News flash: simply having a website does not mean your online business is set up for selling to international customers!
For sure, your international customers will be able to access your website from their country. But will they do so? And if they do, are they likely to buy anything?
Probably not, if you haven’t been actively marketing to them. Because if you don’t have a presence in their country, know nothing about their market, or don’t speak their language, then they’d have very little reason to visit your website, let alone order anything from you.
A key step to successfully selling to international customers is to hence make your business known in their local market. We’ve put together six marketing tips to help you with just that as you venture abroad.
Whether you’re a new business owner running a start-up or an established entrepreneur, we’re confident you’ll learn a new trick or two as you read on!
Why make an effort to sell to international customers?
Compared to selling domestically, selling to international customers is a whole new ball game. You’d need to win over customers who may speak a different language and spend in a different currency, and ensure that your operations comply with local laws, among other issues. So in the face of these potential challenges, is it worth trying to sell internationally?
The answer is a resounding yes! That’s because:
- International customers can help you grow quicker: The more customers you sell to, the more sales you can make. Therefore, if you expand your customer base to new international markets, you stand to make more money and accelerate business growth. Bonus if you’re the sole distributor of something not readily available in the local market, such that international customers have to buy it from you if they want it.
- International customers can help you reduce risks associated with your local market: Economic slowdown can cause sales to local customers to temporarily become sluggish. Having a diversified base of customers from all over the world can help cushion the blow, as you continue to bring in healthy sales despite challenges in your home market.
- International customers can help you expand into new markets: If your business is doing well in one country, you can use that momentum to launch your product or service in new countries near it! Think of it as slowly gaining footholds abroad, where you first use your local market as a home base. Afterward, you set up shop in another country and use your presence in it to expand into neighboring countries.
What are the best marketing tactics to expand your business globally?
After establishing operations in your new market, you’ll need to market your business to start getting local customers. Here are six tactics you can add to your international marketing strategy:
1. Research your target customers and reach out to them
It’s a mistake to assume that the customers in the foreign markets share the same traits as those in your home market – because they don’t.
Every market is different, from their cultures to languages spoken, online shopping preferences, and more. You’ll need to conduct thorough market research of your new clients and customers to get a holistic view of how they think, what they value, and what would appeal to them. From there, you’ll be able to develop effective digital marketing and promotional campaigns to win them over (more on this later!)
Apart from understanding your customers, you should also strategize on how to best reach out to them. A component of your market research should therefore include a review of popular communication and sales channels in your target market, so you can promote your brand and offerings through them.
For example, while the TikTok social media app is highly popular in many parts of the world now, you’ll want to market on its Chinese equivalent, Douyin, if you’re expanding your business into China. Similarly, if you’re a retailer bringing your small business to the United States, you should definitely consider selling on the Amazon online marketplace, which dominates much of ecommerce there.
Finally, familiarize yourself with significant holidays and occasions in your target market. They’re fantastic opportunities for holding holiday-related sales and promotions!
2. Translate all customer-facing brand assets and content
No business effort will bear fruit if your target audience can’t understand what you’re selling. So, smash potential language barriers by translating all customer-facing brand assets and content. These include your:
- Product catalogs
- Price lists
- Sales decks
- Knowledge base (support documentation)
You could hire expert translators to translate all such collateral – though this could cause your translation project to become very expensive. A cheaper alternative would be to manually translate your content in-house. However, this approach is time-consuming, and you also run a high risk of committing translation errors if none of your staff is familiar with the target language.
Our preferred approach is to use machine translation, which involves leveraging sophisticated machine learning technology to automatically translate large volumes of text. Weglot offers a solution that can help you to translate any website. It’s easy to use and offers automatic content detection for producing high-quality translations in real time, among other benefits. (We’ll share more details on these later!)
3. Localize your website
Translating your website is a good first step to helping your local audience better appreciate your brand and offerings. However, you should also localize it – in other words, adapt its language, design, and cultural elements for the local context.
For example, you can tweak the copy on your website to include local dialects, slang, and references. Where appropriate, you can also update your website images to display local icons and elements that your target audience will immediately recognize.
Some other things you can do to provide website visitors with a localized website experience are:
- Test your localized web pages. Recruit local tester groups to review and provide feedback on your localized website content before you make it public.
- Add a language switcher to your website. With it, customers can conveniently view your web pages in their preferred language.
- Display your product prices in the local currency. This way, customers will know exactly how much your products will cost them without needing to do troublesome currency conversions first.
- Support international payment options. Some payment methods enjoy higher usage in some countries than others. Where possible, try to allow customers to make payments with popular payment methods in their area.
- Publish help pages in the local language. To facilitate the best customer experience, you can also hire local customer representatives to answer support requests in your customers’ native tongue.
- Implement hreflang tags on your website. These code snippets help search engines serve the appropriate language versions of your web pages to searchers from different countries.
