How one Australian business used the power of localisation to conquer the global market
For many local businesses with growth on the mind, conquering the Australian market is just the first step. Breaking into international markets can open up a vast untapped market, but dreams of world domination can stay just that if you don’t have a smart localisation strategy firmly in place. Localisation—the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture or population—is essential for any process of global expansion.
To help you put your best (local) foot forward, we provide a case study of one of our long-term clients that successfully expanded into multiple global markets via a process of strategic localisation. We examine the successes, the challenges and provide a localisation roadmap for you to follow on your own expansion journey.
The Cycology Clothing project
Established in Sydney in 2011, Cycology Clothing is the brainchild of artist-designer Sarina Tomchin and her husband Michael Tomchin. The brand was borne out of a frustration with the bland corporate designs that dominated casual clothing for cyclists and began selling their custom-designed products locally.
It didn’t take long before the Cycology team noticed that a lot of their growth was coming from outside of Australia. The company observed that there was a growing customer base in the United Kingdom, Europe and America and decided to pursue this base more aggressively.
Online customers prefer to research and buy items in their own language and culture, so local solutions mean a more effective conversion rate. Cycology engaged DO Commerce in 2015 to develop new European (EU) and United Kingdom (UK) websites on the Shopify platform, and connect these platforms to their fulfilment providers, providing customers with a localised domain, product and shipping offering. These projects were followed closely by expansion into Asia Pacific (APAC) and the United States (US) in 2017.
The ecommerce platform
Cycology re-platformed from Neto to Shopify Plus, which allows clients to have up to 10 clone stores within the merchant account. All of the Cycology stores are essentially cloned in terms of design presentation and do have very similar product offerings; however, seasonality affects some SKUs so functionality had to be built in to accommodate this. Aside from the uniform front-end designs, each store has its own shipping rates and providers that are specific to the country of origin.
Cycology uses third party warehousing and fulfilment providers, selected based on local presence and a proven ability to integrate their system with Shopify. The .uk and .eu sites feed off the same inventory via integration, and are shipped from the UK. The US and APAC sites each also have their own inventory.
Location-specific Facebook ads
Most of Cycology’s leads come via acquisition campaigns on Facebook ads and posts. They have one Facebook channel (run in-house in Sydney) with unique, location-specific ad campaigns. These ads land users on the local sites (for example, EU ads have the EU website URL).
We were also able to significantly grow the Cycology subscription database by including pop-up offers on their localised websites to sign up to their newsletter. For example, the US site email subscription pop-up has doubled their mailing list in just four months.
From a technical perspective, geotargeting is one of the major challenges of having multiple stores. In Cycology’s case, each store has its own unique URL, and over time we have been able to use geo redirects and refine the digital strategy to ensure customers around the world end up on the correct store.
There are implications to this, however; for example, if a customer wants to buy a gift for an Australian friend while living in London. Additionally, redirects can be penalised by Google if not executed correctly. To combat these issues, instead of automatically redirecting customers, we detect their location and give them the option to change sites if they have landed on the wrong store.
In terms of SEO, we use hreflang tags, which tell Google which language you are using on a specific page, so the search engine can serve that result to the right users.
Failing to communicate to customers in their native language can have a serious effect on how customers perceive your brand, which in turn affects your performance. All touchpoints for the Cycology customer were localised, with product, marketing content and web and ‘shopfront’ content focused for the regions as required.
We also ensured all technical content on the websites was translated and localised, starting with the obvious—local domain names—and moving through to keywords, meta-tags and titles. This optimisation not only helps increase Cycology’s search rankings, it also gives the user a better experience.
With multiple sites that have to respond to different local requirements, there does need to be a robust process for managing each of the sites. Sometimes a change will only be relevant to one store, and other times it may need to be deployed to all four sites. Together with Cycology, we developed a process that manages this version control process effectively.
The results of Cycology’s expansion into the international market speak for themselves. The company is successfully running global distribution across four sites (EU, APAC, US and UK) and continuing to grow in all markets. Just 18 months out from its launch, Europe is Cycology’s fastest growing market, more than doubling its annual sales. The USA website (which also services Canada) was launched in 2017 with immediate success in that market, even tripling expected sales.
How to establish your ecommerce business in international markets
Start by doing your research. When entering into new markets, it is important to know what local customers really expect from your brand to ensure you create the right online experience.
It’s also important to understand the pros and cons of each market in a global context. There are still many countries experiencing a strong ecommerce uptake with vast potential for growth. For example, Germany has what is deemed a high-growth ecommerce market that is still relatively uncluttered. IT infrastructure and high levels of smartphone usage has also proven opportunistic throughout Southeast Asia; however, don’t discount the USA, as it’s the biggest and most mature ecommerce market in the world. This means it’s easier to establish operations there because you can tap into established infrastructure (such as warehouses, 3PLs, and inventory management).
Complete a market analysis of the countries you are considering: what is the current competition base, expected demand for the product, population demographics, delivery networks, pricing? Once you have identified potential countries and understand the local landscape, consider specific operational factors such as:
- Business registration requirements and legislation
- Taxes and financial requirements
- Shipping networks and rates
- Language or cultural implications.
It is also great to connect with other Australian businesses you may be transacting or operating within selected countries, and we can’t stress enough the value of sourcing a local expert.
- Do the ground work: Cycology’s successful international expansion is in large part a result of their diligence in researching and understanding the local markets before launching.
- Look at technical compatibility: Cycology select local partners for third-party logistics that are compatible with Shopify, which makes a huge difference for launch and fulfillment.
- Consistency equals project success: Throughout the expansion, Cycology worked consistently with DO across all sites. This allowed both businesses to develop a trust and intimate understanding of each other, which resulted in better service provision.
If you’re considering taking your ecommerce business to the world, get in touch. As Shopify Plus partners and ecommerce experts, we’re perfectly positioned to help you take those first steps into the global marketplace. It’s what we DO.