Steffen Ehrhardt, Internationalization Lead for Google EMEA, reveals tried-and-tested techniques for preparing a business for the global stage.
More and more companies, products and services are playing on a global level. From a user perspective, consumers now expect that products and services can be purchased and delivered anywhere in the world. At Google, we see a constant increase in advertisers asking how they can adjust their product or company to be successful internationally. These are significant changes from even just 10 years ago, and there’s a huge opportunity for CEE agencies to be a part of the story.
So why do consumers buy products and services from abroad? Price, availability and service are the main motivators for today’s global user. People buy not only from small markets but also from big countries. Across Europe there’s a very high user base of people and companies buying products from other countries. The truth is that many people don’t know – or even care – where the product or service is coming from.
This opens up new horizons for companies all around the world, especially for smaller ones that can be very nimble and access talent that may not be so readily available elsewhere. For businesses in Central and Eastern Europe, there’s significant potential. So as an agency, where should you start?
First get an understanding of your portfolio. You may already have clients in your home market that have strong internationalization potential. At the same time, consider the industries with the highest chance of success. For example, some verticals (such as retail, travel, technology or entertainment) are typically less complicated than others (for instance finance).
Next, identify the best market opportunities. Businesses often start by looking at markets with a common language or neighboring countries with a shared border. But this is a very important decision, so try to be as objective as possible. In other words, do the research upfront, get pure market data and develop real insights to understand why a certain market really makes sense for your client.
To help, Google’s Market Finder is a global export platform that provides all the insights you need to explore your client’s next market. Using Google Trends along with 13 external data sources, Market Finder can help you prioritize new markets that are best suited to the client’s goals, as well as access tools and guides to help them actually put those expansion strategies into place.
The next important task is to develop insights about user behavior in the new market. Knowing how people interact with their brand, product or service can help your client make better decisions. And as an agency, this kind of deep-dive analysis is a chance to offer an add-on service to business customers. Useful tools in this area include the Consumer Barometer (which covers internet usage across 63 countries) and Google Surveys (now available in more than 30 countries, 18 languages and a range of currencies).
Some Google products have traditionally been available only in a few markets, but could be useful to your clients as they expand internationally. It’s worth getting to know these better. For example, Google Shopping has expanded from 23 markets in 2018 to 42 countries, offering currency conversion, multilingual support and advanced feed management. So even if Shopping Ads aren’t available in the client’s home country, they can be a great way to enter a new market elsewhere.
When it comes to thinking more globally, consider the value for your agency. If you broaden your scope beyond the domestic market, it potentially adds up to a larger client base for you and a larger customer base for your clients. As well as driving profitability and spreading market risk, internationalization gives you huge benefits in scaling your services to grow the business.
Once you’ve decided internationalization is the way forward, how do you prepare? First, it’s a matter of having the right people in your team. To be successful on a global level, hire with diversity in mind. That includes age, experience, gender and culture. If you’re expanding into a market, hire people from that market. To motivate and incentivize people to work better together, Google re:work highlights best practices, research and tools to improve your people processes globally.
As your next consideration, put measurement high up on the agenda. When a business expands, bad decisions can be expensive, so base your strategy on facts and numbers rather than perceptions and subjective gut feelings. For example, assessing time spent versus return is especially important when you have limited resource to leverage. Define key performance indicators and set benchmarks, then regularly check in to measure performance. Google Analytics, Play and Firebase can give you lots of data points to help you analyze location and language reports, identify international demand and slice your data by audience, demographic and source.
A global company would also be wise to learn to live in an experimental environment. Make sure you’re constantly questioning the status quo and remain open to new opportunities. Run surveys, pay attention to website analytics and test new markets and tactics. For instance, Google Optimize offers an easy way to run A/B and multivariate testing on websites and ad campaigns. And Google Search Console is another tool that can help you check your client’s presence on Google Search in different markets. Is their site or app is visible in the market and working properly? If you discover shortfalls, your agency may be able to package related services such as SEO, mobile development and community management.
There are a few areas where an agency can develop expertise to facilitate their clients’ global expansion – for example, think of the cloud, security and privacy or CRM. But of course, you don’t have to be an expert in every single aspect of global business. Partner up to overcome the hurdles. For instance, find specialized or local companies to handle some pieces of the internationalization challenge. If you need a starting point, Google’s Partner Network can be of use to you here. To become a full-service provider, develop ties with experts in payments, logistics, customer service, law, taxation and translation. This is a great way to offer additional value to your clients. If you build a powerful one-stop shop, your clients are likely to stick with you.
Internationalization can be hugely rewarding, not only on a business level but on a personal level too. It gives you an unrivalled chance to learn more about how the world works and gain new perspectives. So when you decide to go on this journey, make sure to take time to enjoy the ride!