 2014 figures. But, it falls way behind China which recorded online purchases of $589 Billion in the same period.
Does this mean that the almighty US Dollar is not as powerful as it once was? No. What these numbers mean is that if you want to start a successful online business, you have to target a truly global audience!
Here are 8 tips on how to make your online business go global:
1. Start Out Small
Identify no more than 2 markets to target at the start. It may not be a good idea to go for the big fishes like China and the United States right away. You could consider smaller markets such as Brazil and Switzerland with only 65% and 56% of monthly online shoppers respectively.
The idea is to test and fine tune your approach. It’s better to make mistakes with smaller markets than with larger markets.
2. Conduct Extensive Research
Learn as much as you can about the countries you are marketing your online business to. Research on their cultural behaviors, traits, practices and traditions.
Keep yourself updated on current trends in their market such as famous celebrities, fashion, lifestyles, music, lingo and expressions. The more you know about the market, the easier you’ll identify changes in consumer behavior.
3. Keep Track of Trends But Don’t Jump on Them
Trends aren’t what they used to be. Because everyone with an Internet service has access to a wealth of information, trends, demand patterns and spending behaviors are more difficult to identify.
For example, if you’re planning to market your online business to the Asia-Pacific, the following items were selling the fastest in 2015:
- Consumer Electronics – 69%
- Books – 67%
- Clothing and Apparel – 63%
Demand for these items are only separated by a few percentage points. More online businesses are expected to enter these markets.
So why not focus on lesser developed markets such as:
- Household Goods – 38%
- Office Supplies – 30%
- Consumer Packaged Goods – 28%
There could be room to grow and competition may not be as fierce.
4. Create a Development Time-Table
A development time-table is a flow chart of your business goals and objectives. A development time-table gives you the following benefits:
- Gives you a blueprint to follow
- Keeps you focused
- Becomes a reference guide for budgetary purposes
- Allows you to target dates for expansion plans
- Increases productivity
5. Take the Time to Learn the Language
It may seem taking the concept of global business too far forward, but why would it be far-fetched to learn their language?
For example, you could initially learn Portuguese as you explore the potential opportunities in Brazil. But you should look at your development time-table and see how far off you are to China before you learn Chinese.
As a matter of fact, take it up another notch and visit the country itself. It will give you a better perspective on how the people are like. It will help you plan the format and content of your website for a specific region in the world.
6. Do a Comparative Study on Your Competition
As part of research you should also conduct a comparative study of your competition. Find out what they are doing to attract more patrons. What products and services are they offering? Are they catering only to specific niches? How does their website and social media sites look like?
Learning what your competition is doing will give you a better idea on what ideas are working well with the market and which ones aren’t.
7. Build a Team of Right- Fit People
Running an online business is a venture you should not do alone. There are several moving parts on this potential revenue generation machine.
You need to get good, right-fit people onboard to make sure it doesn’t stall. Among the people you need are the following:
- Web Designer / Developer
- Digital Marketer
- SEO Professional
- Content Writer
It will take a team to get your online business places. Qualify each candidate carefully and hire those you can comfortably work with.
8. Customize Your Online Marketing Efforts
Marketing today is less about pushing your products and services out there and more of pulling interest in.
Online marketing uses strategies and processes that are designed to entice prospective end users to your website. The cornerstone of online marketing is content.
- 77% of Internet users read content every day
- 23% of Internet time is spent reading blogs
- 61% of consumer decisions are influenced by a blog or a post
Once you’ve identified your target markets and have done comprehensive research on the intended demographic, customize your content toward them.
Have your website developer make content translatable to 2-3 foreign languages. Hire content writers that can write relevant, usable and engaging blogs and articles. Your digital marketer should schedule postings according to peak social media hours in the target regions.
We live in a global economy and regardless of how the new political regimes try to impose inward-bound foreign policy, globalization is the new economy. It’s too big, vast and powerful to be mitigated by even the largest economies of the world. Put simply, if you don’t push your online business to a global audience, you lose out on a vast resource of revenue- generating opportunities.
Felix Tarcomnicu works with the outsourcing company Smart Virtual Assistant. He helps small businesses find remote workers at affordable costs.