There comes a time when international expansion makes sense: Your business has matured in the U.S. market, and now you look to foreign lands for continued growth and to avoid stagnation when the domestic market becomes saturated. Preparation is the key – and, you’ll be glad to hear, this preparation can be done with a modest budget.
Here are the five things every U.S.-based D2C brand should know before expanding into Europe.
What got you here won’t get you there. You could be forgiven for thinking that the experience and successes you’ve racked up in the U.S., will mean you can use these and obtain the same result in your new markets. Not so.
European markets have vastly different cultures. It’s vital to understand that some but not all of the knowledge you have amassed in the U.S. will be usable in Europe.
Know your audience. Don't assume all European countries hold the same values. There are significant differences between even closely neighboring countries, so be ready to do the leg work and research to understand the nuances of your chosen market.
Research is essential to understand the answer to questions like: How much does your audience earn, vs your customers in the U.S.? What are their spending habits? What do they value? How do they research new brands? Which media is consumed most by your audience? Who are your competitors, and how do they talk to their customers?
Develop a localization strategy. Now that you understand the audience/s you’re targeting, you need a strategy for localizing all of your content and assets in line with audience need.
If you have an existing brand position, you can repurpose it for Europe. If not, then make it a priority to develop one. Once you have your brand position, you need to understand how to adapt your message to your audience in each market.
Check out the media landscape. The good news is that reach is reach everywhere. Awareness, preference, mental availability, behavioral targeting, diminishing returns -- these are all universal concepts that will serve you well wherever you go.
What differs is the size of the market, market composition and the commercial dynamics of the media landscape – they have varied reach and response dynamics that you will need to consider.
Markets in Europe have inconsistent trading models – and by that, I mean cost per spot vs cost per thousand for TV, for example.
The regulations around what can and cannot be included in your advertising message also vary hugely, with clearance bodies like Clearcast (U.K.) and ARPP (France) being particularly strict in what is allowed.
Develop a testing strategy. It’s important to set your goals and objectives before you start thinking about tactics. Once you know what you’re aiming for, you can determine if it’s best to enter one market with an omnichannel strategy or multiple markets with a single channel strategy
Let your goals lead the way. Preparation is the key. Good luck!
Good article! But companies new to international markets need not only adapt media aspects but may also have to adapt the equipment they are selling, such as the voltage of electrical/electronic equipment, or the size because not everyone lives in a big house. Good contacts are the International Trade Administration of the US Department of Commerce, international bankers and international attorneys -- there are many potential legal traps. International attorneys can help in drafting agency/distributor agreements so that new-to-world markets companies don't sign up reps just because they happen to speak English. Also, let's not forget that several foreign languages are involved. Many European company representatives speak "pretty good" English but when it comes to negotiations, it's better to rely on an interpreter who will convey things technical and legal in an appropriate manner. And you are right, of course, international markets can be extremely lucrative and as you said, preparatation is the key.