At the root of human behavior is the impulse for connection. History is our witness: As times change, certain trends emerge that anchor shared experiences, around which people collectively rally. Today, with social media acting as a platform for ubiquitous connections, diverse consumers build solidarity around digital experiences. Beyond simply looking for deals and discounts, individuals who “friend,” “follow,” and “like” brands seek closer brand relationships.
However, while consumers around the world want to be part of a brand community, some cultures are more enthusiastic than others. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that Latin American online adults are more passionate about engaging with brands for affective reasons than their European and Japanese counterparts:
This variation roughly parallels Hofstede’s dimensions of culture, which suggests that the differences are partially a reflection of cultural nuances: Those populations that are most motivated to share in the brand community are all-around collectivist rather than individualist.
eCommerce revenues are soaring around the globe. This year, the US, Western Europe, and China alone will generate over $800 billion in online retail sales. Growth rates, too, remain staggering in many countries: China’s massive online retail market will more than double between 2013 and 2018, as will Brazil’s. India’s much smaller market will grow by eight-fold during this timeframe.
However, a litany of businesses have failed as they attempted to tap into shoppers outside of their home markets, with many large US and European brands factoring prominently on the list of casualties. eCommerce is no exception: Numerous eCommerce businesses have taken the plunge into new markets, only to find their offerings didn’t resonate with local consumers or they were outsmarted by much savvier local rivals.
What separates successful global eCommerce businesses from their counterparts? Which tactics have proven particularly effective for brands aiming to extend their reach into new markets? What are some of the most common challenges businesses tend to encounter? Our newly published eCommerce globalization playbook helps brands through the thorny process of global expansion. Clients can read our playbook for insights on how to:
Discover and quantify international revenue opportunities. Our playbook includes reports outlining the global opportunity and identifying how eCommerce markets typically develop with time. Our online retail forecasts for the US and Canada, Western Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America provide a quantitative look at market sizes and eCommerce trends in these regions.
We’ve been having a series of conversations with brands and retailers recently about how to effectively plan for global online expansion. While approaches vary, eBusiness leaders cite similar challenges. In particular, two hurdles to successful international expansion tend to come up repeatedly in conversations:
“Our ROI scenarios are unrealistic.” In a survey of eBusiness professionals in the B2C space, we asked how quickly they expected to see a return on their investments in new global online initiatives. Over three-quarters said either in less than one year or in one to two years. By contrast, leaders of successful global eBusinesses frequently highlight the fact that payback on new initiatives takes at least two years, with many citing three years and up. As a result of this disconnect, eBusiness professionals overseeing new global businesses often find themselves falling short of expectations and struggling to secure the funds needed to succeed. Today, the mismatch between ROI expectations and performance is one of the leading reasons why new global initiatives fail.
eCommerce is becoming more globally pervasive. Therefore, retailers must continually adapt their expansion strategies to reflect changing retail consumption behaviors. But what makes a country ready for eCommerce? When making investment decisions, it's certainly important to get the facts about macroeconomic conditions, Internet access, and consumer market size. However, there is much more driving the eCommerce market.
In order for firms to get a full view of a country’s online retail readiness, they must also consider its online activity, consumer payment behavior, and postal courier infrastructure. In a recent study conducted by Forrester's ForecastView team, we investigated 55 global economies to discern the readiness of each eCommerce market. The underlying quantitative framework captures 25 variables under four pillars: consumer behavior, merchant adoption, macroeconomic conditions, and the retail opportunity. The analysis is distilled in the Forrester Readiness Index: eCommerce (FRI).
This is a guest post from Lily Varon, a researcher serving eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals
Today, eBusiness professionals are struggling with how to engage their clients around the globe via a website that meets varying language and cultural needs. Additionally, they’re faced with deciding between the different technical implementation methods with language service providers. Forrester has recently published a report to help eBusiness professionals navigate the maze of solutions and vendors at hand to help implement their translation and localization strategy.
Before evaluating solutions and signing contracts, eBusiness professionals must consider these important questions:
What is the right mix of translation methods? There is no replacement for translation done by a professional translator in terms of quality output, but the sheer volume of website content, the increasing demand for quick turnaround, and the number of languages needed far exceed the capacity of using all human translation. Many enterprises use a combination of translation methods (e.g., human translation, machine translation, human-aided machine translation, crowdsourcing) to execute on their international initiatives and fulfill their translation needs while keeping project costs under control.
Last week Forrester published a report on the state of online retail in Canada. We surveyed 1,103 adult online shoppers in Canada to understand what challenges the Canadian public face when shopping online. We found that Canadian online shoppers have many complaints; among them high shipping costs and lackluster product assortments. Furthermore, Canadian online shoppers are acutely aware of the gap between the online experiences of domestic sites versus those in the US. Canadian sites are missing key online capabilities like free shipping, flexible pickup options, a stress-free return policy, and omnichannel payment options in addition to the obvious price discrepancies.
Some of the reports highlights include the following facts:
Shipping costs are too still too high. Despite the eventual arrival of Amazon Prime in Canada and the increasing commonality of free shipping thresholds, sixty-eight percent of Canadian online shoppers we surveyed cited that delivery costs are their primary concern when shopping online.
Product assortment online in Canada is lackluster. Thirty-seven percent of Canadian online shoppers say they can't find the products they are looking for online in Canada. Consequently, 32% of these frustrated shoppers ultimately end up buying instead from US or International sites and incurring the cost of shipping, custom duties and Canadian taxes.
Tablets aren’t the most powerful computing gadgets. But they are the most convenient.
They’re bigger than the tiny screen of a smartphone, even the big ones sporting nearly 5-inch screens.
They have longer battery life and always-on capabilities better than any PC — and will continue to be better at that than any ultrathin/book/Air laptop. That makes them very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually, and intermittently even where there isn’t a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop.
And tablets are very good for information consumption, an activity that many of us do a lot of. Content creation apps are appearing on tablets. They’ll get a lot better as developers get used to building for touch-first interfaces, taking advantage of voice input, and adding motion gestures.
They’re even better for sharing and working in groups. There’s no barrier of a vertical screen, no distracting keyboard clatter, and it just feels natural to pass over a tablet, like a piece of paper, compared to spinning around a laptop.
Recently, I've been editing some reports on how consumers are using their mobile phones and how that has changed in the past couple of years. We only have to think back to the Nokia 6510 or Motorola flip phones that we were using a few years ago to see how the introduction of smartphones has changed our world. In many countries, people spend more time texting and doing other data-related activities on their phone than using it for actual voice calls.
And in many countries, the impact of mobile uptake and its evolution has been even bigger and more different than in the US and Europe. In the West, mobiles are often an addition to a PC or game console; in many developing countries, a mobile phone is the only device that most consumers own. This is reflected in the activities for which they use their mobile. For example, Forrester's Technographics® studies — involving 333,000 respondents in 18 countries — shows that Indian, Chinese, and Mexican mobile phone owners use their phones more to listen to music and play games than their European and US counterparts. [Note: this graphic shows selected activities from a list of possible activities]
Online retailers are rapidly adding emerging markets to their list of new global opportunities to explore, as these markets are set to take a growing percentage of global eCommerce sales going forward. However, it’s important to remember that Europe still ranks as at the most popular region outside of North America for US online retailers expanding internationally. The market is set to grow at a healthy pace over the next five years: Clients can read my colleague Martin Gill’s recently published forecast of online retail sales in key markets across Europe.
Some takeaways from recent conversations with online retailers expanding into and within Europe: