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Expanding your Online Shop Overseas for New eCommerce Merchants (part 2)

Written by
Published on
April 24, 2019
Updated on
June 20, 2023

This article is part 2 in a series on expanding your eCommerce store internationally. Part 1 can be found here.

Meet Syed, an eCommerce business owner who has been fairly successful in fulfilling a niche local market in Singapore selling ethnic fashion pieces.

Through the years, he feels that his revenue has reached a plateau as his online shop is limited to just the local Singaporean market. Thus, he looks to an overseas market like the Philippines or Indonesia to expand his eCommerce business. On hand, he has key information on his target market such as several buyers' personas and the country’s popular online platforms.

Now, he is ready to take the next steps in expanding his eCommerce store internationally.

If you’re an eCommerce merchant in Syed’s shoes, it means you would have completed steps 1 and 2 in our expanding your online shop overseas guide. To recap, these are the 4 steps that we listed in part 1:

  1. Focus on expanding into one country at a time
  2. Find the right places to list your products
  3. Market your products to shoppers
  4. Provide a great shipping experience

In this part, we take a deep dive on points 3 and 4: marketing your products to your potential customers, and providing a great eCommerce shipping experience.

Step 3: Marketing your products to your shoppers

The idea behind marketing to a new audience will be similar to marketing your products back home. But it doesn’t hurt to recap. Marketing is here to help you achieve these:

  • Letting your new customers know that your products are available in their country,
  • Creating content and promotional campaigns that resonate with your buyers’ motivations,
  • Building a long term relationship with your customers in that country to create brand loyalty

You’ll still be building your eCommerce store’s reputation as one that understands and responds to the local audience’s needs. You’ll also need to gain people’s trust by providing them with the right goods with the right service too.

The difference, in this case, is that you might be selling your products in an entirely different language, following different annual events on a different schedule and also catering to different buyer’s personas which you’re targeting.

This ties back to knowing what your market wants and what you can offer. Using our persona template from the previous part, you should be able to identify your business’s unique selling proposition1 for your new market. Knowing your target market will also inform how you can approach building a trusting, long term relationship with your customers.

1. Building Trust with Your Potential Customers

Before smartphones became prevalent, customers like Kathy could walk to a local shophouse within her neighbourhood to buy groceries and other knick-knacks. She and the shop owner, Jamal, could have conversations about everyday life, their family members, and trade local gossip. After that, Kathy would get exactly what she needed and never needed to worry about its quality. She trusts Jamal.

Building trust is going to come with engaging your consumers and letting them know you understand what they need, and that you deliver on your promises. We’ll cover building conversations first.

2. Building Conversations

While Kathy and Jamal’s type of close relationship is harder to come by these days, engagement and conversations between consumers and sellers have taken on a new form online. Online platforms like social media have turned into new ways that sellers can attract and engage consumers.

According to Neil Patel2, customers spend 20%-40% more with companies that they have social media engagement with. The idea here is to create conversations with the target audience. When doing this in a new market, it’ll be a good idea to have a team who can understand and connect with what locals like and don’t like.

This local team will also be able to use these insights to create content the market finds engaging. Companies like YesStyle3 and Sorabelle4 frequently make blogposts and social media posts to engage their target markets’ love for fashion. Publishing great content and taking time to answer people’s queries or, at times, asking the audience for feedback also helps grow your follower base.

While all these techniques help you to win the long game, you can still factor in techniques like discounts, promos, flash sales and paid ads. These are still vital in the short run to build awareness of your eCommerce store. Fortunately, there are quite a number of tools and guides to help you with both the long-game and with short term campaigns in your overseas expansion.

3. Leverage Marketing Tools Online

Creating Content

In today’s age, people are less likely to respond to ads that are pushed at them and more likely to seek out things that interest them on their own. Finding out what they love and how your products and store can fit in their lives is half the battle.

As mentioned, having a great team who’s in tune with what your new market loves is a great start. What you can also make use of is data. If you’re starting out in a new country, you won’t have any historical data to work with but you can build it up by seeing what your competitors are up to and also by researching keywords and phrases to optimise your SEO.

