If you’re a U.S.-based retailer or retail manufacturer looking for new customers and growth opportunities, it’s time to look beyond your comfort zone. It’s time to expand into international markets with authentically localized, translated websites.
In fact, it may be well past time for your organization to embrace such expansion. Savvy e-commerce website operators have long known that U.S. sites receive a sizable amount of their traffic from overseas. There’s just one problem: The conversion rate for these global shoppers is quite low—especially from non-English speaking markets.
Why? These visitors struggle to navigate English websites, find items they want, and successfully purchase them. The language barrier, among other challenges, is real. It’s also creating countless lost sales and opportunities for retailers and retail manufacturers.
Creating localized experiences (through authentic website translation) is critical to reaching these increasingly-affluent international consumers. In fact, the process is quite affordable, and—when buoyed by relevant localized digital marketing efforts—these sites usher in new customers, improve the conversion rate of existing international traffic, and generate a growing source of revenue from customers around the world.
So, which global web trends are influencing businesses today, and maximizing their e-commerce sales? We examined the exclusive data generated by the 1,000+ localized websites we operate every day for insights. We also asked our in-house experts for their perspectives.
Here are three (and a half!) noteworthy trends that can help retailers and retail manufacturers sell to global customers in 2016.
Trend #1: Being Mobile-Friendly Powers International Traffic & Sales
You probably recall that Google made changes to its search algorithm last April to boost the ranking of mobile-friendly websites on searches made on mobile devices. (Companies that embraced responsive web design, or had mobile websites, would be rewarded.) However, if a site remained optimized for desktop browsers, Google warned, it would likely experience a “significant decrease in rankings in mobile search results.”
Here’s where things get relevant for international markets: Google also said this update would affect mobile searches hailing from all locations, in all languages, worldwide.
Interestingly, Google’s Mobile Friendly Update didn’t spell doom for most U.S. English websites; after all, responsive web design has been a best practice for years. But companies that operated “mobile unfriendly” websites in international markets were clobbered.
We analyzed the impact of Google’s update on 40 of our clients’ localized sites. Companies that implemented our recommended mobile-friendly improvements saw robust growth in mobile impressions—often by nearly 25%—illustrating the importance of playing by Google’s rules.
Companies that did nothing were their own worst enemies. Their sites saw mobile impressions plummet nearly 40%. Ouch.
Naturally, conversions and revenue were higher for the international sites that embraced mobile-friendly best practices.
The data doesn’t lie: Google’s algorithmic changes have an impact, especially on international sites. Companies must ensure that traffic—and conversion and sales—aren’t negatively affected in global markets when such SEO changes occur.
Also note that mobile-friendly updates are coming to other search engines. Last year, Bing reported its intent to refine its algorithm to reward mobile-friendly sites. Expect such changes in international search engines, such as Russia’s Yandex and China’s Baidu, too.
Trend #2: Social Is Supercharging Global E-Commerce
Social networks have revolutionized online shopping in many emerging markets. Users, empowered to easily share products and product information with their networks, are creating a wildfire of referral traffic to e-commerce sites.
However, the truly disruptive activity isn’t hailing hail from merely sharing products. Word-of-mouth recommendations are key.
Take China. User recommendations made on China’s social networks such as WeChat, QQ and Sina Weibo have become “the most important factor in their online shopping decision,” a Chinese newspaper reported last year. This is especially compelling, since brands can now launch stores within the social networks themselves, eliminating all friction between browsing and buying.
Our research also confirms this worldwide surge in social—and companies leveraging the promotional power of these regional social networks are seeing lifts in local sales. Again, let’s look at China. Within a few months of integrating its site functionality with social networks WeChat, Weibo and QQ, one of our clients saw a 30% surge in all referral traffic to its Chinese site, hailing from social media sites.
This traffic generated 10% of the site’s total revenue—and that number continues to grow.
Embrace social networks in your international marketing and retail efforts. Customers are already there, transacting. You should be there, too.
Trend #3: One Localized Site Now Serves Many Markets
As your company expands into international online markets, understand that—just like your organization’s U.S.-based English website—consumers living beyond those global markets’ borders will be visiting, and shopping, there.
This poses a fantastic opportunity to engage customers you wouldn’t otherwise attract, at no extra cost to your company.
Consider the business case for launching a localized website for Mexican customers. Based on our data, Mexicans are big spenders online. We’ve known for years that U.S. Hispanics spend nearly 20% more per order online than the U.S. average. However, Mexicans spend nearly 95% more AOV than U.S. Hispanics do.
Mexico’s growing middle class, and ever-increasing Internet penetration, also help paint a rosy picture for companies interested in expanding into the market online. But a site serving Mexicans has a much larger audience than you might think.
Underserved Spanish-speaking consumers well beyond Mexico are also out searching the web for products—and they’re finding them on these localized Mexican websites. Suddenly, a website originally intended to serve one large market is serving many.
Indeed, our research indicates that Spanish sites following our best practices can expect 60% of its organic traffic to come from Latin American markets. We often find that when companies launch a Spanish website, translated into easy-to-read “Universal Spanish,” they soon discover an impetus to pursue a broader international growth strategy.
Trend #4: Optimization Tools Have Matured
Launching translated websites in new global markets will certainly generate traffic, engagement and revenue. But MotionPoint discovered long ago that translation alone won’t guarantee business success in those international markets.
Website localization isn’t just about translation. It’s about creating sustained business success in international markets. This requires technologies, tools and teams that drive international traffic and engagement to quickly generate ROI and meet business goals.
Affordable optimization tools—once a seeming impossibility in the website translation space—now exist to power more traffic, engagement and conversion to localized websites. Tools such as intelligent on-site language preference detection software (to boost traffic), translated on-site search (to increase engagement) and on-site localized promotions (to create authentic shopping experiences for local customers) and more are now available to leverage, and effectively connect with new customers.
As you learn more about website globalization providers, consider the effort and resources your organization currently invests in finding new website visitors for its primary-market English site, creating promotions designed to resonate, and then testing the user experience to maximize engagement and conversion. These activities are also crucial to the success of your localized websites.
Don’t make the mistake of launching a translated website without a plan for generating sustainable business success. Working with a company like MotionPoint, which pioneered the optimization tools mentioned above (and many others), can accelerate your time to market—and a timeline for ROI.
Trend 4½: There’s Still Room To Grow In the U.S.
We’ve written at length about how U.S. companies can reach international customers with localized websites, but there’s an ever-growing market far closer to home that can also generate powerful business results: Spanish-speaking U.S. Hispanics.
The collective buying power of U.S. Hispanics now exceeds $1.7 trillion, up more than 50% since 2010. The U.S. is home to nearly 54 million Hispanics—about 17% of the nation’s population. This market will continue to grow in affluence and influence; Hispanics will represent nearly one-third of the U.S. population by 2060.
Most significantly, more than 70% of these consumers speak Spanish at home, and most prefer to transact in Spanish.
Retailers and retail manufacturers that launch e-commerce sites in Spanish can win big. We’ve found that companies that launch Spanish sites targeting U.S. Hispanics—when following MotionPoint’s proprietary, data-based best practices & optimizations—often see growth rates of around 123% in its first year, and 160% by its third year.
And recall that U.S.-based Spanish speakers won’t be the only customers visiting that localized site. Our data suggests that U.S. Spanish sites following our best practices may receive up to 60% of its “free” organic traffic from underserved international markets such as Mexico and Latin America. These shoppers are most-often searching for products unavailable in their local market.
Companies that can fulfill orders to these overseas destinations will soon generate business results in markets they hadn’t initially targeted … while not spending additional money to reach those customers.