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PMG Digital Made for Humans

From Local to Global: 3 Key Considerations for International Expansion

4 MINUTE READ | November 19, 2014

From Local to Global: 3 Key Considerations for International Expansion

For the longest time, growing up here in the US and growing up with digital marketing as a whole, a majority of all marketing efforts were primarily contained to the US only. I think this was part a maturing of digital marketing and part lack of brand appetite to expand outside of the US. In the beginning, global simply wasn’t part of the picture. However, as the digital market continues to globalize and in effect shrink, the thought of global markets can no longer be on the back burner.

I’ve just recently moved back from London where I spent two years running some of the biggest global marketing efforts for some of the biggest brands in the world. I quickly realized the US is just one market, and marketing strategies needed to be much more nimble and flexible to work across the hundreds of markets we were operating in for these brands. And that was just within the first two months of living aboard. As we continued to expand nuances emerged with each major market, which forced our teams to be even more flexible. I’ve tried to encapsulate this experience into my top three considerations:

  1. What is your competition like? In most cases there’s a local brand who customers know and love, that you’ll be competing with. What differentiates your brand? Having this question truly answered and not just ‘well it works in the US therefore it will work elsewhere’ is a must. Really research your competition and have a deep understanding of each market. They vary wildly from market to market, as should your strategy. Know exactly what you’re up against before you enter the space.

  2. In line with competition, what is your order fulfillment strategy? If your product is truly sought after the consumer will be willing to wait and pay the extra expense. But too many times while living and working abroad, I heard ‘why would I buy it from a US-based company and wait two weeks, when I can get it in 24 hours locally?’ Chances are shipping is a cost the consumer will have to pay as well. And it’s not cheap. I realize this is a tough ask for many brands, as fulfillment takes quite a bit of time, logistics planning, and investment, but it has to be an integral part of your considerations when entering a market. This then gets into the top line vs. bottom line growth in each market, merchandising, etc. but we’ll save that for another day.

  3. How ‘localised’ is your brand site? Driving traffic to the US site, or a site that is just a copy / paste of your US site is quite a common case. This is an easy way to start, but know that performance will lag behind and speaking to your customers in a localized manner is a must.

  • How localized will marketing efforts be? How many languages will you be targeting? What solution will you have in place for on-the-go translations? There’s nothing more valuable than having in-house, local language speakers. They are worth their weight in gold. If that’s not an option, there are many services out there who can help.

  • Have a plan around localizing all your content. It can be a phased approach, but remember, just like here in the US, consumers want to be spoken to in a personal way. Your US-based site will work for a very short period of time before you start seeing a decline.

  • Don’t forget cultural calendars for each market. They are wildly different. Such an obvious one here, but so often forgotten.

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but I figured short and sweet for now. Too many times I saw brands wanting to jump into the global space without having the proper plan, and expect things to ‘just perform’. What is your brand equity like outside of your home market? Chances are brand equity is much lower, meaning tactics needs to change, expectations needs to change, and performance outcomes should be adjusted accordingly. My overall recommendation: Do your Research. Start small. And with a plan.

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Image Credit: EyeonEarth


Posted by Nick Drabicky

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