Having a single eCommerce site is very handy, since it’s easy to manage. However, this may not be the best solution as far as customers are concerned. This is especially true when you’re trying to expand into international markets.
It’s often a good idea to create dedicated websites in local languages for your local audiences. But even when foreign markets share the same language as your home market, it may still be a good idea to create separate sites.
Different audiences have different needs and expectations, even if they share the same language. Maintaining dedicated sites for each audience helps tailor content, making sure your business gets optimum engagement in each market.
The practicality of managing multiple sites
Some content management systems have better multi-site support than others. This is 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, especially if you’re pushing content to and from local offices. As well, localizing the CMS so that the back-end interface is in the local language(s) will help your local teams manage their own sites independently.
When choosing a CMS, you’ll need to think about options such as whether you will manage your sites centrally or locally. Be sure to select a solution where sites are independent, so if one goes down it won’t take the other sites down with it.
READ MORE: CMS Considerations for Multiple Languages
It’s a bit more complex when your international sites are eCommerce enabled. This introduces a host of complicating factors, from the need to integrate different payment systems to catering to different regulatory requirements in different markets.
There’s also the need to manage different inventories in different markets, as well as managing differences between markets when it comes to in clothing size, requirements, weight/measuring systems, and more.
More reasons to separate sites
Maximizing your appeal to different language audiences isn’t the only reason to maintain separate sites. Many direct-to-consumer brands are currently performing extremely well. Some brands maintain a D2C site that’s separate from their other areas of operation, as well as maintain 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 the investment if you can get the most out of each audience segment.
In some cases, you may not need to maintain separate websites. Some audience segments only require dedicated landing pages or specific content within your main website.
For example, only very large recruiters need separate career sites. Walmart and Target maintain career websites that are separate from their main commercial activities, because both are major recruiters with complex hiring needs. In such cases, it makes sense to separate recruitment from the company’s’ other activities.
Having dedicated sites can also help you maintain a different brand image for different audience segments. For example, Pabst Blue Ribbon is a rather ordinary beer here at home in the U.S., with a hipster subsegment that drinks it ironically. But in China, the brand relaunched itself as a classy and expensive drink.
Pabst has strong reasons to maintain a separate web presence in each market, ideally never letting audiences from one market see the branding used in the other.
One of the arguments for maintaining separate websites is that search engine optimisation may need to be managed very differently for different sites.
Target’s recruitment site is a good example. Someone looking for a job has very different needs than someone looking for the nearest Target store, or where to send a product complaint. Keeping the sites separate helps segregate search traffic, sending it in the right location.
A good rule of thumb is to ask whether your websites require much of the content to be duplicated in the same language. If there is, then there’s good reason to maintain a single site.
From a search engine perspective, you can also be penalized for having duplicate content across two sites. This is also a good indicator that there’s no need to create multiple sites.
You should also think about how you’re going to maintain more than one site. It’s hard enough with a single web presence. Managing more than one is an additional burden. It’s advisable to wait until you have a permanent local resource before you commit to another site, particularly if it’s in another language.
You’ll struggle to stay on top of updates if you don’t have a consistent resource with the language skills and knowledge of the local audience From a search perspective, it’s valuable to update your site regularly, as stale sites tend to drop down search rankings.
Remember that customers are demanding. If you maintain a local web presence, they’re likely to expect you to respond as if you were a locally based organisation, whether or not you have a local office presence.
This means responding quickly to enquiries as well as being available, like having a local landline. Maintaining multiple websites is no small undertaking, but it often pays off for brands when the investment makes sense.