How to expand your online store to foreign markets? [Free roadmap template inside]

When and how to expand your online presence abroad still remains one of the biggest dilemmas of young and promising online stores. Many companies and customers turn to the Bighead Lab team with the following questions:

a) Is it worthwhile for them to expand abroad?

b) Which market is best to be expanding to?

c) Can they be profitable in a new market from the beginning?

We have also prepared a spreadsheet table of the roadmap for expanding online sales to foreign markets, which contains templates with a roadmap of activities, specially designed by the BHL team for launching stores abroad.

Expanding to foreign markets mostly depends on your goals

We notice that for classic Slovenian online retailers there is a dilemma about opening new markets when they start working somewhere between 10 and 20 thousand euros of online sales revenue per month. Depending on the product margins – but at this stage the entrepreneur and his core team generate enough stable revenue that the online store can employ more than one person. If the goal is to expand sales – one of the first concerns is the decision to expand sales to new markets.

Of course, this is not the only option to expand your sales. Many Slovenian online stores had much higher monthly turnover before opening the first foreign market. In addition to opening up new markets, we usually discuss the following strategies to increase revenue in the domestic market beforehand:

  1. You can add new products to existing products on the Slovenian market
  2. Expand the offer with which you can get new customers who were not interested in the previous offer
  3. Create your product (and brand) with a higher margin
  4. Open a new advertising channel
  5. Increase your AOV
  6. Increase your LTV

and a couple more suggestions, which we called here (link).

If you do not use any of the above steps to increase your online store and the opening of a new market abroad is still the most optimal – we have announced the important elements and timeline for opening a new market.

With the bigheadlab.com team, we don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ solution – because each store has its own target audience and its own challenges in entering foreign markets. Nevertheless, we have gathered a lot of useful information and comments from customers with whom we have already successfully opened foreign markets.

How to launch an online store in a new country

  1. Landing localization
  2. Get contacts (lead gen)
  3. Ad localization
  4. Social proof
  5. Launch
The Bighead approach to launching a new market structured in a roadmap

But first: Which market is best suited to expand your online store?

Gone are the days when we could decide by heart which foreign country to expand to first.

In some cases, we can also look in detail at some key KPIs, such as e.g. cost-per-click in advertising and on this basis determine the reasonableness of expanding the offer to a foreign country. In most cases, however, it will be more than a thorough analysis – the launch strategy and the execution of the activity itself will contribute to the success of one market.

When analyzing foreign markets, consider:

  • The purchasing power of the target audience
  • Keyword analysis and potential on google advertising
  • Localize advertising and support – do what you have to do
  • Ease of launch (eg if you already have a person who can speak Italian – the cost of translation will be much lower than if you hire an agency)

When the Slovenian online store with houseplants expanded to Croatia, they also thought about the face of the store:

“Since džungla-plants focuses on the brand and communication with customers, it was crucial for us to find a suitable native speaking person who will be able to cover customer support, social media and be the face of the brand in Croatia. At the same time, it also suited our culture, knew the plants and Croatian culture. ”

Tjaša, Co-founder @ Džungla plants

Nevertheless, you need to assess exactly which of your existing products may be of interest to customers in Europe. You may need to create new products or modify existing ones to target customers on the other side of the world. Another thing you need to be aware of is that not every country in Europe has the same purchasing power due to different income levels. For example, the minimum monthly wage (net) is € 1,476 in the Netherlands, € 884 in Spain and € 379 in Poland. Thus, more expensive products may sell better in some countries than in others and vice versa.

Localization of the online store

Once you have taken care of the basic things to enter a foreign market, such as:

  • domain
  • online store expansion
  • translations of existing texts
  • product certificates and market compliant declarations

It is important to take into account the specifics of the market in which you perform when localizing. For example, make sure you are actually responding to market-specific problems with your text. When customers shop in new online stores, they are usually asked:

How fast will they get the product?
What about exchanging or complaining about a product?
Has anyone ever shopped in this store – and how satisfied were they with the purchase?

Džungla plants, for example, the leading provider of houseplants in Slovenia, has established close contacts with its customers in building the brand. Therefore, when expanding to a foreign market, they wanted to repeat what brought them success in Slovenia.

“The key for džungla-plantss was understanding the culture. “We took into account that for the time being there is no similar competition in Croatia and there is still a lot of space on the market, which significantly contributes to the recognition of the brand in the future. It was also important for us to understand the culture, the language and it is close to us (possible delivery the next day). ”

Tjaša Jarc, Co-founder @ Džungla-plants.com

Note that each market also has its own specifics in communication. That is why it is important that you work with a translation agency or someone who really knows the market and can advise you on the tone of communication and what else needs to be added in the texts or visual elements.

Case study:

“In the field of cosmetics, the best-selling products on the Slovenian market consisted of ingredients that were banned from the consumer market on the Italian market. The product itself could be sold, but because the ingredients were included in the list of potentially dangerous elements – google automatically removed them from the list of allowed advertising products. This means we had to adjust our strategy and redirect sales of these bestselling products to other channels. “

Rok, Head of Advertising @ Bighead Lab

So, before preparing a strategy and entering a new market, check the compliance of products and the ability to advertise them on individual channels.

