Person using a laptop

It’s a digital world

Amanda Davie, Founder and Managing Director of Reform, which advises companies on how to maximise revenues in a digital world, provides tips on how to expand your business online

The digital age represents growth opportunities – whether using the web to acquire new customers or increase the lifetime value of existing ones, or to implement new digital platforms, tools and communication in order to streamline operations, improve productivity and increase profitability.

Suddenly, the world is a much more accessible place. Developing an online presence in new territories is a faster and far more cost-effective route to market for British businesses with global ambitions.

However, an international digital strategy doesn’t simply mean translating your website into multiple languages. ‘Bricks and mortar’ or ‘analogue’ businesses would spend months, if not years, planning international growth strategies, before cautiously dipping their toes in the water. Yet worryingly, when it comes to expanding an online footprint, far too many businesses rush into their digital tactics. 

Here are just a few pointers.

  1. Get your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) basics right. It is better to have a separate website for each international market. This is what the search engines prefer – it shows you are serious about cultivating a local proposition and presence.
  2. It’s not always about Google! While 90% of all searches in the UK were conducted via Google in 2012, in South Korea Google counts for less than 2% of the market – home-grown Naver commands 70% of all searches in that market.
  3. Ensure the design of your website takes into account any cultural sensibilities. And use search and social data to understand your local target audience. Then use these insights to develop your web content and communications strategies.
  4. Lead with mobile. Google calls mobile ‘first screen’, because in the developing markets of Africa and Asia, internet users access content via their phones – not their computers. In India, 96% of mobile web users are male and, of them, 91% are under 27 years old.
  5. Don’t assume all internet users behave the same. In Germany, ecommerce has been slow to take off compared to the UK, because there is a larger lack of trust and confidence in using credit cards to shop online. And in Japan, social networkers do not care much for promoting themselves, but prefer to lead a different life on the web: on social network Mixi, which accounts for an 80% market share in Japan, over 90% of its users have an avatar.
  6. Ensure your ecommerce site ‘checkout’ allows for purchases in the local currency. It seems obvious but so many businesses don’t! And be transparent about any local taxation.
  7. Have a competitive local delivery offer. Many people would be likely to buy online from outside the country if they knew what the delivery price and options were.

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK