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Taking an Agile approach to international expansion

By Lindsay Hong, Head of Locaria

April 26, 2016 | 5 min read

So you know you want to grow internationally, while keeping control of monetary and reputational risks, but where should you invest? Which channels should you introduce and when?

Lindsay Hong is head of Locaria, an affiliate agency of Forward3D.

Lindsay Hong is head of Locaria, an affiliate agency of Forward3D.

We have developed a four-step approach to address these questions and provide a clear path to structure international expansion. Based on a test-and-learn Agile approach, small scale fully localised PPC campaigns are launched in phase one and tested over a three-month period to better understand the market opportunity. We call this a Global Market Scoping Test. There is no need to localise any on-site content at this point, as enough data can be gauged and conversions can occur with localised PPC activity alone.

At stage two some markets may be paused and others prioritised based on the outcome of the initial test phase. PPC activity is then built out in priority markets. At this point, some branding support may be required through Display activity to build the impression funnel and commence scaling. Likewise Social Biddable activity can be added to increase reach, particularly in certain markets where decision making is an activity carried out with peers.

It may also be wise to localise a few key website pages during stage two depending on the localisation need of the market in question.

By stage three there should be enough scale to justify an investment in the on-site experience, with SEO tech optimisation boosting conversion and supporting ROI.

As mentioned previously, it is possible to roll-out website localisation in stages, focusing on high-traffic pages first. Localised on-site SEO meta content will also improve quality scores and so drive down the cost-per-click for PPC, and of course increase a brand’s ability to dominate the search space in the organic results section. In fact, when going international, SEO and website localisation should go hand-in-hand, as localisation should be built on solid keyword research.

Finally, to boost a now well-established market, online Content Marketing and Social Organic activities should be commenced to maintain brand awareness and drive repeat conversions from the customers you gained in the early stages of internationalisation. A programmatic approach to Display activity at this point will also ensure ROI is maintained as the growth curve slows.

Scoping it out

To provide an example of how the initial Global Market Scoping Test works in practice, Forward3D recently worked with a luxury travel client to understand the brand’s opportunities to expand into Europe or APAC.

Translating their entire portfolio of hotels would be a costly exercise, so they wanted to increase their confidence in the performance of potential new markets before investing in localising their website. The client wanted a business case for expansion and felt APAC should be the focus, with Europe being seen as too competitive.

In order to validate the assumption that APAC should be the focus for expansion, the client agreed to test the following markets: Germany, Spain, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. Forward3D researched a bespoke keyword set for each of the necessary languages and created fully localised PPC campaigns on the dominant search engines in those markets, namely Google, Yahoo, Naver and Daum.

In month one, Germany was the clear leader, with Spain and Hong Kong neck-and-neck. But in month two, following optimisation of the accounts, Hong Kong overtook Spain, and more than 100 per cent growth was seen in Korea. By month three, Korea had overtaken Spain, nearly catching up Hong Kong. As a result of this test, the client decided to grow Germany, Hong Kong and Korea, maintain Spain at the current level and pause Taiwan.

This test showed that European markets still offered significant opportunities and helped focus investment into the APAC markets which had the highest commercial potential.

Lindsay Hong is head of Locaria, the affiliated international and performance linguistics agency of independent digital marketing agency Forward3D. The agency has released a whitepaper on this subject, Going Global, which can be downloaded for free here.

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