Shopping around: maximising your global marketplace success

If the global retail industry were a classroom, online marketplaces would probably be collecting all the gold stars. Which is why most savvy retailers have recognised the wisdom – and the benefits – of engaging with these erstwhile rivals. Globally, there are now more than 150 thriving online marketplaces, a number that continues to rise, despite frequent consolidations. And with more than 60% of US shoppers beginning their product searches on Amazon or other platforms, even the biggest brands can no longer afford to opt out. Bottom line: a comprehensive marketplace strategy is essential – particularly for retailers with global ambitions.

Your international launchpad

When it comes to plotting your international expansion, marketplaces should form an indispensable part of your approach. They can be a bit like a well-connected friend, providing a convenient entree to unfamiliar new markets. Establishing a presence on marketplaces can be an incredibly effective way to build awareness, gain consumer feedback and gauge demand for specific (or locally adapted) products in new markets – without the need for a significant initial outlay.

Mapping out your targets

Begin by doing your homework, assessing the competition in your most promising target markets and considering your optimal demographics. Worldwide, many marketplaces are busily rolling out the welcome mat for new sellers. For instance, Latin America’s biggest marketplace, Mercado Libre, runs a Global Selling Program specifically aimed at international merchants looking to sell throughout Latin America. 

Japan’s Rakuten can be another good fit for medium to large sellers looking to grow their business internationally, although retailers with strong Eastern ambitions often focus on China’s Taobao and the more upscale Tmall. South-East Asia has also become something of a gold-rush, prompting investments from Chinese eCommerce giants in Indonesia’s Tokopedia and Thailand’s Lazada. For would-be retailers, one factor to consider in these markets is pricing. In a region known for its bargain-hunters, consumer behaviour typically involves shopping around for the best deal, often necessitating dynamic pricing.

Further west, Alibaba’s ecosystem encompasses Turkey’s Trendyol, the country’s leading e-commerce platform, which targets a younger, fashion-focused demographic. Growth potential in Turkey is huge, with research suggesting it is the fastest growing ecommerce market in the world. And Trendyol’s links to Alibaba result in some familiar overlaps, such as Singles Day promotions. 

In Poland, the Allegro platform is the favoured online destination for 80% of Polish consumers. As each product on this platform is sold individually, consumers searching for an item will likely be presented with multiple results, making it ever more critical for retailers to differentiate themselves through content, product images, service and price. 

Vertical options

Although these larger, generic marketplaces may be among the most well known internationally, it’s also worth considering local vertical options. Fashion brands, for example, can seriously boost their profiles by appearing on marketplaces like Zalando in Europe or Asos in the UK, which rewards successful sellers by featuring them on its profile-boosting ‘fashion edit’ pages. Further afield, The Iconic is a popular platform for a mix of fast fashion to mid-range brands in the Australian and NZ markets. 

While many international marketplaces are becoming increasingly accessible, the process can prove more complex in countries such as China, where prominent platforms like require traders to set up a local company. In this instance, establishing connections with local partners can enable you to test how your products sell first, providing an effective workaround to some regulatory obstacles. But whatever your regional or vertical focus, succeeding in foreign marketplaces will mean being in tune with local nuances and platform-specific differences. 

Strategising SEO

Forget half-measures: if your marketplace approach consists of cobbling together a few basic product images and one-line product descriptions, you really can expect to fail. Any successful marketplace strategy must be founded on advanced SEO, including those critical keywords with high volume searches (in local search engines and within the marketplaces themselves) which allow your brand to rank well by generating the most relevant content. 

Any effective localisation strategy, will repeat this process for each individual marketplace, prioritising keywords in the context of local search volumes and competitor content. Furthermore, a ‘one size fits all’ approach can’t be applied to generating search optimised product content for all of your marketplaces in a specific language, as duplicate content will result in costly SEO penalties.

Adapting to algorithms

Consider Amazon. The online giant’s algorithms scrutinise an array of elements when determining which products to favour in its results, including review scores, merchandising options and fulfilment. However, the most critical factor appears to be the quality of the content on your Amazon product pages and, aside from keyword inclusion, the extent to which you have adhered to Amazon’s expectations regarding elements like product title and description lengths, or the number of bullet points and images. Within Amazon, these expectations may be largely consistent across the globe, but when you venture beyond the marketplace giant to other platforms, varying rules will apply.

Regrettably, there’s no definitive playbook when it comes to optimising your content for the gamut of global marketplaces, and the individual algorithms governing each will prioritise different elements of your listings, in line with local preferences for things like lengthier or shorter text, video or user reviews. On the bright side, Amazon’s content requirements are often the industry’s most stringent – so once you’ve optimised for that platform, adapting your content for additional marketplaces will usually prove less arduous. 

Cultural nuance & conversions

Adapting your content to the unique algorithms of each marketplace while localising your search strategies may draw significant traffic to your global marketplace pages, but converting browsers into buyers necessitates a sensitivity to cultural nuance. Your content needs to be culturally relevant,  easy to understand in context and feel native to the consumer. 

Direct translation rarely accomplishes this task. Whether your content needs to be localised, transcreated or even originated from scratch will depend on language, culture, tone and complexity considerations. One thing is clear – failing to adapt your content properly will sabotage success. On Alibaba’s US site, for instance, Asian brands often display product images with Asian language labels, or videos with Asian language commentary, representing a significant barrier to sales – implying less relevancy or lengthy shipping times for US customers.

Marketplaces offer enormous growth potential for retailers exploring international expansion, however it takes a strategic approach to really maximise these opportunities; combining in-depth marketplace expertise with globally local SEO strategies and the ability to create culturally relevant, on-brand content.

For advice on how to optimise your content for international marketplaces, or for a complimentary audit of your marketplace product pages, please get in touch.

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