Which country should you target first with your ecommerce store? You want to enter the easiest country first, right? Not so fast. There are a couple of things you must consider before you pick a market, language being a key one.
More and more people are using the Internet every day in many different languages. You cannot afford to alienate your audience by not offering the right language to the right customer. What is the best language to translate your website into? Base it on the number of Internet users and the language they use while visiting your site. Website translation gives customers the ability to access a site in their own language.
Here are the top 10 languages spoken by web users as of May 31, 2011 (Internet World Stats):
|Language||Percentage of Internet Users Among the Total Population|
Through these 10 languages, you can reach and communicate with 82.6 percent of all the Internet users in the world, an ultimate incentive to consider web globalization. Although English is currently the top web language, as countries like China and Brazil continue to grow and get connected to the web, English might not stand atop the list in the near future.
You can either research the market in advance to determine the easiest country to enter (considered proactive mode) or wait for visitor inquiries to come to you (reactive mode) to determine the best place to target. Keep in mind that you can pick an easy market to enter, but it could be a market where there is no demand for your product.
Where does this leave you? Let’s say you do nothing and find out the bulk of your ecommerce inquiries are coming from Portugal, Australia, and Saudi Arabia. That means you would translate your site into Portuguese for Portugal, Arabic for Saudi Arabia, and English for Australia in order to accommodate and service those customers in their languages. Here’s the tricky part. Just because you translate your site to Portuguese, Arabic, and English does not mean it will be a walk in the park transporting product to these markets. You must still consider:
- Payment capabilities: How will your customer pay for their goods?
- Currency factors: Which currency will you accept payment in?
- Fulfillment process: How will you take care of the orders that come in?
- Barriers to entry: How difficult is it to enter the select market? For example, is there a lot of red tape?
Selecting a Market
Here’s an example of how one of my clients selected a market to enter. He picked a market where the customers spoke the same language as he does, in this case France because he speaks French. But you must be careful of that approach because — repeating what I said earlier — you don’t know if there is demand for your product in France, unless your research has proven there is. In this case, my client was selling comfortable American-made women’s walking shoes, and it worked. Customers liked what they saw, ordered online via France-friendly credit cards, paid in U.S. dollars or E.U., and received their shoes within two weeks, thanks to the shoe company working with an ecommerce fulfillment operation.
Once you have determined there is a market for your product, the best way to find out how easy it is to transport goods to a country, such as France, for example, is to conduct a test run with an organization you know who is on the ground in the country you are about to enter. The shipping journey alone gives you an indication of how tough or easy it is to enter.
Language is important. How else will you be able to effectively communicate with your customers? But language alone isn’t the only challenge you’ll face when picking a market for your ecommerce store. You must ensure you can also process payment and fulfill orders. Do the research upfront, and you’ll find much smoother sailing when entering a foreign market.
Interested in more information on global ecommerce expansion? Take a look at the Pitney Bowes article – The Global Ecommerce Roadmap.