Lessons Learned on Local Site Optimization & Increasing Online Conversions at Growing Global 2015

Last week major eCommerce merchants met at the two-day Growing Global conference in Hollywood to learn from several experts on global expansion. Country specific sessions helped merchants get a better sense of local consumers, payment options, and shipment methods to make decisions about their next international target markets. The diverse growing global keynote speakers offered great insight on global eCommerce trends and general lessons for international expansion.

In this post, you will find a few of the key lessons captured during Growing Global 2015. Several themes were covered throughout the conference and consistently raised throughout the two days but this post will focus on beneficial topics for local optimization and increasing online conversions. In addition to having a well planned localized site, many other logistical topics were discussed at Growing Global to help merchants do well in foreign markets.  Global eCommerce sales from US retailers are expected to exceed $50 billion by 2020 but that requires some heavy lifting from the retailers to offer options for the customers and properly optimize their local websites.  The following topics cover some of the major points that retailers need to address.

growing global guide

Language

When it comes to global expansion, optimizing and translating landing pages in the local language is obviously a simple first step to building trust with customers. For both SEO purposes and user experience, its vital to put considerable effort into creating a landing page that not only offers all the relevant information for products, payment options, and shipments, but making sure the text resonates with the local audience is incredibly important too.

Simply translating a landing page and expecting it to produce the same results with the local audience will prohibit the retailer from reaching their full potential in a given market. It goes without saying that online translations should most certainly be avoided and native speakers offer the best option for localization.

Brands and Cultural Nuances

It is challenging to maintain the exact image and language of your brand when in multiple global markets. Brands all maintain their own unique personality and slogans that are special to the company but also to the consumer. For many brands it is important to keep their slogan and image as is because it is successful and meaningful in English.

However, sometimes the slogan or brand image will not resonate with a local market across the world. For each new market, considerable research should be done to make decisions about potentially changing a logo or slogan that connects better with a local audience. Resistance to such changes are understandable for brands but having to pull an ad or shut down your page when you realize the message is offensive or completely opposite of the original intention is far worse – this has happened…more than once.

Along these same lines, users want to see consistent language throughout the whole shopping process. From your ad copies, to your landing page, to the checkout page, maintain the same tone and brand image with your customer. Again, this can be tricky to maintain in different languages but find out what sort of expectations the local customers have while shopping and be prepared to adjust your global efforts for this.

Images

Beyond the actual text on your website, considering which images connect with the local audience is just as important to properly localize for a foreign market. There are two things to consider when it comes to images: how many images should be used and what should these images look like?

It was mentioned that some major brands like Zara decide take an image centric approach – providing more images and less text when entering global markets. While this makes it simpler to localize sites in multiple markets, it offers much less information that may be relevant to the consumer and can be detrimental to SEO rankings.   Consider the SEO impact and how important it is for local customers to have all product details, payment methods explained etc before cutting text for images.

Zia keynote

Coupling product information with images is pretty standard practice but learning and deciding which images to keep consistent across global markets and which to adapt for local landing pages takes some research. For instance, Alibaba keynote speaker, Jimmy Tobyne, mentioned a great example of a wine merchant in China that wasn’t finding much success when they localized their website for Chinese consumers. Not until they started using images of wine and hot dogs did the merchant see better conversions – who knew Chinese enjoyed hot dogs and wine?

Make sure you pay attention to local customs and marketing techniques on the ground when making all your decisions for localization but especially with images.

Selecting Domains and URLs

Many attendees at the conference asked which domain and URL that should be used in a given market. “Do the shoppers want to see .com or a local domain?”

My answer to this for the audience asking about a Russian domain is that this is a case-by-case basis and a business decision that needs to be made by the merchant. In some instances, Russians want to see a local domain and know that the merchant took the time to completely localize and give the consumer a landing page they can trust because it looks familiar. On the other hand, customers sometimes get excited about foreign domains because it gives them a sense of guarantee that the product will be of high quality because it is coming from the US or UK to name a few examples.

When it comes to the URL, we have seen many cases where a brand wants to use something catchy or lengthy in their URL in English. While this may work for native English speakers, it has the opposite effect on consumers with limited English ability or none at all. Transliterating or translating the URL for your landing pages offers a more memorable URL for locals.

While the security implications of .cn domains in China offer a different challenge all together, researching the local market and how users respond to domains and URLs is suggested on a case-by-case basis and one principle shouldn’t necessarily apply.

breakfast roundtable

Relevant Payment and Shipping Methods

A number of differences in preferred payment and shipping methods often trip up global eCommerce players.  The topic was discussed at multiple points throughout the conference but Alex Bryan and Chris Harle of Postcode anywhere covered a specific sessions to address some of the ways to manage local customers and maximize revenue.

Ideally, a merchant wants to offer all the payment methods that are popular in a given location.  For many, that still means cash-on-delivery, local e-payment systems, and credit card.  When users don’t see their preferred payment method, you can expect them to shop elsewhere. One piece of advice is to team up with local electronic payment systems to make the transaction as customizable for the local audience as possible.  Keep in mind special or unique aspects of payment that local customers expect like the typical notion of monthly payments and installments that Brazilians expect to see.

Similar to adjusting payment options, customers in different countries need merchants to customize shipping methods.  This is going to be different in every location. In a place like Ireland, where there aren’t street numbers or zip codes, you’ll also need to adjust the forms for billing and shipping addresses so they don’t break during the final steps of a transaction. In other places, the issue may be that users want extensive details on the shipping information listed with the product.  Customers may also want to receive their packages at special kiosks like the Qiwi parcel centers in Russia or at mom and pop shops in India, as Zia Daniell Wegder of Forrester Research mentioned during her keynote speech.

Mobile Options

Mobile apps, mobile versions of websites, and mobile payment solutions should all be offered to your customers to cover your bases.  In many areas of the world, accessing the Internet by mobile device is the easiest, cheapest, and most common method, so providing additional mobile assistance may not only be helpful but the only way to reach certain customers.

Zia Danielle Wigder of Forrester Research named mobile as one of the top three trends changing eCommerce around the world.  Customers expect to get as much information and have the same purchasing capabilities on mobile devices.

As Ellen Shannon of Multichannel Merchant suggests, “Easy payment options, mobile friendly email, trustmarks, and usability on mobile pages are key.” While mobile is used differently depending on the location – one country may see more purchases on mobile, while others see product browsing on mobile and purchases on desktop- customers are utilizing their smartphones and tablets at a fast growing pace.

Conclusions

These Growing Global lessons are applicable in all markets and quite obviously require a bit of research and effort for each market. Furthermore, knowledge of the local Internet use and general business customs should always be researched.  For instance, social media use in Brazil is utilized two times more than anywhere else. That being said, marketing through social media and buy buttons on social media could benefit you more than extra efforts on your landing page.

Attendees at Growing Global left Hollywood with a wealth of knowledge on localization, optimization, and significant country specific information.  The presentations can be found online for merchants interested in more information on these topics and logistics for selling and shipping products.  For those looking to attend next year, you can look forward to a similar great structure with breakfast and lunch roundtables, great keynote speakers, and a selection of sessions during this two day event!

Melissa McDonald

About Melissa McDonald

Melissa McDonald is the International Marketing Manager at Yandex, Russia's leading search engine, which offers free English to Russian translation and optimization for advertisers. Melissa also regularly blogs for RussianSearchMarketing.com, a news and information resource for digital advertising in Russia.