Globally minded companies can benefit from having a global view of the seasonal calendar. This will help them understand the need to shift focus depending on where the seasonal peaks are in each market they operate in.
This was the case for the Slovenian-based Hooray Heroes. As a business that creates personalised books for kids, families and grownups, the company’s sales often sync up with gift-giving times of year. In 2020, the retailer was already operating in six markets: Slovenia, the U.S., the U.K. Germany, Italy, Austria, and France. And they wanted to continue growing internationally, while also spreading activities more evenly throughout the year to balance out their highly-seasonal sales cycle.
It’s worth looking beyond the most common seasonal dates as they don’t always align globally
Hooray Heroes’ peak seasons fall in the first, second and fourth quarters of the year. This is mainly due to Valentine’s day in February, Mother’s and Father’s Day in May and June for the majority of markets in which they operate and, more traditionally, due to Black Friday and holiday sales in the second half of the year.
But it’s worth looking beyond the most common seasonal dates as they don’t always align globally. Local moments present opportunities to find spurts of demand in different regions. That’s why for its next leg of international expansion, the retailer looked outside the box of the most well-known seasonal moments.
“Summer has always been slow for us,” says Mic Melanšek, chief marketing and creative officer and co-founder of Hooray Heroes. “In an effort to keep cash flow as steady as possible, we were looking for a country that has a big holiday in the July to November timeframe.”
Researching potential markets for international expansion
Hooray Heroes operates in a niche market. This means there is not much research available to make informed business decisions on international expansion.
The team took matters into their own hands. They built a new custom category for personalised children’s books and used it to analyse potential expansion opportunities. They looked into demand and growth rates, cost of advertising, and the level of competition.
Hooray Heroes wanted their sales to be more consistent throughout the year, so timing was key. They looked for impactful events during their low season. And that, paired with their market research, helped them identify three countries for international expansion: Australia, Spain, and Canada.
Expanding into new markets with high growth opportunities
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were big drivers of sales for their existing markets in June. However, Hooray Heroes discovered that Australia, a country that showed over 80% demand growth rates in the personalised books category year-over-year, celebrated Father’s Day on the first Sunday in September.
Without advertising, people in Spain started downloading the colouring books. And since we already had books in Spanish, we could open the market really quickly
Through the research, the retailer also identified Spain as a low cost advertising opportunity. When the first wave of coronavirus hit, the team anticipated heightened demand as consumers were restricted from celebrating in person. Instead people were looking for gifts they could easily create online and send directly to the recipient. Hooray Heroes tapped into this demand by entering this new market in less than a month, a record time for them.
“We were already offering books in Spanish on our U.S. site, but we didn’t ship to Spain,” explains Mic Melanšek, co-founder & marketing and creative 0fficer at Hooray Studios. “We did, however, offer free colouring books for anyone to download, regardless of where they are based. Without advertising, people in Spain started downloading the coloring books. And since we already had books in Spanish, we could open the market really quickly.”
Canada was another high growth opportunity based on demand, as they celebrate Children’s Day in November. More importantly, Hooray Heroes was already receiving requests from Canadians since it operated in the U.S. and some of its advertising efforts — like influencer marketing — generated interest across the border. So it became a logical addition to the expansion list.
Having found success in prior strategies, the company maintained its advertising approach across all three new countries: about a fifty-fifty split between Shopping and Search campaigns. And for their creatives, the teams included regional references, such as a koala in Australia and mountains in Canada, to personalise the ads.
As a result of its efforts in 2020, Hooray Heroes achieved over 400% return-on-ad-spend in Spain and Australia, and over 500% in Canada. On top of that, Australia represented 40% of the company’s total third quarter revenue.
“Despite all of the uncertainties and challenges the world faced in 2020, we learnt that growth was still possible,” says Melanšek. “And those lessons we’ll carry with us into our future efforts.”
- Use relevant and impactful data to make decisions. Metrics based on advertising costs, growth rates, and the level of competition in other regions can help you identify new opportunities.
- Look beyond your local market to make the most of local spikes in demand and seasonal moments. The holidays are big, but other countries have different peaks that can help you grow.
Research to understand each market and its consumers so you can be flexible and ready to respond when the environment or user behaviour changes.