Paul Hogg, digital strategy and development lead at Social B, explains how businesses can use online channels to sell their products or services to overseas customers.
You have your website set up how you want it. Traffic is rolling in. You’ve expanded to other countries. Sales are starting to grow.
What now? How do you scale this up properly?
We’ve worked with many businesses in this exact situation. As long as the offering and marketing messaging is right, successfully scaling a website usually involves 4 areas of focus:
#1 Watch Your Speed
As a general rule; the more a business grows, the larger its website.
Everyone in the e-Commerce space wants to be the next Amazon (and rightly so).
But, while many businesses and marketers work on expanding their website with more offerings and additional functionality, one crucial thing needs to scale at the same time:
Few things in e-Commerce and digital marketing yield high results for small costs and site speed is one of them.
According to a 2018 study by Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load. Furthermore, a 2017 Akamai study shows that every 100-millisecond delay in website load time can hurt conversion rates by 7%!
There are dozens of studies and examples I could quote, but the key things to take away are:
- Make a habit of checking your site speed at least weekly using GTMetrix, Pingdom and PageSpeed Insights (follow this fantastic guide to learn from these tools)
- Avoid free or cheap plugins/extensions where you can unless they are from a reputable developer – the saving simply isn’t worth the drop in sales
- Use a lightweight theme (such as Astra) or have your site custom coded by a reputable developer
- Don’t skimp on hosting! Use WPEngine, Siteground or managed hosting from a reputable developer
- For international audiences, use a Content Delivery Network (CDN) such as Cloudflare or MaxCDN (explaining CDNs is an article in itself, but there are some great explainer videos on YouTube)
#2 Know Your Funnel
A marketing funnel is a powerful way of analysing where customers are dropping off in the buying journey.
When you install Google Analytics on your website, upgrade to enhanced e-commerce if you’re a WooCommerce store, the additional functionality is 100% worth it.
Once you’re set up with enhanced e-commerce, wait a few days, then head into Google Analytics, go to Conversions > e-Commerce > Shopping Behaviour.
This report will lay out where visitors are and aren’t taking the next step (E.g. viewing products but not adding to basket).
Based on what you see here, you need to be asking yourself “If I were my customer, why would I not take the next step?” (Tip #4 will help you to answer this question).
In terms of internationalising your funnel, use segments in Google Analytics and follow the same advice. GA segments are beyond the scope of this article, but here’s a great video explaining what they are and how they work.
#3 Have an Omnichannel Approach
Imagine you built up a powerful Instagram channel or Facebook page with tons of followers and sales, only to be banned or for another social network to become the next big thing.
This is the danger of focusing too much of your effort in one place. Now, I don’t suggest that you spread yourself out too thin, but you need to make sure you aren’t putting all of your eggs in one basket.
This is where omnichannel marketing comes in. Absolutely start with one channel, but expand out once you start to see success.
Don’t just keep building your social media accounts, instead aim to get your followers onto an email list. Don’t just rely on your PR efforts to spread your brand, also engage in LinkedIn outreach and advertising.
You can’t do everything at the same time, but you can prioritise:
- Where are your customers online? Look for niche-specific forums, Facebook groups and sub-Reddits (Reddit is an underrated marketing platform)
- What is most cost effective? LinkedIn ads are fantastic for B2B but are expensive. Could you reach the same people with a banner ad on a business forum? What about sponsoring events?
- Use Google Display Remarketing to discover what other websites your customers use (this is generally very cheap to do)
- Go to Audience > Geo > Location to find the countries your website is gaining traffic from. These insights are great for focusing your international efforts, especially as different countries will use different social media/marketplaces/blogs
With these insights, you can hone your efforts to a handful of channels and get in front of many new customers.
#4 Don’t Stop Asking Questions
In my experience, this is the most important tip of all.
Analytics software such as Google Analytics is fantastic and essential in running a successful online business, but it doesn’t always tell the full story.
The best insights you can get in marketing is direct from the customer themselves.
Bounce rate can tell you HOW MANY people left without doing anything. Asking questions can tell you WHY.
Here’s how it works:
Next, look at your funnel back in step #2 and set up heatmaps on the pages people are visiting but not taking the next step on.
Now, create a poll and target these same pages. Here is where you can ask the customers themselves WHY they’re not taking the next step.
An example I like to use on product pages is:
“Quick question – Is there anything stopping you from purchasing today?”
The answers you will get from this question are worth their weight in gold. In fact, I would go as far to say it’s worth paying for these insights to gain more.
You could use a tool such as WPForms to create a survey on your website and ask people to answer some questions in exchange for the chance to win an Amazon gift card (or equivalent, but who doesn’t shop on Amazon?).
Use this opportunity to ask them:
- What made them visit your website (E.g. “What about made you to want to learn more about it?”
- What’s stopping them from taking the next step (E.g. “What, if anything, is stopping you from ”)
You can also ask questions on the order received/thank you page. My favourite one to ask here is:
“Was there anything that almost stopped you from purchasing?”
You will want to prioritise by language, so create segments in Google Analytics for each of your top languages and look at your funnel and pages.
The ones with a high drop-off rate or bounce-rate are the ones you’re going to want to ask questions on (as well as at critical moments in the customer journey).
By asking questions at critical points such as these, you will gain some of the best insights possible in marketing.
You can gain more tips for optimising your website during the Department for International Trade’s Selling Online Overseas Accelerator Programme. This is a six-week opportunity available to businesses in Yorkshire, free of charge, where I and other industry experts will show you how to use online channels to deliver your products or services to overseas customers. Apply at bit.ly/sellingonlineprogramme.