- Translate your SEO keywords. If you’ve generated SEO keywords for content marketing operations in your home country, you may be able to translate, localize, and accordingly reuse these keywords for international searches. We break down exactly how to do this in 4 easy steps:
4. Set up promotions and offers
Dangling enticing offers is an effective method of attracting customers in a new market. For example, you can:
- Launch promotions such as a “buy one, get one free” offer, or an exclusive 25% discount for new customers.
- Hold a giveaway where people can stand to win attractive prizes after shopping with you or following you on social media.
- Provide free shipping to customers who hit a certain minimum order amount.
You’ll also need to market your promotions, so publicize them on the channels that people in your target audience frequently use. (The market research you’ve conducted will come in handy here!)
Partnerships with local influencers can also help your promotional campaigns reach more potential customers. For maximum return on investment, however, work only with influencers whose audience is likely to be interested in your offerings. Their audiences need not be extremely sizable – it’s their quality that counts!
5. Showcase local social proof
Customers are more likely to buy products that others have spoken well of, so showcase positive reviews of how your products have helped past customers.
As far as possible, these reviews should come from people in the local audience. That’s because the local market may not find testimonials from overseas clients and customers as relevant for their purchase decision. Hence, if you have a mix of good reviews from local and foreign customers (relative to the current target market), give higher visibility to those from the local audience.
Influencer marketing can also help you generate more social proof. Typically, this involves sending product samples to influencers in exchange for them promoting your products to their audience.
While you will naturally want the influencers to say good things about your products, it’s also important that the influencers’ reviews come across as authentic. An influencer marketing campaign can easily backfire if your partner influencer sings praises about your brand, only for their followers to discover that the influencer had misrepresented key characteristics of your products.
Far from generating customer goodwill in your business and international sales, such a misstep can harm your brand reputation and hinder your entry into the local market.
6. Leverage legal and government policies
It’s unavoidable – when doing business in a certain country, you’ll have to follow its laws. For one, this means charging your customers tax according to local tax policies and adhering to all relevant data protection regulations.
But such regulatory compliance doesn’t necessarily have to be a burden! With an understanding of the local government policies, you’ll be able to use them to your advantage. Here are some ideas:
- If you’re selling to customers in the European Union (EU), then you likely need to comply with the EU’s GDPR data protection laws. After attaining such compliance, you can display trust badges on your website to inform your customers of your achievement. Customers who see that your business is GDPR-compliant may then feel more reassured in sharing their personal data with you – which they’ll likely need to do if they’re ordering something from you!
- Local governments may offer grants and incentives for businesses to operate in their jurisdiction. To qualify for such grants, applicants typically need to fulfill eligibility requirements such as hiring a certain number of local employees. Hence, once you’ve met these requirements, you’ll be able to obtain such grants and apply them toward growing your business.
How can Weglot help you sell to international customers?
Serving as an online storefront to international customers, your website will need to speak their language if it is to help drive sales. Weglot’s website translation solution makes it a breeze to translate any website quickly and with a high degree of accuracy, no matter how many web pages the website may have.
Weglot has also been proven to boost sales for businesses that serve international customers. Just take it from eyewear brand Jimmy Fairly:
The business wanted to create various language versions of its Shopify ecommerce website using a translation solution that was simple to implement and use. With an eye toward the future, Jimmy Fairly also wanted its chosen solution to effortlessly support its website translation needs as the business grew.
Jimmy Fairly found such a solution in Weglot, which could automatically detect and translate all new website content languages. As a result, whenever Jimmy Fairly added a new product to its main website, it could rely on Weglot to instantly translate the product for not one, but three other language versions of the business’s website.
This powerful feature enabled Jimmy Fairly to scale its business abroad and reach more international customers with ease. Eight months after using Weglot, Jimmy Fairly experienced a 70% increase in web sessions across the different language versions of its website. And that’s not all: the business also increased its international turnover tenfold!
Have global markets in your sights? Weglot can help get you there
For a business that has been operating only locally so far, international customers present an untapped ocean of opportunities. Going abroad is a tried-and-tested method of earning more revenue, and you can use the marketing tips we’ve outlined above to get a head start on your international expansion.
You’ll also need the right tools to aid you with your overseas venture – and for translating your website, there is no better solution than Weglot! Using a proprietary mix of machine learning translations, Weglot delivers high-quality translations at scale to help you make your website multilingual within minutes. With Weglot, you can:
- Save time: Set up Weglot on your website once, and it’ll automatically translate all text it can find on your website for you. You’ll save hours trying to manually translate your website yourself.
- Improve the user experience on your website: When you display your website in your customers’ native languages, they’ll have an easier time browsing it and placing orders.
- Gain more sales: Customers who can understand your website are more likely to spend more time on it – and spend more money with you!
Weglot is compatible with all leading website platforms, including WordPress, Shopify, and Webflow. Experience the power of Weglot on your website by signing up for a free trial here.