SEO stands for search engine optimisation - but in easier terms, it’s the secret sauce that gets your website found on search engines for your chosen keywords. By strategically placing keywords into great content on your site, you can soon start ranking on search engines and grab what’s known as organic traffic - traffic you don’t need to spend advertising money on.

But some questions come to mind: What keywords should I rank for? What can I produce?

To help you out, you can use SEO tools like the free Google Keywords Planner, or paid alternatives like SEMRush5 or Ahrefs6. Google Keywords Planner takes some tinkering around with before it becomes really handy, and requires you to have run Google Ads on your account before richer information becomes available, but fret not! We have a couple of resources to help you:

Ahref’s Google Keyword Planner Guide7

This guide shows you a few tips and tricks to get the most out of Google Keyword Planner without needing to spend any money. The tips in here are great if you’re starting out with SEO and don’t have the budget for more expensive SEO tools. Worth noting in this guide is the part about getting keywords from your competitors and finding the questions that your audience is asking for.

Guides for Ahref’s and SEMRush’s Tools:
  • SEMRush’s keyword research guide with the Keyword Magic Tool8
  • Ahref’s keyword research guide9

While these guides use their respective company’s paid software, you’ll be able to pick up tips on what to look out for when selecting keywords. It’ll give you a good grounding on which types of keywords you can focus on via metrics like volume, clickthrough rates and how much people are willing to pay for these keywords among others.

Social Media Ideas

Social media doesn’t necessarily work the same way in different countries. For instance, LINE is quite popular in Thailand while Facebook interactions are key in places where social commerce10is king. Once again, have a team with a great understanding of what’s popular in the country and have a good look at your competitors’ successful social posts to get some ideas of your own.

Social media marketing is such a big part of today’s marketing strategies that it’s not easy to compile all its tips and tricks in one place. However, we have gathered a few guides and articles that can help kickstart your social media strategy planning for your new market:

Neil Patel’s Ultimate Social Media Guide for eCommerce11

This guide is could take a while to read, but it’s really comprehensive. It contains facts and figures on why social media strategy vital for this day and age and also contains tips and tricks for different platforms.

You can find tips for platforms like Facebook, Instagram, getting chatbots for instant messaging (Whatsapp), livestreaming, and also covers some advice on how you can even start selling via social media.

Magento’s 12 Social Media Tactics to Drive Traffic to Your eCommerce Site12

This is a short-and-sweet guide to some social media tactics you can use to get started. It covers tips like making use of your reviews, how you can interact with your audience in different ways on social media, and make even your website’s content more social media friendly.

Paid Tools and Promo Tactics

When you’re entering a new market, it’s a good idea to keep track of when the hottest eCommerce sales periods take place.

Making full use of these periods means preparing country-specific discounts, promotions and campaigns tailored to that event. In cases like these, running paid campaigns such as Facebook ads and Google ads could potentially capture more traffic and drive more sales to your eCommerce store. You could work with your eCommerce platform’s campaigns such as Lazada and Shopee’s gamified discounts and lucky draws.

Here are resources to help you plan some ads, promos and campaigns:

Janio’s Hottest eCommerce Sales Periods Series:

We’ve been putting together a series of articles that cover when some of the biggest eCommerce sales periods take place in Southeast Asia’s biggest countries. These articles also cover different types of discounts and promotions you could try running. We’re also actively adding more countries to the list too, stay tuned!

Google Ads Guides:

One good starting point for online paid advertisements is Google Ads. This builds on the tips and keywords that you’ll be covering for your SEO too. In case this is your first time using Google Ads, here are some resources which might come in handy:

Search Engine Watch’s Google Adwords: The Beginner’s Guide13

This guide will help you go through the different steps you’ll need to see your Google Ads campaign from start to finish. It covers all the key terms you’ll need to get started such as the different campaign types, different types of keywords and keyword match types and how you can manage your payment types, goals and metrics for your campaign.

