The rise of the global consumer (and how to find them)

by Karen Lewis
07 February 2019
5 ways David can beat Goliath in business
Are you looking to push your retail business into foreign markets? Find out how you can expand your eCommerce offering to reach more international customers.

There have been a few infamous success stories of Australian brands making it big in China. A couple of years ago it was Lucas Papaw Ointment’s turn when sales of the emollient spiked as packages of the product were being shipped overseas to eager Chinese customers. 

More recently vitamins and supplements retailer Blackmores has experienced success in the region. Today the company reports that 40% of global sales come from China. Not bad for a company that stumbled into the market after daigou (typically Chinese students studying in Australia looking to make some extra money) started buying goods from the company to ship back to the homeland. There is a keen interest in health products, especially those that meet Australia’s high quality standards.

The interest in health and nutrition products from Australia has been identified as the key catalyst behind the country becoming one of the top three countries selling into China on Alibaba’s Tmall platform. Australia sits behind Japan and the US in the rankings. Alibaba’s MD attributed Australia’s strong position on the list to the company establishing an Australian office to help local businesses enter the region.

China is a significant overseas market with more than half the population (nearly 700 million users) online, equating to an eCommerce market valued at US$499bn. Doing business in China requires a good understanding of the local region as the government can implement significant business restrictions to overseas retailers at the drop of a hat.

However, China is not the only overseas market. Australia Post’s Inside Australia Online Shopping Report 2018 names Australia’s top five export markets as: China, Japan, Republic of Korea, United States, and India representing 58.4% of our total export market.  

In this blog, I’ll explore what Aussie retailers can do to identify overseas opportunities for their own business and how to go about preparing to service these global markets.

Looking for a global audience

MIT Sloan Professor Don Lessard developed the RAT Test to help businesses assess the feasibility of expanding into an international market. The theory behind this test consists of three questions: 

  • Relevant: Is what we do relevant to an overseas market?
  • Appropriate: Is what we do unique enough that a local retailer won’t usurp us?
  • Transferable: Can we transfer what we do in Australia to the foreign market?

But which markets should you consider? You already have a lot of information at your fingertips that could help you answer this question. It just takes a little bit of digging into your eCommerce website’s analytics. 

Start by analysing your first party data in Google Analytics (language and geography dimensions). Is there a significant group outside of Australia that you could target? Consider where you are losing these website visitors along the buyer’s journey. Are they able to purchase or are they dropping off when they realise you don’t ship to their region? 

Understanding the existing sticking points for this group will give you a better grasp of how you can evolve your website to get some easy wins internationally.

How to target the global consumer

Once you have an understanding of which market offers the most opportunity for return on investment, it is important to consider the different ways in which you are going to target and meet the needs of this audience. Salmat’s eCommerce agency Netstarter has worked with several leading Australian brands on the following:


Amazon, The Iconic and Alibaba are all great options for retail brands looking to expand their audience. Selling a capsule collection of your goods through marketplace partnerships not only opens up your brand to a whole new host of customers, but it lets you dip your toe in international markets with the supply chain support of a major international retail player. 

Branded website

What are the stumbling blocks that currently stop international buyers from purchasing on your branded website? Do you have content in the language of your international target audience? Are your platform and backend systems capable of delivering multi-currency options? What international shipping arrangements do you offer your customers? These are just some of the common sticking points, preventing a seamless user experience for international customers.

Server and fulfilment

In preparation for more rigorous demands international customers can put on your site, it is worth considering your hosting and infrastructure set-up.

Netstarter can help with this and with other back end system integrations (ERP, Warehouse Management Systems, Product Information Management, CRM etc). Organisations need to ensure processes and data are seamlessly exchanged between their platform to provide a "single source of truth".

What next?

Find a partner that is not just a developer, but understands retail, operations and fulfilment, and how this integrates with your systems. Netstarter can work with you on both integrating with marketplaces and optimising your own branded website for an international audience. 

Once your eCommerce needs are set up to meet the needs of an international customer, it is also worth considering what other channels you can use to push people to your website. Search and email are both great channels to explore. After all, what is the point in creating an internationally accessible website if no one can find it? 

Through targeted SEM campaigns, you can build an overseas audience who may not otherwise have found your site. In conjunction, it is necessary to optimise the SEO of your website to maximise your organic search potential. Using a combination of SEM and SEO, brands can ensure their hard work in creating an internationally targeted eCommerce site is repaid by delivering interested eyeballs that lead to conversions.

To find out how Netstarter can help you with your digital needs, call 1300 725 628.

About the author
Karen Lewis

Karen has over 16 years Digital experience with a background initially in Web Development and SEO. She is passionate about ensuring that Digital enables positive customer experiences and to provide frictionless, immersive interactions moving clients closer to omnichannel. Karen currently heads up the Digital and Performance Marketing team at Salmat who focus on achieving great return on investment results for clients through digital channels such as Email, SEO, SEM and Data and Insights. Karen also heads up the team who manage Lasoo which is a deal and discount aggregation website and app that helps consumers find the best bargain across multiple retailers.

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