The Continuing Globalization Of Online Retail

The past couple of months have seen a number of new initiatives and shifts on the global online retail front: Zara went live with a series of eCommerce sites (in five languages in Spain alone) while Gap started selling to an international online audience. At the same time, eBay conceded the market in China and looked to partner with market leader Alibaba. More companies have started coming to us asking about eCommerce in less traditional markets, with markets like Russia and Saudi Arabia being brought up with increasing frequency in our calls with clients.

We’ve recently published some research that helps companies sort through different international online markets: our Global Online Population Forecast looks at how the online population is shifting around the globe while A Snapshot Of Emerging Mobile Commerce In China puts the growth of mCommerce in China in perspective with its regional neighbors. Establishing A Global Online Retail Footprint looks at where US online retailers have expanded internationally and what factors they should consider as they decide which new markets to target. A few takeaways from recent research:

  • The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will add more than 300 million new Internet users over the next five years; one-third of all Internet users will live in these countries by 2014.
  • North America’s share of the global online population will decline from 16% to just 13% by 2014. By contrast, Asia’s will increase to 44% of the total.
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How Does Your Company Manage Social Media Across Multiple Countries?

Working in Europe, I'm constantly hearing about social media programs designed for one country accidentally reaching users in other countries -- especially when they're done in English. Toyota's excellent social media-focused iQ car launch in the UK attracted attention from the US, where the car isn't available. Yesterday a client told me that their Australian marketing team launched a Facebook page that they thought was just for their market -- but when they looked at the analytics, they found that only about 5% of the page's fans were Australian, with the rest coming from other big English-speaking markets.

 

As I see it, there are two big challenges when global companies use social media:

  1. How do you best leverage social media resources from one country (be they staff, technologies, partnerships, or content) across other countries to improve your efficiency and effectiveness?
  2. How do you keep social media messages that are appropriate for just one market (because product availability, or specifications, or pricing, or marketing message can vary from place to place) from "bleeding out" to reach users in other markets?
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