First of all, traders have to decide which countries or marketplaces are suitable for their expansion strategy. If you already offer your products on Amazon or eBay, you can expand your sales spectrum directly to many countries in and outside of Europe. However, the pandemic has shown how quickly dependence on a marketplace can become undoing. If a company really wants to diversify, it has to consider other countries as well as other marketplaces.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, for example, Amazon restricted the acceptance of non-essential products. Sellers who had built up a lean dropshipping business were sometimes completely without sales. The Brexit also made it clear to traders that they definitely have to be broader in order to counteract failures ”, reports Philipp Fechner, Team Lead Sales at InterCultural Elements.
If dealers receive orders from abroad without active marketing, this can help with the expansion strategy and the choice of the next expansion target. You should always also conduct a detailed competition analysis and carefully study the guidelines for your products. If retailers don’t even know where to start, advice from an e-commerce agency with many years of experience in expanding to different marketplaces can save them from making expensive wrong decisions. When making a selection, they should also pay attention to offers with free initial consultation and a sensible selection of supplementary services.
Expansion strategy: Are there marketplace alternatives to Amazon?
In terms of the number of online consumers, the United Kingdom is one of the strongest e-commerce markets in Europe after Germany. It is followed by France, Spain, Italy and – at the top of the emerging markets in Eastern Europe – Poland. The per capita spending on online shopping also shows potential for Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. However, the effects of Brexit are likely to be felt in the coming years and require a high level of research and organizational effort. Before the new regulations are in place, it is important for entrepreneurs to seek expert advice before expanding into the UK.
In many western countries, Amazon is already at least among the Top 3 most popular online marketplaces. The Netherlands, Sweden and Poland have recently joined the universe of the e-commerce giant. Alternatively, you can choose from global competition such as eBay, Wish or AliExpress. Especially in the fashion and cosmetics segment, Zalando is now successfully establishing itself in 20 countries. In addition, local marketplaces such as Otto in Germany, Cdiscount in France, the recently listed Allegro in Poland, Fyndiq in Sweden and bol.com in the Netherlands continue to hold their own. It therefore depends crucially on the product range and expansion target which alternatives for further diversification are possible.
Adapt listings to the new market
Once the decision for a new market has been made, the next step is to successfully adapt the products to the new target group. After observing the guidelines of the respective marketplace, the product descriptions must not only be translated, but also localized. For example, if the data is already available in British English and a retailer decides to expand into the US market, he still has to invest in localization. When shopping online, the right search terms are always in the foreground – for example “pants” vs. “trousers” etc.
The influence of appropriately translated and localized product descriptions should not be underestimated. At best, a poor machine translation makes the customer happy. It is more likely, however, that he will click his way to the competition’s product, annoyed. The retailer wants to give the impression of being more professional and trustworthy – even if he is on the other side of the world. Machine translation saves time and money. However, it is essential that the text is proofread by a native speaker. Translators specializing in e-commerce optimize the texts for search engines and adapt them to the cultural conditions. Professional agencies do not charge identical descriptions within a text twice and text repetitions can be discounted. This saves costs and the product descriptions will still stand out from the competition.
Multilingual customer service as part of the expansion strategy
The linguistic adjustment of the listings as part of the expansion strategy is not done yet. Returns and delivery problems can never be completely avoided, which is why native-speaking customer service employees are also required. Bad reviews can not only scare off future customers, they also lead to a suspension of the account in the long run and should therefore not be underestimated. On the other hand, it could take months for merchants to establish themselves in the marketplace and for customer service demand to rise. It makes no sense to employ a multilingual team from the start. Therefore, new languages should initially only be offered as e-mail customer service. This can be easily outsourced and only has to pay the provider of choice when inquiries are actually received.
“Clever retailers develop channels in multiple marketplaces and countries”
Amazon almost did last year a quarter of the accounts of German traders suspended, more than half without warning. Returns, ratings, performances and notifications should therefore be constantly monitored. Often enough, it is small errors or changes in the marketplace guidelines that take traders by surprise and cause a suspension. Therefore, traders should definitely turn to a trustworthy provider with years of experience in writing action plans. This will ensure that your seller account will be reactivated as soon as possible.
“Think of your company like a table and your sales channels like table legs. Smart traders develop channels in multiple marketplaces and countries in order to increase stability and reduce dependence on individual marketplaces. The importance of diversification is more important than ever when unexpected account suspensions all too often bring retailers to their knees ”, explains Scott Galvao, CEO of InterCultural Elements.
Some agencies now also offer regular checks on seller accounts so that there is no suspension in the first place.
Also read: Expansion abroad – five steps to more sales in e-commerce.
About the author: Christine Lippmann works as an e-commerce marketing specialist for InterCultural Elements, an expansion agency from Leipzig that specializes in e-commerce and has been offering marketplace advice, onboarding, translation, localization, multilingual customer service and help with Amazon suspensions since 2007.