We’re excited to share ideas to help you take your business to the next level by tapping into customers globally. Last year, more than 25,000 new ecommerce stores placed orders through Gelato’s global production network, while 4 million orders were fulfilled and delivered to end-customers in 184 countries and territories. In fact, our top 100 customers sell to over 14 countries on average each month.
But scaling your print-on-demand business internationally comes with many challenges: new marketing channels and languages, currency, VAT, cross-border shipping, long delivery times, high shipping costs and return rates, unreliable production, and quality issues. None of these challenges are easy to overcome unless you leverage the latest technology, in a sustainable and profitable way.
By Sven Bouwman, VP Acquisition
Find global channels
The first part to think of is to select a few channels first that are known to work well globally and learn them well. Google Ads and Facebook Ads are a great place to start. Google captures existing demand very effectively and Facebook generates demand while also providing awareness in a brand new market.
Also ensure that your marketing efforts are not solely based on paid campaigns. Work from day 1 with SEO (search engine optimization, the non-paid Google listings), and work with building followers and post content in your preferred social media profile (Instagram, TikTok). Over time this will increase your ability to invest more in paid advertising.
Choose the right campaign type
For the paid part of your online marketing, use campaign types that are easy to launch and geared to drive performance and learnings quickly, and campaigns that market all the products/items you have in your store. Since it is hard to know beforehand which products will take off in your new market, you will want to give them all a chance to succeed. If your bestsellers turn out to be the highest performers also in the new market(s) you can split them out into a more granular campaign structure.
The campaign types we’d recommend are performance max campaigns for Google and Advantage+ campaigns for Facebook/Instagram. They are simply put the future proof campaign types built for e-commerce stores, enabling quick setup, large product coverage and high sales/conversion performance (as opposed to optimizing for awareness/traffic/clicks).
Make sure you localize your marketing content
When it comes to the campaign types mentioned earlier, it’s especially important that your product titles are localized in a good way, meaning your titles include keywords that are native to the new market and have high search volumes.
Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends can help identify which keywords drive high click volumes. Use VPN to learn from local ads and get a feeling for the local market in Google for key search terms. (VPN allows you to browse Google as if you were sitting in that market). Use Facebook Ads Library to get a sense of what Facebook/Instagram creatives resonate in the local market.
Set a small Budget
Start out with small budgets and not too high profitability targets (ROAS targets). Remember that you start from scratch in a new market, and initially - even though you want to drive profitable sales from Day 1 - it is also a matter of learning what works and what doesn’t work. If you are in a position to do so, then be willing to spend a little to gain early traction and document learnings, rather than set unrealistic profitability targets on day 1. Too high initial targets will make the Google and Facebook bidding algorithms struggle to learn and gain traction, and you risk losing valuable time with low click volumes and no learning.
Conversion rate as the key performance indicator
I recommend you pay the most attention to conversion rate% initially. Very simply put: how many of your visitors end up buying. Cost per click and average basket value are key components also, but a single minded focus on conversion rate% the first few days / weeks is often helpful to establish a foothold and a baseline revenue.
Because when you have a solid CR% it’s the best evidence you can get that there is demand in the market for your products/designs, and that customers like what they see. That is a great starting point to build from. Finally - be aware that what is deemed a good conversion rate differs greatly by country. In Spain 1% may be a solid conversion rate depending on the circumstances, whereas in Denmark or Norway you want to build towards double digits. So don’t jump to hasty conclusions - as long as you pay the right price for a click, there is no country where Gelato is locally present that doesn’t hold very interesting revenue potential.
By Paulina Wehtje, Customer Success Director
For store setup for international expansion, the main ecommerce platforms have app or internationalization features, like Shopify Markets. There are a few boxes to tick off to set up the store.
Localize and translate the website
Local language sites drive higher conversion rates, so it’s worth spending time to translate the website. There are apps (better than google translate) that can help with translations. But we also recommend having someone native read through it. With that being said, the majority of customers start to scale in English-speaking countries like the UK, US, Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
International domains make the store feel local
When your online store appears in a customer’s local language and currency, you can also display region-specific content (Mother’s day in UK is not the same as in the US). If you have a .com domain for your main market, you can have three types of international domain to your .com website:
If you use subdomains like your-store-name.com/fr-fr, the advantage is that you can use localization apps that translate your products into different languages, without having to duplicate products for domains.