2. Introductory contacts

Building visibility from the start in a new market can consume a lot of resources. Anyway, you can build your own small base of contacts before you waste your first euro.

Check:

  • are there any existing customers from this market – you may have already sent some packages to that market and you can notify these users that there is a devoted store coming for them
  • you may already have fans from this market among your existing social profiles.
  • You can post on existing social media that you are interested in the new market – and post a link to the form for all those who would be interested in learning more about when the opening will take place.
  • Could you prepare a pre-order page or a special landing page just to pick up the first contacts? In the week when you launch a new store – these may be the first contacts to whom you send an e-mail with a notification (well … even some discount code does not hurt 😉)

3. Ad localization

Do you know the situation below?

In our own country, you achieve enviable results on Facebook ads. ROAS 4, you are knocking on your chest, we are opening champagne – it is time for the new market to open. You copy campaigns, translate ads – just launch the page and the market will explode …

The opposite happens – no matter what you do in the new market, you can’t repeat the results from your own one.

If you suspect something is wrong with the advertising itself, it may be due to one of the following:

Make sure you have really good translations

Best with any native translators or professional agencies. It may sound like an unnecessary complication, but the key thing about advertising in foreign markets is that you don’t give customers a reason to think about where your store is located. And with superficial translations, an alarm is triggered in customers’ heads that you – the new online “player” on their market – may not be trusted.

Edit Facebook pixel in conversion events

This will be the best way to optimize advertising abroad via Facebook or the Google platform.

Do Keyword research for Google

Use keywords from your own language and find alternatives in a foreign language. Then properly translate all google ads into a foreign language and make sure you really use keywords that have relevant search volumes.

For easier review and additional ideas, type foreign keywords into google and check out competing online stores. Their terminology can help you with both keyword research and how to communicate in ads or on a website.

Check the pricing policy of competing products and match your prices

Start from your added value – your product doesn’t have to be the cheapest on the market to sell well – maybe you can justify a higher price with added value (fast delivery, warranty, innovative product, popularity on social networks, etc.).

Low price is not always the most important factor when deciding to buy. However, compared to the competition, it is necessary to find more USPs or “unique value propositions”, with which potential buyers will recognize your advantages and more easily identify with your brand.

Use the organic contents of ordinary people

Or so-called UGC (user generated content) recorded in this foreign language. UGC material of “locals” will also help you in creating your own photo and video materials, as each market has a slightly different aesthetic, way of communication and as much as possible “native” advertising to each market will reap better results.

Unfortunately, copy-paste from market to market is no longer enough. Especially in retargeting, you can build more customer confidence in your products with reviews, unboxing or a few nice words from your fellow citizens. Sometimes it is also enough to have some recorded content and only localized voice-over over video is used.

Answer the question

What needs to be done for people to asks the least amount of questions about your store?

That they can stay focused on the product they are buying. Inappropriate colors, fonts or mismatched translations – all this distracts from the product to the question: ‘Who sells?’ .

In the 1home.io online store, they first focused on one market and tried to localize it as much as possible.

Vsekakor se je pametno najprej fokusirati samo na en trg in na temu trgu najti glavni motor rasti (kanal, ki veš da ga boš lahko repliciral, ko boš odpiral nove trge). Zdi se, da je lokalizacija zelo pomembna stvar – čeprav se šele trenutno pripravljamo na prve teste – vsekakor pa že sedaj vidimo, da razumevanje angleščine ni samo-umevno na trgih kot je Španija, Francija, Italija ipd. – čeprav imamo tehničen produkt. Najbolj pomembna stvar, ki bi jo izpostavil je, da se res splača na začetku – preden se začne resno oglaševanje – rock-solid urediti tracking in atribucijo. Nujno potrebno je postaviti okvir KPIjev za cold traffic, različnega remarketing traffic-a ipd., ki jih je potrebno zbalansirati na podlagi blended konverzij in osnovne ekonomike (RVC).

Rok Prevolšek, CEO @ 1home.io

Social proof

In the domestic market – as well as in all foreign markets that you will open, social proof is important for the successful operation of the store. We were looking for a Slovenian term for this – maybe ‘collective confirmation’ ?.

In short – the Internet is full of competing products and customers often calm their doubts before buying when they see that the same product is already used by a larger number of people.

In many cases, the strategy of acquiring a social professional can also develop into an actual sales strategy. The situation was similar at the Slovenian online clothing store Beloved.si.

In our case, with the help of influencers, we reached a critical mass of potential customers, which we then addressed through remarketing campaigns.

Rok, CEO @ Beloved.si
  • Product reviews and comments
  • Comments, likes and sharei under ads (give a picture …)
  • Video views
  • No. likes or followers on social profiles
  • Number of posts under the hashtags associated with this store
  • Videos and pictures with people while using the product

Collective confirmation is a hard-to-measure concept – but if you make sure you do your homework on the points above, you’ll secure a good brand or product name from potential customers.

