December 10, 2018

Expanding your marketing overseas and into the unknown

4 minute read

The world is smaller than ever, and nowhere is this more true than in business. Communication technology and remote collaboration have made international working as straightforward as being in the same room, but despite this, a huge number of UK companies aren’t taking advantage.

In fact, recent research has found that three quarters of UK marketers are failing to capitalise on opportunities overseas, due to a lack of international market differentiation. Targeting overseas markets without tailoring marketing messages accordingly is likely to be more detrimental than not doing it all; simply running up costs without a hope of seeing any return on investment.

There’s no doubt that, done well, pursuing consumers in different areas of the world can be incredibly worthwhile, especially as we approach Brexit. Whatever the UK’s exit from the European Union brings with it, there are many new, emerging overseas markets outside the continent – such as Brazil, China and Japan – that are ripe for marketers to explore. Overseas marketing campaigns won’t pay off without the right focus though; here’s why a customised, data-led approach is key.

Getting to know customers around the world

Reaching out to consumers in foreign markets in exactly the same way as you would your local customers or clients will never do your overseas marketing campaigns justice. The insight of consumer research can help lay the groundwork for effective targeting of overseas markets, avoiding costly mistakes and enabling businesses to build up a global brand, as the following examples show.

Selling the concept of homestays to multiple markets

It’s fair to say that when US-based online homestay agent Airbnb first appeared on the scene in 2008, the idea of paying to stay in the home of a stranger seemed pretty out there to many people. However, Airbnb has certainly managed to turn this around on an impressive scale; it’s now worth approximately $30 billion and boasts over four million listings in 191 countries.

Part of Airbnb’s monumental success is undoubtedly its ability to adapt its branding and marketing messages for different markets. In fact, the company has its own dedicated Localisation team, tasked with making the service accessible for people in all four corners of the world. The team uses data-led research about consumers in particular regions to create local storytelling campaigns, crafting case studies based on the profiles, behaviours and preferences they know will resonate with local audiences.

And it’s working; it has become the foremost accommodation provider in Cuba since launching there in 2017, and listings in India have increased by 115 percent over the past year. Due to competition from local vacation rental site Tujia, China still represents a challenge for Airbnb, but the company has a plan to capture more of the market, including an alternative name – Aibiying (爱彼迎) – which means ‘welcome each other with love’ in Mandarin.

Creating a local business in every city

For a global brand like Starbucks, projecting the idea of localisation is even trickier. As of April 2018, Starbucks had over 28,000 coffee shops across 76 countries, and while each one features the signature brand style, the company places huge importance on integrating local identity into its physical spaces and product offering.

By researching what’s important to coffee shop users in different areas of the world, Starbucks has managed to become part of the local landscape almost everywhere. In China, for example, data showed that consumers like to have space to relax in large groups, so Starbucks introduced larger stores with easily-manoeuvrable yet comfy seating. And, in light of the fact that coffee isn’t actually that popular with Chinese consumers, they also created a range of coffee-free drinks, such as the red bean frappuccino.

Assessing new market viability and tracking customer journeys

Of course, identifying ways to appeal to consumers in new foreign markets is only worth doing if you know that there’s an appetite for what your business provides. Here at Quant, we help our clients quantify the scope for new opportunities overseas and, if the data reveals an opportunity worth pursuing, devise innovative data analysis that helps formulate impactful marketing campaigns.

For example, a client in the automotive sector came to us looking to better understand the rapidly-expanding industry in China and, more specifically, if there was a viable market for their products. We studied the online browsing habits of over 450,000 Shanghai-based consumers interested in automotive brands, and then analysed this again in the context of how they interact with these companies. Adding another layer of data – actual online purchasing rates – enabled us to gauge the feasibility of our client launching their products in China, based on the fact that they were likely to be received by key target consumer groups.

Our work for IKEA Russia serves to show the second part of the process in action; data exploration that improves a brand’s relationship with consumers. The Russian division of the international furniture giant wanted a way to boost sales and find out more about their customers’ likes and dislikes, work that required us to analyse a market local to our client, yet overseas for us.

With the aim of pinpointing detailed consumer preferences, we created an interactive ‘style puzzle’ game for IKEA Russia, asking users to pick their favourite products and interior design images in six steps. The game was available on the website and was also sent to consumers via email campaigns to both members and non-members of IKEA’s loyalty scheme – the first email to loyalty scheme members received nearly 8,000 individual engagements. Consumers could save the interior design result the game recommended by entering their email address – 94 percent liked the one chosen for them – which enabled us to send them follow up content suggesting items fitting their personal style. This boosted associated sales by 69 percent, and gave IKEA Russia invaluable data about the styles and products consumers are most drawn to.

Understanding the potential of international markets for your business

So, with the right groundwork, targeting overseas markets needn’t be a missed opportunity or a shot in the dark. We can help you assess the business case for digital marketing in new geographical areas and use data insight to learn how best to differentiate your message for new markets; identifying and communicating with consumers that are looking for exactly what you offer. If you think an overseas opportunity could create new gains for your business, get in touch with us to find out more.

Posted by Sarah Cumber


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Expanding your marketing overseas and into the unknown