Amazon, Alibaba and eBay may dominate international e-marketplaces, but companies that sell through them with strong content can win across multiple markets worldwide.

Christian Arno

Last year, sales in the global B2B e-commerce market topped $7.7 trillion. According to Statista’s 2017 B2B E-commerce Report, B2B business is now dwarfing B2C business. This is proof that the massive opportunities offered by global B2B e-commerce are simply too big to ignore.

Despite their dominance as online competitors, global online marketplaces Amazon, Alibaba and eBay should be seen as an opportunity for B2B companies looking to scale internationally.

Barriers to doing business globally are coming down and the rise of the worldwide e-commerce market means that the opportunity to “go global” is more accessible than it ever has been before.

But how do you do it successfully?

Different markets bring different challenges. And for any company looking to scale internationally, there’s a lot to think about, from complying with legislation to adjusting to different cultures—and everything else in-between.

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Going global isn’t easy. It takes a lot of work to win over the hearts and minds of a brand new target audience. But there are things that can be done to make the journey to globalization that little bit easier for a B2B company.

PIM—a single source of truth for product information

Forrester asserts that PIM (Product Information Management) is a cornerstone of your digital business. Entering a new market is tough. It’s even tougher for companies that don’t have insight into the data they need to be able to understand their new market and target audience.

PIM systems act as live information hubs, enabling companies to manage and store all the data they need to be able to sell and market their products. A PIM system provides valuable insight into the likes of customer preferences and consumer trends, allowing any company with global aspirations to use this data not only to spot new opportunities in the market, but to tailor and personalize campaigns to what it knows will appeal to its new target audience.

An effective PIM system helps a B2B company to optimize its digital supply chain, increase business intelligence and deliver a more consistent customer experience.

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As a “single source of truth” for product information, the critical information held within a PIM can boost a company’s likelihood of success when targeting new foreign markets.

Make the most of the marketplaces

Amazon, Alibaba and eBay dominate the global marketplaces—and this isn’t going to change any time soon. All three lead the field with extraordinary global reach and do so with enormous success. In 2018, Amazon’s market cap topped a staggering $1 trillion.

Yet despite their dominance, global online marketplaces should be seen as an opportunity for B2B companies looking to scale internationally.

They offer a sound starting point for a company to enter new markets and capitalize on the growing e-commerce opportunity. The infrastructure is already in place. There’s the chance to get in front of more potential customers than ever before. And these marketplaces are globally recognized brands that buyers know, and more importantly, trust.

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Marketplaces also offer companies a lot more than just a platform and an audience to sell their products to. Many offer genuine help and support for those looking to sell to an international market. Amazon’s Fulfillment By Amazon program, for example, is designed to support companies concerned about their ability to fulfill orders by allowing them to store stock in its fulfillment centers and arrange for dispatch.

In order to go global, go local

When entering new markets, localization is king. Research has shown that most online shoppers won’t purchase from a site that’s not in their own language or currency. According to Shopify’s 2017 ‘Global E-commerce and International Growth Trends’ report, 59% of people rarely or never buy from English-only websites, 67% prefer navigation and content in their own language, and 75% want to buy products in their native language.

A high-quality, professional website in the local language with the correct grammar and spelling goes a long way to establishing trust, creating familiarity and increasing engagement. A poorly translated website sees customers automatically deem a company unprofessional or, worse, untrustworthy.

Investing in translation services that work with native speakers or with high-quality translation programs helps to ensure the job is done properly. Advances in machine translation and neural machine translation offer B2B companies with large catalogues the opportunity for a step change in how much they can translate, how quickly they can do it, and the associated cost. Machine translation not only improves the overall consistency of global content, but reduces the time to market of new products by 75% and reduces the translation per word cost by over 50%.

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Though useful, some tools provide literal translations that can be prone to error. A good B2C example of this is Taco Bell’s launch in Japan, which caused outrage due to the firm’s poor translation. Its translation of ‘cheesy chips’ quite literally translated into Japanese as ‘low quality chips’. If a company wants to take full advantage of global opportunities, it has to be able to communicate with its audience properly.

Localization isn’t just about ensuring the proper and professional translation of content; it’s also about creating and tailoring specific content to your new target audience. What works in one country or culture won’t necessarily work in another. A company looking to tap into new markets must be flexible to create content that fits with different cultural expectations.

Going local also means an online seller should consider important things like payment preferences. The checkout is where the majority of buyers abandon purchases. Why? Largely because the buyer’s preferred method of payment isn’t being used or because they don’t trust that their payment will be handled securely.

By going native, a company can prove to its customers that they are a top priority. Not second best.

Find the right B2B e-commerce platform

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Custom-built websites can be fantastic. But beyond a certain point, most B2B companies will need to turn to an e-commerce platform if they want to get serious about their global growth plans. For any company looking to scale internationally, choosing the right e-commerce platform should play a defining role in the growth strategy.

There’s no “one solution fits all” to finding the right e-commerce platform; it’s about finding a platform that fits with the needs of your company. It’s vital that any e-commerce company looking to scale does its homework to make sure it understands which platform is best for it and why.

Choose the right platform and you’ll reap the rewards. Choose the wrong one and it could be a very costly mistake.

Make sure there’s enough ‘ready money’ in the bank

Going global isn’t cheap. Every company must ensure it has enough capital in the bank to fully support a move into new markets. Taking a company international incurs costs from quite literally every angle, from staffing, taxes and marketing to e-commerce platforms and marketplaces. All of these, and more, require any company to ensure it has enough ready money in its accounts to fund the transition.

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Selling internationally will introduce foreign transactions, so it’s worthwhile researching international payment providers to find one that fits. Things to look out for include good exchange rates and transparency on transfer fees. It can be frustrating to lose income because of poor rates and high fees, especially at a time when capital is so important.

Keep that ‘Global First’ mindset

Ensuring a strong internal culture is vital in achieving success when entering new markets. If a company wishes to succeed, it must show a willingness to change and a flexibility to adapt to meet the needs of its new target markets.

Instilling a positive ‘global first’ mindset throughout the organization will keep employees happy and motivation levels high—something that’s absolutely key for any B2B company about to embark on the challenge of entering a new global market.

And finally, investing in global-mindset training among all employees—not just management—can be strategically important. It improves communication, helps open up new opportunities and can expand a company’s growth potential. By ending domestic thinking, any company can go global.

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Christian Arno is founder and president of Lingo24, an Edinburgh, Scotland-based provider of web content translation services.

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