Paid search and affiliate marketing top the list as the most desirable marketing strategies for U.S. retailers, but most companies that take ecommerce services international don't use them to their full potential, according to a report released earlier this month.
The Forrester Research report says nearly one-quarter of U.S. online retailers with more than 10% of revenue coming from international markets do nothing to promote their goods outside the States. Retailers that operate local Web sites outside of the U.S. are more likely than their international shipping counterparts to engage in online marketing abroad. But in many cases, these retailers also take a tempered approach to online marketing, though most favor search compared with other strategies.
The reliance by online retailers on paid search to drive international users to their Web sites is not surprising. The return on investment and variable costs associated with search marketing make it an attractive first step for companies moving businesses internationally. Most companies working with Google in the U.S. are more comfortable extending that relationship overseas, according to Forrester Research Senior Analyst Zia Daniell Wigder.
My surprise came when I learned of the lag by some retailers to build out Web sites, hire search engine marketing professionals or contract with a third party to localize content in countries outside the U.S. I caught up with Wigder, the author of the report, before boarding a plane to MediaPost's Search Insider Summit in Captiva, Fla., Wednesday. She elaborated on a few points highlighted in the report.
Marketers should be aware that using direct English translations of keywords when expanding paid search campaigns into new markets doesn't always work. Consider dialect within a country, too. Those who spend time and budgets to have search terms translated professionally need to take additional steps to mine the full potential of international search, Wigder says.
The Forrester report gives the example of the word "debt": "Although the direct translation (which was subsequently bid up as a keyword) is deuda, most Spanish speakers would be more inclined to use the term préstamos."
It's also important to understand that search preferences vary from country to country. Wigder says people in South Korea, China and Japan prefer to purchase goods and services from retail sites that support their local language.
Understanding local behavior also means knowing when and where consumers in a respective country use the Internet most. In Mexico, for example, consumers tend to access the Internet from locations outside of the home like Internet cafes. Since consumers often search outside of normal working hours, marketers may want to consider dayparting in their search campaigns.
Similar to search, email marketing in markets outside the U.S. requires marketers to identify idiosyncrasies by country, and sometimes region or city. Know the audience to tailor the message. The effectiveness in international markets can vary by country. U.S. companies operating in Europe, for example, cite markets such as the U.K., Germany, and Italy as being highly receptive to email marketing campaigns.
Take time to integrate other marketing strategies into search. Test the strategy in each market. Globalize Web sites. And, Wigder says, resist the temptation to develop a sales team in the U.S. who doesn't know the local culture and the language.