For Australian small businesses, selling their products and services overseas offers the possibility of increased profits and revenue, heightened brand awareness, and business growth.
Yet the Global Natives report[i], commissioned by payments company Stripe in 2019, that surveyed 9,000 founders and executives of online businesses found that just 66% of local companies are selling beyond Australia. While this result sounds promising, it’s well short of international market leaders Singapore and Hong Kong (88%), Japan (86%), and France (84%).
Nonetheless, moving into new offshore markets is not a licence to print money either. “SMEs will need to remove the friction associated with doing business internationally such as shipping and payments and offer a tailored experience to potential overseas clients, which is where an engaging and mobile-responsive website will prove essential,” says Anne Nalder, Founder & CEO of the Small Business Association of Australia (SBAA).
Faisal Khatib, Principal of digital marketing agency Adbuzz, agrees that a robust digital shopfront is critical for conducting business internationally. “If you’re going to go global, it goes without saying bricks and mortar set up are bound by location.
“Even if you want to maintain a strong presence locally, a quality website can enable you to build additional revenues from new parts of the business.” For example, a hairdresser can have an online shopfront that will enable the business to offer hair care products and accessories such as straighteners. “By creating this website, the hairdresser can tap into an overseas market as well.”
Using e-commerce can trim the costs of a business expansion. “By operating online, a business can save on rent, while also using digital marketing to personalise the messages and offerings to its global clients. You can’t achieve any of these results without a website.”
What are the basics
Like a physical shopfront, a digital shopfront must be inviting to customers. “Imagine a shopfront that looks dingy and has broken glass. Customers will walk past even if you have the world’s best products,” explains Faisal.
“The same theory applies to your website. It must look professional, offer interesting content including videos that encourage clients to stop in, and look around to see what you’ve got.”
The website must talk to international customers in a language they understand. “It must be easy for them to communicate with your business with forms and contact pages,” says Faisal. “The layout of the website is critical and should be uncluttered.
“Think of the structure of the website like the aisles in a supermarket that allow shoppers to logically browse and then buy.”
Unique content is helpful
When creating a website or webpages for new international markets, the simple solution is to use Google to translate content into Spanish, French, Mandarin, Korean and any other language.
Faisal explains, “Google works to a certain extent, but not all the content will be relevant to every new country you wish to enter. You must meet the language and cultural requirements. Google translator won’t always do this.”
Moreover, Indian born Faisal, says many sentences can be nonsensical when translated from English. “This is because Google translates word by word. So, imagine an Australian company is trying to sell something in Hindi, but the website’s Hindi is completely broken.
“In plenty of cases, where the language translation is poor international customers will immediately jump out of your website.”
Often for the messages and content to hit the mark with international customers, a simple translation is not enough. For example, Brisbane-based law firm Phoenix Law & Associates offers pages in Japanese, Mandarin, Farsi (Persian), Portuguese and Spanish. “When you click on these pages, you’ll find the content has been tailored to clients fluent in those languages rather than just pages of words translated from English.”
If unique content is required, a journalist or copywriter fluent in Mandarin or Hindi could help. Faisal uses freelancing platforms such as Freelance.com, Upwork.com and Fiverr.com to source writers. “You can also use LinkedIn,” he adds.
Once the writing project is filed, Faisal urges SME owners to conscript any friends, colleagues, or family members fluent in a language to proof the copy. “It’s always good to have the copy checked before it’s published and that it’s simple to understand.”
The Domain name conundrum
There is a school of thought that it’s worth unifying your global online presence under one single domain name, rather than having several different country-specific URLs. However, Faisal prefers separate domain names for different countries. “If you want to do business with American clients, for example, and the suffix for your website’s URL ends in com.au, they will most likely look elsewhere.”
Using localised URLs also aligns with the international ‘buy locally’ trend that has sprouted from COVID-19 pandemic. “If the URL suggests the company isn’t located locally, then customers will tend to support home-grown brands.
“Also, if there is an issue, customers know they can contact someone locally who will understand where they’re from and the local laws.”
In conclusion, Faisal advises SMEs to consider carefully what international customers want when they land on your digital shopfront. “At the end of the day, you want them to buy and enjoy the experience.”
Collaborating with the SBAA
The SBAA is a participant in the Small Business Digital Champions Project, an Australian Government initiative intended to inspire and equip Australian small businesses to thrive in the digital economy.
As part of our participation in the project, SBAA is regarded as a Trusted Digital Advisor, and are required to provide sector-specific advice on ‘going digital’ to our association’s membership. This advice may include technology trends and technology adoption; hardware; software; digital training; online content development; online digital planning; and coaching and support. Moreover, we are providing this initial digital marketing advice to our members free-of-charge. To find out more call Faisal Khatib from Adbuzz direct on 0455 508 833 or the SBAA on 1300 413 915