US internet retailers are more likely than their UK counterparts to target Brazilian and Chinese markets in the next year.

However, all agree that use of social media networks and website translations are fundamentally important tools for making progress into international e-commerce markets.

After attending two events, most recently the IRCE in Chicago, USA and the IRX in Birmingham, UK back in March, I found several crucial differences in the way that companies in the US and UK were approaching the various international retail markets.

1. US buzz about domestic Spanish-speaking market

The first thing that we noticed was that the direction of focus was very different in the two countries. Whereas companies in the UK were looking to push further abroad into Europe, the people we talked to in the US were much more focused on the rising Spanish-speaking market within the US.

Many people we spoke to in Chicago said they were focusing a big part of their multilingual eCommerce efforts on the growing Hispanic population. UK marketers have recognised the importance of languages like Polish within the country for years, but the size and growth of these markets is not as significant or unified to a single language as it is in the US. 

2. UK sets sights closer to home whereas US marketers most interested in Brazil and China 

Results from a recent survey undertaken at IRX, Birmingham, UK in March. The question was: Which international markets will you be targeting in the next one to two years? (Multiple responses accepted).


In terms of overseas markets, the majority of people we spoke to in Chicago were most interested in trying to get a foothold in certain BRIC countries. The most commonly mentioned targets for UK firms on the other hand were North Europe and South Europe.

3. Tools of the trade: social media and website translation fundamental to moving into new international e-commerce markets

An extremely strong trend that we discovered in our survey of UK internet retailers was that use of both social media and website translation were becoming commonly used tools. An overwhelming 64% of UK marketers are using social media to market their brands to international audiences, and 58% use website translation.

The feedback that we got from customers at the IRCE was similar. Website translation in particular is becoming a massively useful tool in trying to spread brand messages across new markets.

There was a real feeling that these tools have replaced traditional marketing and promotional techniques in entering new international markets. Although many are still getting to grips with social media monitoring techniques, website translation is already a fundamental tool in the armoury of the international marketer. 

4. Language, cultural and local knowledge are the new barriers to entry

The final trend we saw was that as traditional logistical problems are seeing innovative solutions from companies such as Swiss Post, new barriers to entry are emerging.

International retailers in the UK and US unanimously agreed that local cultures, language barriers and a lack of local knowledge were deemed to be the most prominent obstacles in entering new e-commerce markets.

Many marketers have heard the stories of international branding blunders and are resultantly all too aware of the embarrassing mistakes that are so easy to make in marketing your brand abroad.

These are the main trends that we’ve been seeing. If you would like to share any interesting observations you’ve made about current approaches to multilingual e-commerce (in the US and UK), please leave them below…