Going Global: Leveraging Comparison Shopping Engines (CSEs) For Your International Expansion Strategy

For those of you who’re not familiar with what a CSE is, or if you’re just looking for a brief refresher; a Comparison Shopping Engine or CSE is a search engine that enables shoppers to discover and compare products based on pricing, reviews, brands, features, and many other criteria.

Ever used Google Shopping? If so, in a sense you’ve already used a CSE.

There are many search engines for comparison shopping out there besides Google Shopping, with some of the more popular ones being the eBay Commerce Network, Connexity, and NexTag. While each of the different CSEs works best for specific industry niches, the one thing that’s common across all of them is that they don’t sell products directly to shoppers. Instead, clicking on a product listing redirects shoppers to the brand or retailer’s website, and CSEs charge merchants on a pay-per-click model for the traffic that they refer to merchants’ websites.

International CSEs – A Viable Path to Expanding into New Markets

While your core audience may reside within the United States, branching out into lucrative international markets is a great way to grow revenue and expand your retail business. Of course, any international expansion is contingent on your ability to fulfill international orders as efficiently as you do domestic ones.

The question then is: which countries should you expand to?

One look at the top 10 e-commerce markets in the world, and you’ll notice that the United States actually comes in at number two on the list (surprise!). The world leader in e-commerce is China, with close to $1 trillion in B2C e-commerce sales projected for 2016. That’s over 50% more than the US.

The United Kingdom rounds off the top three e-commerce markets with $192.5 billion in B2C e-commerce sales projected for 2016.

So if the question is where to start with international expansion, it seems obvious that the Chinese and UK markets should be at the top of your list based on e-commerce spending alone. However, the process of choosing which international markets you should expand into is more involved than simply picking the largest potential market.

Key factors to consider include similarities between your home market and the new country you’re considering, ease of doing business in the target country, competition, market size, growth potential and more.

It is perhaps for this reason, that Canada is often the first country of choice for US companies when they consider expanding into international markets. While Canada may seem like a relatively unattractive choice in terms of market size (it’s e-commerce spends amounted to only 6% of US spends in 2015); what it lacks in size, it makes up for in cultural and business similarities and ease of doing business.

Expanding into the international markets of your choice is relatively easy via the international CSE route, if you already syndicate your products on CSEs domestically. The three leading CSEs we referred to earlier – the eBay Commerce Network, Connexity, and NexTag – all offer you international expansion opportunities from within their platforms. Here’s a breakdown of the countries you’ll have access to via these three CSEs:

But if you’re serious about international expansion, don’t limit yourself to domestic CSEs that also have international sites. Some of the most popular international CSEs and the countries they support include:

You may have noticed that the largest e-commerce market in the word is missing from these lists. Yes, we’re talking about China.

That isn’t to say that the Chinese market should not be considered as an opportunity to expand your international presence. In fact, with the help of sites like Dealmoon, which is a high-end, bargain oriented, e-commerce website with millions of online customers, many opportunities exist to expand into the Chinese market.

Do note that CSEs like Dealmoon primarily target Chinese-Americans and have a well-established social network presence in China. They also partner with networks that syndicate here in the United States, so getting your listings up on a site like Dealmoon can be relatively easy if you already have that connection with one of the supporting CSE channels.

Things to Consider When Expanding Via International CSEs

There are many factors to consider when expanding your presence internationally and managing international campaigns, including the following:

1. Support Local Languages

Translating your product data into the local language is going to be key, as you can’t approach international CSEs like you would domestic ones and expect to succeed.

Whenever possible, have your copy and product data crafted and reviewed by native language speakers for the country you plan to enter. Language is one of the big factors why US sellers often choose to expand into Canada before entering other countries. However, even in Canada, 22.3% of Canada’s population does speak French. That’s something to factor in when expanding into our neighbor up north.

Spend some time understanding cultural nuances of the new markets you enter. Incorporating those cues into your web copy can help in winning over the trust of your international customer. There are also numerous language translation services that are available, and some channels will even offer services to translate product data to satisfy all of the markets you plan on reaching out to within their network. If you can overcome this particular hurdle within your strategy for international expansion, you are in good shape.

2. Support Local Currency

Another factor that ties into data translation is the various forms of currency that are out there, and making sure your data feed and listings reflect the proper currency for a particular country. Your finance team should be able to provide the necessary currency conversions in your data feeds to accommodate the currencies for the markets you are entering. There are also plugins available that will allow you to accomplish this on a larger scale. If you are looking to report on revenue from one form of currency to another, Google offers a currency converter that will enable you to quickly translate those numbers.

3. Keep Track of Local Shopping Holidays

Next let’s look at key shopping holidays. While we are all familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are also huge in other markets such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and France, there are other key shopping days throughout Q4 that carry much more weight outside of the United States. Let’s look at a couple:

CommerceHub & How We Support International CSEs

As a longtime manager and partner of comparison shopping engine sites, CommerceHub supports the ability to manage bid optimization for all CSE channels, whether they be domestic or international.

The nuances of optimizing bids and managing product feeds depend on the specific channels you plan to syndicate to. CommerceHub offers product feeds to all of the channels mentioned here and more. We also enable account optimization and keyword bidding, enriching data quality as well as assortment management to help you manage your CSE accounts efficiently.

We hope that this information has opened some potential new windows of opportunity to expand your business internationally using CSEs as your vehicle. CommerceHub’s team of e-commerce experts can help your business expand and grow to international markets with ease. Reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help.