Google Ads Basics14

This resource by Google helps you to familiarise yourself with the layout and how Google ads can help you. If you want to get serious and even get certified in this area, there’s Google Ads Fundamentals15, which is part of Google’s Academy for Ads. Ads Fundamentals is more in-depth than the basics resource but the knowledge it equips you with will help you get your first overseas Google Ads campaign up and running.

Facebook Paid Ads Resource:

Facebook Blueprint16

By now, we’re all familiar with Facebook being a cornerstone of any digital marketing strategy. While the earlier resources for social media mention the posts you can use to grow organically, this resource by Facebook also contains detailed Facebook Ads guide17 for your paid social media campaigns.

Step 4: Delivering a great shipping experience and keeping your word

While creating engagement grows your awareness, keeping your customers coming back requires fulfilling your promises with great service and great products.

Creating a Memorable Unboxing Experience

Unboxing is the final touchpoint between your business and your customer is a potential area your store can truly shine. To do this, it helps to have an unforgettable unboxing experience if your products and price points call for it.

If done well, your customers may want to share their experiences on social media, blogs, or even video platforms18. This, in turn, will aid your marketing efforts with positive, free publicity.

Your branded box should ideally be packed with the box-in-box method to protect your branded box from damage during transit. As long as the branded box is smaller than the packing box with some allowance for filler, you can get really creative when it comes to designing your unboxing experience. If you’d like to see some additional details and examples of branded packaging as a branding tool, consider looking at Shopify’s packaging guide 19.

Having coupons and inserts in the packaging can help you tide over the slower periods in the year, as these coupons can act as an incentive for your customers to shop at your store again. If this is coupled with a great unboxing experience, customers are likely to come back to your store to buy more products, even during lull periods.

Delivering on Promises

In some countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, logistics conditions can be quite poor. As a result, some are willing to wait around 2 weeks for an internationally delivered item to arrive. One of the keys here is ensuring you set expectations at a reasonable level while ensuring that your deliveries arrive at the time you promised. This can be done by clearly stating the estimated delivery time at your store’s checkout, for instance.

Staying consistent with your deliveries and expectations can help to preserve people’s impressions of your brand. There are many factors that can make or break the delivery process, which makes choosing the right eCommerce logistics service providers vital.

To ensure that your shipping partner is good for your target market, it helps to consider the shipping partner’s network coverage, local presence, and its tracking system.

To minimise any disruptions during the shipping journey, you should also ensure that your products are properly packaged and labelled before you hand your shipment off to your shipping partner. It also helps to be transparent when it comes to delivery information and to have a plan in case any delays happen.

There are definitely more details involved in growing your eCommerce store overseas, but getting the basics of engaging and interacting with your audience, setting the right expectations and delivering on promises is a good way to start. If you are able to conquer the challenges of expanding overseas, the boost in revenue you will enjoy is well worth the risk.

Disclaimer: These are most of the resources that the Janio marketing team personally uses. We don’t receive any referral commissions from any links clicked in this article.

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  1. Entrepreneur: Unique Selling Proposition
  2. Neil Patel: The Ultimate Guide to Social Media For eCommerce
  3. YesStyle
  4. Sorabelle
  5. SEMRush
  6. Ahrefs
  7. Ahrefs: How to Use Google Keyword Planner (Actionable Guide)
  8. SEM Rush: SEMRush’s keyword research guide with the Keyword Magic Tool
  9. Ahrefs: Keyword Research Guide
  10. Kr Asia: Social Commerce
  11. Neil Patel’s Ultimate Social Media Guide for eCommerce
  12. Magento’s 12 Social Media Tactics to Drive Traffic to Your eCommerce Site
  13. Search Engine Watch’s Google Adwords: The Beginner’s Guide
  14. Google Ads Basics
  15. Google Ads Fundamentals
  16. Facebook Blueprint
  17. Facebook Ads Guide
  18. Youtube: Unbox therapy
  19. Shopify: Packaging Guide