Having a single eCommerce site is very handy for you as it’s easy to manage. However, it may not be the best solution as far as your customers are concerned. That’s especially true when you’re expanding into international markets.
It’s often a very good idea to have dedicated websites for local audiences in their language. But even when foreign markets share the same language as your home market, it can still be desirable to maintain separate local sites.
That’s because different audiences have different needs and expectations, even when they share the same language. Maintaining dedicated sites for each audience helps tailor content and makes sure your business gets the optimum engagement in each market.
Practicalities of managing multiple sites
Some content management systems have better multi-site support than others. That’s particularly true when it comes to supporting different languages that operate with unique characters and text direction.
Having a translation management system and editorial process is also handy, particularly if you’re pushing content to and from local offices. And localising the CMS so that the back end interface is in local languages will help your local teams manage their own sites independently.
When you’re choosing a CMS, you’ll need to think about options such as whether you will manage your sites centrally or locally. You obviously want to pursue a solution where the sites are independent so that one can go down without taking all sites down with it.
Things get a bit more complex when your international suite of sites are eCommerce enabled. This introduces a host of complicating factors, from the need to integrate different payment systems or cater to different regulatory requirements in different markets.
Then there’s the need to manage different inventories in the different markets and to manage things such as clothes sizing requirements or different weight and measure systems for each audience.
Other reasons to separate sites
Maximising your appeal to different language audiences isn’t the only reason to maintain several separate sites. Recently we talked about how many direct to consumer brands are performing extremely well at present. Some brands opt to maintain a D2C site that’s separate from their other areas of operation, as well as maintaining wholesale operations with a dedicated web presence for non-D2C sales.
Segmentation only works if it’s relevant. Although it can be beneficial to maintain separate web presences, it’s only worth doing if it really delivers results in terms of getting the most out of each audience segment.
In some cases, you may not need to maintain separate websites. Some audience segments may be best satisfied using dedicated landing pages or content within your main website.
For example, only very large recruiters need to have separate careers websites. Both Tesco and Asda maintain jobs websites that are separate from their main commercial activities but both are major recruiters with complex needs when it comes to recruiting people. It makes sense to separate this recruitment activity as it is so separate from the supermarkets’ other activities.
Having dedicated sites can also help you maintain a different brand image for different audience segments. One instance of this is the delightful example of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which is affectionately seen as a pretty ordinary beer in its home market in the States, but one revived by hipsters into an ironically trendy drink. But over in China, the brand’s relaunched itself as a classy and expensive drink.
It’s seen as a hilarious redemption story to Americans. Pabst makes a very strong argument for maintaining a separate web presence in the two markets and ideally never letting audiences from one market encounter the branding of the other.
One of the arguments for maintaining separate websites is that search engine optimisation may need to be managed very differently for the different sites.
Tesco’s recruitment website is a good example – a job seeker has a very different path to Tesco through search than someone looking for the nearest Tesco superstore or wanting to complain about broken eggs. Keeping the sites separate helps segregate the search traffic and send it to the right location.
A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether your websites would need any content duplicated between them (in the same language that is). If you see any need for content to be duplicated between your separate sites then there’s a strong argument for just maintaining a single site.
From a search engine’s perspective, you can be penalised for having duplicate content across two sites, and it’s also a good indicator that there’s no need for multiple sites anyway.
You should also think long and hard about how you’re going to resource more than one site. It’s hard enough maintaining a single web presence; managing more than one is an additional burden. It’s highly advisable to wait until you have a local resource available to you on a permanent basis before you commit to another site, particularly if it’s in another language.
That’s because you’ll struggle to stay on top of updates without consistent resource with the language skills and local audience insight to do so. From a search perspective, it’s valuable to keep updating your site regularly, as stale sites tend to have a habit of dropping down the search rankings.
Remember also that customers are demanding. If you have a local web presence they’re likely to expect you to respond as if you were a locally-based organisation, whether you have a local office presence or not.
That means responding quickly to enquiries and being available, such as having a local landline. Maintaining multiple websites is no small undertaking but it often pays off for brands that have good cause to do so.