Six Ways to Best Serve Retail Customers in Your Target Markets

How can you use data to understand, reach, and sell to your target audiences across different markets?

Online retail success comes down to meeting a consumer need or want. But how do you know for sure what your customers want? Hopefully, a number of data-rich touchpoints may already inform your online marketing, advertising, and sales strategy. But what if you’re pursuing or growing your online presence in different audiences across several target markets? Does it make sense to create separate e-commerce pages for each target market? How can you meet and anticipate consumer expectations in markets that are not your own?

We get these questions all the time as well as specific questions about online retail preparedness, such as, “How do I prepare my e-commerce page for a new country market?”. Our approach is not just to bring data-driven marketing best practices into the mix but to begin thinking like both an exporter and an explorer. 

In response, we’ve identified six keys to unlocking e-commerce success across your target markets. 

Tap into the value of going local

Cross-cultural marketing, as important as it is, isn’t easy. When done correctly, it reaches across the culture of the marketer/seller and speaks at an intuitive level to the buyer in a completely different culture; the demands and stakes are high because understanding the local when you’re not a local is a path riddled with potential pitfalls if not armed with the right knowledge.

What factors does your business need to consider to tap into the value of the local? A few just to start: 

  • Cultural norms

Cultural misunderstandings are one of the biggest problem areas in trying to “go local” in your cross-cultural marketing. What is completely typical behavior in one culture is completely taboo, or not done, in another. Understanding local culture and cultural norms will underpin your marketing efforts in markets that are not your own. 

  • Market knowledge/expertise and segmenting the audience appropriately 

Market research, data, and experience will provide the market knowledge required to help you break into new territory. Understanding your market will mean not just diving into the culture but also understanding that not everyone within that culture/market can be categorized as the same. There are many subcultures and linguistic groups within a country, and even geographic and climatic features of the market can influence consumer demand. Thoroughly research your market, who lives in it, and what they prefer/respond to.  

  • Linguistic knowledge and language barriers

We’ve all probably heard the anecdote about the Coca-Cola ad that went horribly wrong in Saudi Arabia. In it, Coca-Cola apparently thought they could get around the language barrier by illustrating their pitch with pictures, without wading into the Arabic language. Unfortunately this didn’t consider the fact that Arabic (and thus also the pictures) would be read from right to left. Thus, the local market is left thinking that if they drink this magic potion, they will go from running a marathon to lying exhausted in a hot desert. Language knowledge and proper localization is essential, but understanding the “workflows” of different linguistic traditions is just as important to the complete journey.

Understand and reflect your market

As illustrated in the previous example, things are done differently across markets. A long-running ad campaign from HSBC bank rested on the idea of its being “the world’s local bank”, and it took (expensive) pains to differentiate its global brand by breaking it down into local understanding. HSBC excelled at localizing and focusing on specific aspects of cultural understanding in its target markets and portrayed itself as an outsider (of sorts) who had the understanding to fit in and reflect the needs of the local market. 

Using consumer data that indicated that a “large, global bank is intimidating for most consumers, who associate the footprint and size of the bank with a negative experience and condescending treatment”, they “glocalized” their growth and marketing strategy to meet the needs of the market they entered. Regardless of the outcome of the now-defunct strategy, the initial impetus was local understanding. Without diving into the data of how you (or your industry) are perceived and situating yourself in that landscape, it’s impossible to get traction.

Overestimate the importance of brand

Brand identity is a big driver of retail connections; don’t underestimate it. It’s something that becomes core to how consumers perceive and relate to you. It’s clear from some of the global examples, such as Coca-Cola and HSBC, that global brands have immediate cachet because they are recognizable, but local knowledge is the linchpin to their success (or failure).

When you’re not a big, global brand but want to use branding to get your message across in different cultures, values come into play. Cross-cultural branding can be tricky, but if you have understood your core target audience’s values and your brand aligns with that, your ability to market your brand to other cultures is significantly enhanced. For example, as many markets become more socially aware and conscious, there are paths to take in terms of how aligned your brand is with social issues, even those that are controversial. At the same time, cultural sensitivity, norms, and even laws must be considered in crafting a clear brand personality.

Deliver on proven desire and need

Once the concepts under the bigger umbrella (overall culture, brand, market) are understood, you can begin to dive into the more granular data about the individual target customers in your selected market. What does the single customer view look like, and what should the customer journey look like? Can you predict based on the data you have what you need to do tactically to deliver on the proven needs and desires of the target audience(s), and have you set up ways to capture that intelligence for proper attribution and optimization? Developing data-informed relationships helps with selling but also drives a longer-term impact.

Spark a memorable and easy user experience

Personalization has become a necessity in the e-commerce space, with 70 to 75% of consumers across markets reporting a sense of frustration when they don’t receive personalized experiences on their favorite sites. Consumers want personalized recommendations, special offers and pricing, rewards, and exclusive content. In fact, 91% of consumers report a greater likelihood of shopping with brands that deliver relevance to them.

Luckily, it’s never been easier to offer increasingly personalized experiences. Taking advantage of the wealth of first-party data you can collect from consumers’ interactions with you and your site and combining that with technical possibilities, such as advanced caching strategies that allow for personalized content, you can create memorable user experiences tailored specifically for the user. This kind of personalization isn’t possible without data-driven marketing and a deep understanding both of the market you’re targeting and the individual to whom you’re marketing.

Ignite the engagement engine

Companies that complete all of the activities above will find it easier to get the engagement engine going – sparking customer loyalty, always customizing offers and content that consumers can relate to, creating retail experiences and making them memorable. Engagement is almost an afterthought (albeit an important one) when a retailer has done all the previous steps correctly. Engagement continues to grow when you think of your customers as partners, and your experience selling to them is a further step in getting to know them (and showing them you know them, which ultimately boosts revenue and loyalty). By now, the complexity of serving your target market at the right time with the right message is becoming clearer. We’re here to help. Get in touch to discuss using your e-commerce data and our local experience in a vast number of global markets to create better UX, increase revenue, and drive sticky, memorable customer experiences.

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