Global Virtual Marketplaces, Social May Be Keys to Online Marketing Success
Companies expanding their business to global markets often launch multilingual websites to serve their new customers. This is particularly common when entering emerging markets, where consumers crave access to foreign brands but prefer transacting in their native languages. Harnessing global virtual marketplaces and social channels may yield the online marketing success brands seek here.
Because in many markets, localized corporate websites aren’t the first place these customers visit to make purchases. They’re far more likely to shop on third-party virtual marketplaces, such as China’s Tmall, or in regional social media channels.
Customers in Western markets usually shop on brand-name websites, as well as on multi-brand sites, like Amazon and Walmart.
In contrast, customers in emerging markets prefer virtual marketplaces because they trust those platforms more than brand-name sites. Customers can also easily compare prices, which tend to be low due to greater competition.
Sellers benefit from these marketplaces because they generate a high volume of traffic and simplify inventory management and fulfillment, which is usually handled by the marketplace for a fee. Marketplaces also often leverage big data more effectively than conventional e-retailers, to help convert visitors from browsers to buyers.
Virtual malls have been growing in popularity:
- Alibaba-owned Tmall has over 500 million monthly active users
- In Q1 2017, marketplace sellers accounted for 50% of the units sold on Amazon.com
- By 2020, virtual marketplaces will represent nearly 40% of the global online market
This growth is most noticeable in China, South Korea and the Middle East/North Africa.
China and Tmall
China’s online retail sales are booming, and Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2020, it will make up 31% of total retail in the country.
Increasingly, Western brands are turning to virtual marketplaces as a way to enter the Chinese market. There are many hurdles to managing local websites in China, and bureaucratic and logistical challenges are ongoing.
Marketplaces make it easy for companies to create and operate virtual shops. For instance, Tmall has tools that allow sellers to customize their storefronts with brand logos, fonts and colors, as well as add videos and interactive content. Chinese consumers favor virtual marketplaces operated by Alibaba-owned Tmall, the country’s largest online marketplace.
To penetrate this market, companies should translate product information into Chinese and use technology solutions to upload the content to Tmall.
South Korea and Naver
Naver — not Google — is the preferred search engine in South Korea. But much like Google, it provides access to a virtual marketplace, as well as payment methods.
Another influential e-commerce platform is mobile communications app Kakao, which recently launched its own shopping experience, allowing users to shop and send gifts to friends through the social platform.
Companies that want to do online business in South Korea should make content available in the Korean language to be picked up by Naver’s algorithm. They should also be open to accepting payment from digital wallet services, such as Naver’s Naver Pay or Kakao’s KakaoPay.
Middle East/North Africa
The Middle East is experiencing a boom in e-commerce; but as in China, bureaucracy and regulations make it challenging for Western companies to conduct online business there. Instead, they use marketplaces — such as Amazon-owned Souq, which claims over 45 million visitors per month.
Most African consumers still make purchases at physical stores or markets, but smartphone use and Internet penetration are growing. People shop online through eBay partner MallforAfrica, an app for cross-border e-commerce, and Odjala, Africa’s first online shopping mall.
It’s important to note that many of these marketplaces, such as Souq, are only available in limited markets, and do not allow sellers from other countries — at least for now. But as popularity and trust in e-commerce grows, opportunities will likely open for international brands to sell through these marketplaces.
Offsite Social Commerce
Smartphone use and the proliferation of social media have also revolutionized e-commerce. By using offsite social commerce, brands can sell directly to global customers via social networks.
Many social media platforms and apps — including WeChat, Facebook and Instagram — now provide convenient, streamlined one-click buying options. These networks also collect and share valuable data with sellers, such as conversion and engagement metrics.
Be sure to include offsite social commerce in your global selling strategy. Determine the regionally-preferred social networks of your target markets and implement available e-commerce tools to get your products seen by potential new customers.
The Importance of Localization
The best tip for success in new markets is not only to establish a presence on international virtual marketplaces and offsite social commerce, but to do so in the preferred local languages.
In-language social media posts and product information on marketplaces have a far greater chance of reaching and converting potential global customers than content not translated in local languages.
If your brand already has a multilingual website or other collateral, this content can be repurposed for marketplaces and social networks. Smart localization technology offers cost-effective solutions for maximizing the impact of translated content across all channels.
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