Cross bordere ecommerce: centralise or localise digital marketing activities

In cross border e-commerce, often the question is asked: "what can I centralise and what can I decentralise if I do cross border ecommerce"?

Cross border ecommerce wisdom

The question really depends at your strategy, your products or services, the size and structure of your company, your financial capabilities and of course the countries where you are active, or want to expand to.

There are nowadays companies who can fully fulfil every aspect of your cross border e-commerce activities,

Having said that, I have described per e-commerce channel, my view at localisation versus /decentralisation and how I think it is most effective.
To make it easy I introduce here the Alex -localisation-centralisation -*- meter!

Stars and Alex a good combination

SEA (search engine advertising)
Search engine advertising, can be centralised, there are nowadays some really good global search engine agency's who really can help you with your international sea strategy and execution. Since a large part of SEA (like advertising description, product insertion, stock information) can be automated if you have a good product feed and ICT landscape it is easy to optimise via a central agency. 

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

SEO (search engine optimization)
There are two important aspects in SEO, technical SEO and content SEO.
Technical SEO is best to centralise. The reason is, that almost all search engines in the world, more or less require the same technical adjustments and often companies have one generic website system.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

Content SEO is a different story. Of course there are also agency's who say that they can deliver content SEO per country, but sometimes they just translate texts that in other countries might have important keywords, but in the country aimed at, might not so important. Besides that content SEO is also often, to be ahead of trends, to produce content that will be important in a few months time. Often this knowledge is only known by real local people, not by just translating.
Then there is of course the -not completely undisputed- linkbuilding activity where people pay others to get a link.
I personally am not so much in favour of this activity, I see more value in creating real valuable interactive content, that will be highly shared and linked to.
But if you do this paid linkbuilding activity, it is best done by locals.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity *** localisation stars and **centralisation stars.

Social Media Advertising
Social Media Advertising, is just like SEA pretty  easy to centralise, however the trend is more and more to adjust your advertisement to organic social behaviour or into geotargeting at for example local events. This makes social media advertising in my opinion still centralisable, but just a little bit less then SEA. Localisation/Centralisation **/***

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity ** localisation stars and *** centralisation stars.

Social Media Content production
The organic social media results, so the general posts we make, can in my opinion best be done as a hub and spoke model. Centralised but with local flavours. Social media needs to be authentic and there are many local interests that differ per country or even per region. It is advisable to centralise the social media tooling (including social media reporting tools), but to keep local access for local posts and local influencers.
Many cases are known where international companies use local influencers in their local social media strategy.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity **** localisations star and *** centralisation stars.

Website Optimization
If one of your company's main activities is selling via your website, it is best to centralise all technical issues but when acquiring these tools or building these technical adjustments, keep in mind what local offices or agency's can do at your website.
Think about for example:

  • Local access for A/B testing purposes, locals know much better how their customer group or target group is behaving and what their interests are.
  • Local CMS access for writing content, in order to have more valuable content, faster. 
  • Local access for SEO purposes (adjusting product titles/meta description)
  • Local access but with guidelines for image uploading
  • Local payment methods
  • Local checkout flows 
  • Etc.

Optimising a website for the highest conversion and traffic possible, always involves local knowledge.

Also take in mind, that your template must be flexible. Many global company's have different templates for the different regions they service.
This is of course related to culture and user behaviour. You can still be one brand, even if you have different layouts in different country's or regions. Read more about that here.
I will write more about website localisation in a future post, someday :)

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity **** localisation stars and ** centralisation stars.

Email marketing
Email marketing nowadays gets more and more automated. User behaviour is automatically inserted in email product selections and templates are nowadays very flexible. Most esp's provide tooling that enables you to email all over the world, with a good deliverability.
However do keep in mind that some ESP's are specialised in certain area's of the world (for example China) and because of their local knowledge there, they can always give you a competitive advantage there.
Using local content in your email marketing with all these automation efforts is relatively easy, but also here is valid that local knowledge can make your emails better for the receivers.
At the Alex localisation/centralisation meter **/***

In terms of localisation/centralisation at the Alex centralisation/localisation * meter, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

More and more people are buying via marketplaces as Amazon, Ebay or Alibaba. A big trend that you for sure have to take into your digital strategy. But as for localisation/centralisation this one is an easy one. Marketplaces work with product feeds and return information.
There are now many company's who provide you with an API to a marketplace and they can manager your product feed to them for you. Working with such agency's as channeladvisor or tradebite, also gives you a stronger negotiation position with a marketplace.

In terms of localisation/centralisation, I give this activity * localisation star and ***** centralisation stars.

The trend towards marketplace productsearch: source UPS pulse of the online shopper 2016

Customer service
Customer service experience is your brand and customer service is strongly related to that.
I am not an expert in the field of customer service, and I know there are lot's of companies where you can outsource your international customer services.
But what I do know is that it is very important to keep close to your customers to get the correct customer feedback and analysis. I also know that the quality of customer service is really important in keeping your expensively acquired customers with you and besides that , the trend is more empowered customer service reps, who also can give discounts and have access to customer profiles to offer the best possible promotions. Make sure you keep this in mind when centralising customer services.

Therefore I give localisation *** stars and decentralisation *** stars. 

Local sucess
In general it really depends where you are active. If you want to do a promotion in France at some local marketplace, it is almost impossible to do this from another country, and especially if you do not speak the language. It is still the case that (in this case France) it is sometimes very difficult to get an English speaking person at the phone let alone that even if you have one, doing business is easy.
A local representative is essential for doing business here. But of course this is not only valid for France, more countries really need local presence to be succesful in digital commerce.

It is also more and more important to get your ICT, logistics and company structure as responsive as possible because things change fast, very fast. Makes ure you have correct stock information, valid and actual data in your pim etc. You will need it more and more for all of your campaigns!


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