Global product management: Basic steps for your international expansion

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If your online retail business is growing, you’re probably setting your sights on new markets.

Great opportunity though that is, you might be a little overwhelmed with the requirements for scaling and adapting your offering for more, different territories.

Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to make sure that you’re ready for international expansion.

This article will explain those steps.

Some opportunities

Cross-border online retail is expected to be worth $424bn USD by 2021.

Let’s look at the top 5 markets for international ecommerce.


Population: 317 million

Online shoppers: 171 million

E-commerce sales 2015: $342 billion

Cross-border sales are expected to grow 16% in the next 2 years

49% of international shoppers said prices were the main reason they shop in the US


Population: 1.34 billion

Online shoppers: 468 million

E-commerce sales 2015: $672 billion

Cross-border sales will hit $85 billion in 2016, up from $57 billion in 2015

40% of Chinese consumers buy from international sites

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Population: 64 million

Online shoppers: 40.7 million

E-commerce sales 2015: $99 billion

58% of UK consumers purchased goods from foreign websites in 2015

Popular destination for cross-border shoppers are from China and the USA


Population: 80 million

Online shoppers: 56 million

E-commerce sales 2015: $79.1 billion

More than 50% of German online retailers sell cross-border

The German digital buyer population is expected to surpass 49 million people by 2018


Population: 66 million

Online shoppers: 30 million

E-commerce sales 2015: $72 billion

French shoppers spend $80 more from European companies than non-European companies

50% of retailers sell to international customers

Some Challenges


In new territories, you may face a logistics infrastructure which functions differently (or less smoothly) than you’re used to, whether that’s roads, warehousing, or available and expected delivery methods.


You may have to accommodate different regulations. Your obligations in areas like returns and consumer rights may be more difficult, and you may find a complicated or unfamiliar system of duties and taxation.

Shopper preferences

Customer habits, motivations, and expectations can of course differ in other countries, but also regionally within those territories.

Product listing

All price changes and promotions require constant updating across all territories.

Localising content

Product descriptions, measurements, and currencies need to be expressed in a manner with which local shoppers are familiar.


A new market means building a search engine presence from scratch.


A great deal of initial resource could be required to set up your offering overseas.

Some Solutions

Define your goals

In your research, you’ll need to establish where you can find a market with your customer base or target market.

Can you identify demand and local competition?

Is the country in question actually attractive commercially? Have you established its GDP, internet penetration, population, and regulatory environment.

Better translations mean better SEO

Good translation is more than deciphering your language for the speaker of another.

You need to know what the most commonly used search term is.

For example, in Germany, the word “computer” is used more often than “rechner”, which a translator might have chosen.

Creating a glossary with all of your relevant keywords and your brand-specific terminology is an important step in having SEO-ready content with a consistent style.

By preparing ahead, you’re actually saving a significant amount of time in the rest of your project. Assembling a team of translators and briefing them on your requirements: writing style, keywords, etc., ensures that they will be able to work efficiently and effectively.

Reducing your returns rates

Wherever you’re operating, returns eat into your margin.

On average, retailers can spend up to 8.1% of total sales on reverse logistics. This rate is even

higher for online retailers, who can have return rates as high as 50%.

If your product information and descriptions are thorough, you’ll find that fewer customers are unsure about what they’re buying, more comfortable that they’re ordering (e.g.) the right size or colour, and less likely to return an item. Accurate product data is the lifeblood of e-commerce. When a customer is contemplating online purchases, the right product information becomes the virtual equivalent of picking up an item and holding it in one’s hands.

Assemble your localisation team

56.2% of consumers said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.

  • 9 out of 10 Internet users said that, when given a choice of languages, they always visit a website in their own language.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 Europeans (19%) said they never browse in a language other than their own.
  • 42% said they never purchase products and services in other languages.

In addition to translators who know about the sector, your product, and local idiosyncrasies, while being able to translate not just vocabulary, bus also a brand tone of voice, you’ll need a project lead to manage the delivery of your content, and to act as guardian of your brand.

An example of content localisation

Source: Séraphine

Think about merchandising a single product in three different countries: a high-end baby sling being sold in Sweden, Ireland, and Turkey.

It’s the same sling, but the ideal merchandising approach will be different in each location. The description talks about not only the physical attributes of the sling itself, but also gives a lot of emotional branding cues around the sling.

For example, you may merchandise the sling by helping the buyer imagine going for a walk or doing household chores with their baby.

Another benefit you would want to mention, is the ability to breastfeed while the baby remains in the sling. For the Swedish and Irish markets, the ability to breastfeed while out and about is seen as a big plus. So the copy should discuss this feature in an on-the-go context.

In Turkey, however, the ability to breastfeed while in the sling is still a plus, but is considered only appropriate in the privacy of the buyer’s home. In addition, Photographs of a model wearing the sling while breastfeeding their baby might even be prohibited. So, it is important to reflect these cultural differences and mindsets in the product description.

Luckily, weights and measurements are consistent across all three countries so these do not need to be modified, but this is something you would want to take notice of.


By: Akeneo

For a view on how online retailers can organize their products and adapt their operations to new geographic markets - download From Overwhelmed to Organized: Scaling Global Product Management

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