Expand Cross-Border E-Commerce Through Greater Cultural Understanding
Gone are the days of a local shopping center or department store serving one community. Today, e-commerce sales grow at the astounding rate of 20% each year, increasing even more during the pandemic when stay-at-home orders were all the rage. Add to that the leveling power of social media, where influencers promote brands and products on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, and you have the perfect economic conditions for a powerful international e-commerce strategy.
The greatest thing about these social media marketing campaigns is that viral products can cross borders. These social media marketing campaigns can lead to an expanded consumer base. Yet doing so creates opportunities for sales teams to recognize the diversity within a global audience.
To bring in loyal customers, a sales strategy needs to cater to the audience’s needs and background. Globalization has made e-commerce a dominating force in today’s economy, and effective sales teams need to understand the cultures of where they’re selling. As such, the following three key takeaways can help your business develop a global sales plan that leverages audience culture and diversity for increased cross-border e-commerce success.
1. Identify who your target audience is.
A marketing campaign without a clear idea of who you’re selling to isn’t going to get very far. Don’t attempt to aim your company toward “the world”; instead, the focus demographic should be kept distinct and specific. For example, a company specializing in high-end vegan leather handbags will probably specify its key market as “ethically conscious women, ages 24 -45.” That might not go far enough, and a good sales team must narrow its audience even further.
The following are strategies to help you further identify your target audience.
• Analyze market demographics.
Thankfully, due to the explosion of AI, website analytics, and social media data, a wealth of information is available to help you further target your desired audience. Utilize these resources and tools to fully understand who your audience is and what they’re searching for online.
For smaller businesses without an in-house research team, analyzing market information might need to be hired out to an independent agency or service; however, gathering data is well worth the expense. These resources can give powerful insights into the spending power of a demographic or what keywords your target consumer uses when searching for a product.
• Check in with the competition.
Don’t be afraid to do a friendly market scope and see who your competition is. By understanding your competition’s audience and marketing strategies, you can focus on differentiating your brand from competitors while remaining attractive to critical consumers.
Suppose your competition succeeds with a particular product or within a specific region; your competitor’s success offers an excellent opportunity to see how you can increase sales in those areas. While there will always be some overlap in customers, trying to keep yourself distinct in the consumer’s mind is essential.
• Conduct surveys.
It’s essential to utilize customer feedback at all stages of the sales process. You can conduct targeted surveys to solicit information about the entire purchasing process and use the feedback to ensure your e-commerce processes meet customer needs. Refrain from relying on market research alone and instead use analytics to guide your client research.
Remember that surveys can be given to market feedback groups outside your usual demographic when identifying a potential audience. Discovering a market niche can offer up a whole new sales region.
• Segment your audience.
There is usually more than one audience in your demographic. For example, consider a protein powder and supplement business. Most marketing teams suggest that the key audience for this brand is young men ages 16-45. However, other audiences for the product include women ages 21-45 and older audiences as well.
Yet selling protein powder to men and women in similar ads won’t work nearly as well as a more targeted campaign delivered separately to each segment. While it might seem like the more costly route (building out multiple advertising campaigns), it will yield better sales if you tailor ads for each audience.
2. Understand that cultures have varying attributes.
The business world is full of cautionary tales from poorly researched marketing campaigns. For business leaders and PR managers, it’s essential to understand the history and culture of your key demographic. Similarly, e-commerce businesses must ensure they’re compliant in every aspect of their sales, from shipping logistics to purchasing platforms.
According to Daniel Viniegra, chief commercial and partnerships officer at Go Global Ecommerce, building trustworthy and reputable business relationships across borders is essential. “If you want to successfully sell cross-border, you must fit into the current culture. To do so, it’s important to ensure you’re offering localized e-commerce experiences by taking into consideration currency conversions, payment methods according to each market, and even languages you use for business.”
This commitment to understanding your audience’s culture must be recognized, Viniegra says. “Keeping all of this in mind will help you avoid cultural mistakes that could harm your business.” Double-check that the tone and material are appropriate when building a product or service website for your target area. Similarly, research before creating an advertising campaign that might conflict with local expectations and culture.
Ensure purchasing products is straightforward by utilizing local payment methods, predicting correct tax and customs duties, and doing your best to ensure speedy shipping. Finally, work to ensure you don’t lose a sale because customers might not understand the translated text on a website or because there isn’t an option for their local language.
3. Outsource native cultural outlooks.
Effective e-commerce businesses can appeal to a wide variety of consumers. For any e-commerce business to be successful, understanding what drives purchasing decisions is vital. However, not everything can be learned through market data alone; sometimes, boots on the ground are the best way to get the information you need.
Solicit a native outlook when building a new audience, dropping a new product, or building a sales strategy for an unfamiliar location. One of the best ways to do this is by hiring a local market research team or advertising agency. These local businesses will have helpful insights into what’s driving sales in the area or for that specific audience. For instance, terms and language usage can differ across dialects — don’t miss out on sales because your products don’t feature local slang or keywords.
A community-based advertising agency can tailor your social media ads and offer unique sales ideas that can appeal to your audience. To be successful when selling cross-border, it’s crucial to build respectful relationships within the culture by actively listening to and following suggestions.
While selling across borders can sometimes feel overwhelming, there are resources available to businesses that can make the process easier. By engaging with your target audience’s culture and actively learning more about the region, e-commerce businesses can achieve international success and build long-lasting, positive relationships.
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