An example of good user-generated content

5. Timetable for opening a new market

Do It What Are You Waiting For GIF - Do It What Are You Waiting For Determined GIFs

In addition to the detailed roadmap we share here, also note:

Macroeconomic factors:

  1. Appropriate time period
  2. Covid consequences
  3. Purchasing power of the target audience or. the size of the potential market
  4. The presence of competition
  5. Product specifics

Successful Slovenian brand in the field of smart homes, 1home.io:

“Our main market is in the DACH region. All activities were focused on this geo-region. It is a fact, however, that we always had only one person in the company who spoke German. As a result, we always first prepared the content in English and later translated it into German – thus generating constant bilingual SEO content. With that, we came to a very unique position that I don’t hear often: on a very small scale of revenue, we started selling to a large number of countries (60+). Later, based on activities by country and the volume of sales through SEO – we assessed which other markets would be worth advertising. However, this led to a whole bunch of bureaucracy, accounting and tax problems, which we had to bring under control. “

Rok Prevolšek, CEO @ 1home.io

That is why every launch is different – it must be adapted to the company’s capabilities and market needs. Nevertheless, we observe recurring patterns of successful market opening in some online stores. Together we gathered them into a rough roadmap.

The roadmap starts with setting the launch date

Product Management memes in 2021 | Memes, Funny, Management

Once you set a date – all other activities can be planned and stick to some productive frameworks.

The problem is that until it becomes a priority – there will be no time for it.

The Slovenian market also failed you overnight – and before you started making some serious income, you certainly paid more attention to the store than to some fun side project.

The launch date of the store will steer the activities and people involved in the project towards the goal and help coordinate the importance of individual tasks to achieve that goal.

Online stores need somewhere between 1.5 to 4 months to launch a new market – depending on the resources at their disposal.

The first stage begins with a thorough analysis. The Slovenian online clothing store beloved.si is successfully present in as many as 3 foreign markets – while not underestimating the importance of market analysis.

In expanding into foreign markets, market analysis was crucial for us. So the analysis of competition in the industry, pricing policy, the price of CPMs, and the strategy with which to enter the market. The key question for us was whether we were launching with a one-time strong campaign or gradually with regular advertising.

Rok, Founder @ Beloved

At Bighead Lab, we then tackle things in the following stages:

  1. Pre-launch

Dedicate the period before the opening of the new market to the planning and analysis of the market, and to the preparation of all the necessary ‘ingredients’ described above. Define who all should be informed about the new market from the very beginning.

2. Launch

The weeks in which you open a new country should be devoted to informing the lower part of the funnel. Inform all acquired contacts, and use various channels to ensure a resounding launch.

3. Leveraging mid & bottom of the funnel

Here, we focus on getting the first traffic per page and generating the first sale. In the Bighead roadmap for expanding into new markets, you can look at the key activities – but of course you can tailor them to your resources (budget and the people you have at your disposal):

  • Google ads – Search – Dynamic – all pages with negative keywords
  • Google ads – Search – Brand campaign
  • Google display – in market audiences – traffic
  • Facebook remarketing on all visitors & newsletter contacts
  • Email newsletter to all contacts from pre-launch

At Bighead, we like to focus first on those auditions with which we can generate the first sale as soon as possible. In some cases, however, we actively engage only in gaining traffic to the site, which is then activated in later steps in remarketing funnels.

4. Social proof

We wrote about this a little higher above.

5. Campaign optimization and expansion to the top of the funnel

Only when sales start to reach some predictable numbers do we tackle ‘cold traffic’ more intensively with the following advertising tactics:

  • Facebook Lookalikes targeting
  • Facebook Interests targeting
  • Facebook remarketing funnel – show different content to different people in your buyers journey
  • Google – YT ads – targeting
  • Google GDN – Retargeting for BOTF with promo codes

Pay attention to the ROAS metric – and try to predict how long you can afford to stick with low ROASI before advertising becomes unprofitable.

Of course, everyone wants immediate profitability with ROASI 4 or more, but in new markets this is often a much longer process. The more you prepare for advertising at the very beginning (localization, social proof …), the faster you can achieve better ROAS.

More about ROAS can be found here.

Once the dust settles after the launch of the new country, the ROAS stabilize and the packages are shipped in a respectable time (since we know how it is 😬), it’s time to pour yourself a glass – you’ve managed to launch a new country. But to make it profitable, with moderate growth – it will take quite a few more coordinated activities. If you need help with this, describe the challenge to us and we will be happy to jump on a short call and give you some free advice.

Each of these has its own activities, which you can find in this simulated timeline, which we also use ourselves.

Bonus tip: Although we rarely use digital PR for quick-to-realize results, opening up a new market is usually news that many like to sign up for free. Make a list of online portals, media or blogs that you could inform about a new online store in their market and you could share the news further. Free source of traffic, good links to the site for SEO and a good start to branding.

Finally, we summarize the key information in this article into three key points:

  1. Take care of all hygiene before you open a new market
  2. Provide goals, roadmap and strategy
  3. Start with the bottom of the funnel – the most potential buyers

You can find the free roadmap here.