International exports with ecommerce

As the coalition in the UK fight over how to reinvigorate the economy, the topic of imports and exports has risen again. During the downturn, the value of Sterling has fallen against a number of currencies and particularly those of the emerging markets such as India, China and South America. It was expected by economists that this would open the gates to British Exports however according to the UK statistics for trade; exports have only grown by 7.9% on average rather than the 15-30% some had predicted.

The CBI believes that £20bn in growth could be found by 2020 if the UK realigns its exports to countries such as Brazil. As an example, Brazil is now the 6th largest economy in the world overtaking the UK and has a population of 185 million. In order to access these markets quickly and with minimal barriers Ecommerce is clearly a leading channel.

As the growth in the population has grown by around 18% over the last 12 years, internet usage has grown by 45.6% to over 88 million people. Not only that, the Gross National Income per capita has also risen to over $10,720 from $3,570. While this is still not greater than the UK or our European partners,the ability to sell consumable goods is clear as is the growing market of rich Brazilians looking for British chic and heritage. The future for Brazil will be a shift towards the middle classes and with the World Cup and Olympics on the horizon travel and associated retail will become increasingly a large part of the economy. More details on Brazils growing ecommerce sector can be found on emarketing.

In order to maximise the impact and presence of your goods into these markets you have to consider the following challenges and how you can solve them.

There's more about accessing the Brazilian market in a recent article published on econsultancy.


Seems simple enough, ask your web developer to switch the Spanish/Portuguese/Italian etc. language option on, on your CMS and convert your content to the language of choice. Unfortunately even the most advanced systems don’t get this 100% right and it is important that a real human translator be involved and consideration given to menu headings etc.

Look at the below examples of good translation and then bad!

Poor translation relying on Google translate and only partial menu changes (Rider should be Ciclista for example)

Another issue can be around multiple languages per country. Looking to Export to Switzerland or Luxemburg then you need French, Italian, Flemish, German and potentially local dialects.

Reading direction also matters when you are trying to reach Arabic and Asian Cultures. Naturally reading from the right to the left means that layout changes are also required in order to not exclude consumers who will very quickly see that you are not fluent in their language or culture.


Across the globe cultures and religions change and so does the language of marketing. Everything from the name of your product to the taste, packaging, messages particularly with any racial, sexual or gender bias etc. all require careful planning and due diligence.

There are many examples of this, one of the most recent is the recent campaign from Heineken USA and there Mexican agency.

Local market conditions

The rise of internet browsing is now a worldwide truth is just asimportant as a local shopping market or mall, however the way in which people consume the web is quite different. Continents such as Africa and Asia lack the infrastructure for wide spread fibre-optic cabling and instead consumers are increasingly active on the mobile networks. The rise of smartphones is well documented and the growth in cheaper, generally android based handsets into these emerging markets has really helped the expansion of the web. As a result of this, a mobile offering is required to really maximise the impact your brand will make. Costs for bandwidth are also a consideration as in countries like the US these are rising rapidly and are pushing consumers away and back to desktops.

Tablet sales are also on the increase and in particular the UK market is now finding smartphones are taking a back seat to tablets for levels of page views. A recent report from Adobe indicates that tablets promote longer browsing sessions and up to 70% more page views than smartphones. This has lead Google and others to match desktop with tablet rather and tablet and smartphone.

Social platforms

Facebook would like you to believe that they are truly global with nearly 50% of the world with accounts. However in key Markets, particularly Spanish speaking South America and Spain itself social networks like Tuenti are the leading platforms for social interaction and work differently from the Facebook model in most instances. Of course there is some cross over however if you are making the investment to reach these markets then you want to insure that every element is covered and delivered correctly.


You might have a unique offering that you feel is critical to your market however this isn’t necessarily true of others. In the digital world everywhere is local, virtually and so you will hopefully already understand how well your products sell and who your customers are. Sites such as Net-a-Porter live even map the sales across the globe helping consumers to see what is being bought by like-minded people near them or in fashion leading areas such as Paris, Milan and Shanghai.

Globalisation is a strength and a weakness in business as it creates opportunities to expand but the threat is dilution of the brand and the values inherent in it.

Search marketing will be effected depending upon local competition and how well you optimise your different language versions. There's more advice in an article on Forth Source.

Stability in the economy/politics

Brands that are entering markets such as China, Nepal, Cuba, etc. need to be aware that certain countries don't have such an open door policy to ecommerce and web content in general. Recent examples include the iPhone and Google's presence. When your marketplace is shut down because the host nation doesn’t like what others have to say it’s hard to keep customers visiting. Changes in exchange rates and interest rates will also affect your business particularly online as you try to manage multiple currencies. Keeping the site prices up-to-date in currencies such as the Bolvar in Venezuela could be a real headache as the price fluctuates depending upon how Chavez was acting and now who his successor is.

About the Author

John Williams avatar

John Williams, Sales and Marketing

John was once a client who joined the Gibe team for several years to help us with sales and marketing. He left Gibe to return to the world of freelance marketing and is once again a wonderful client for Gibe.