Customer service with local experience
Next, your customer service team needs to be prepared to take questions in the local language. If the team can’t answer back in the local language, it’s best to answer back in English. A tip is to provide them with an auto-translated text version in the local language, marking clearly that it’s automatically translated.
Differente price by market
Finally and importantly, When setting prices, you should have an understanding of the pricing landscape for the country. Gelato has developed a price comparison tool for each market by product to guide your price setting. When it comes to making the site local, make sure you have currency settings correctly set up so customers can pay in their local currency to improve conversions.
By Brent Baumbusch, Head of Strategic Accounts
Potentially the most complex area, you have to consider indirect taxes, such as sales tax and VAT. Your business income is not taxed on these transaction-related taxes.
Indirect taxes need to be considered both when you purchase your products from Gelato, and as you are charging your own customers depending on the country. Whether or not tax is due and the corresponding tax rate depends on:
Where your business is registered
Your total sales in relation to registration thresholds
The item purchased
The shipping country and the buyer's registered location
The production (printing) country - is typically the same as the destination country
If you use a print-on-demand supplier like Gelato, the tax you need to pay us is automatically calculated when an order is placed. This can often be offset versus taxes you collect from your customer at checkout. Gelato is VAT-registered in 16 countries in Europe as well as in Australia and New Zealand, and registered for sales tax in 44 states, territories, and districts in the United States and Canada.
To ensure your store is correctly set up for tax purposes, there are companies like Taxjar, Avalara, Sovos that specialize in this. As you are scaling your business, most customers also work with tax advisors on indirect tax, VAT, and customs services.
If you like to know more about local taxes in the your markets, visit “Getting Started with Taxes”
By Amanda Chuang, VP Sustainability
Last year, Gelato added 33 new production hubs to its network, bringing the total to 130, and increasing our in-country production rate to 87%. As a result, Gelato has the world's largest production-on-demand network.
When scaling internationally, local production hubs assist in delivering products faster and at a lower cost. Fulfillment without customs benefits both the environment and the local economy. Therefore, you'll be able to stay agile and respond quickly to any changes in the market.
How to think about quality and reliable production
Delivering optimal customer experiences is at the core of everything we do in Gelato. To ship to customers in the fastest way, with the lowest costs, and with the least carbon emissions, Gelato works with a network of production partners globally. We strive to maintain the same level of quality across the world and this requires that we work with production partners who have the latest production equipment and are highly skilled in using technology.
The production facilities must be set up to support our production processes, particularly as 90% of orders make up one or two items per package. It's not easy to become a Gelato partner, as we have high standards for quality that go beyond just using the right machine. In the world of ecommerce, quality includes how we receive digital files from customers and how we deliver them promptly, in excellent packaging, and with the expected quality. Therefore, we are cautious about bringing on new partners but are always working with our partners to improve and are on the lookout for opportunities to expand. Our motto is "no cross-border shipping" because it's time-consuming, unsustainable, and unpredictable, and it adds complexity to the quality discussion.
We invest a lot of time in our supply chain to ensure that our customers are satisfied, not only with the quality and specifications of the end product but also with the entire process. If you're interested in our services, check out our Trustpilot page to see what our customers have to say.
If you want to scale internationally, you want your customers to get their products faster, greener, and cheaper. Producing as close to your customers as possible is the only way to ensure an outstanding customer experience.
By Amanda Chuang, VP Sustainability
When scaling, brands face several supply chain decisions. Our customers often ask us, “Where should I produce my product?” and “How much of my product should I produce?” Our answer is to produce as close to your customers as possible and to only produce what your demand requires. You can achieve a more sustainable business by successfully minimizing supply and delivery distances. Here's how Gelato can help.
Gelato has production hubs in over 130 locations around the world. Orders from your customers are routed to the nearest qualified production partner - often in the end-customer's country - on demand. The days of shipping overseas and holding inventory are over. By producing in-country and on-demand, we reduce the risk of excess production ending up in landfills or burned. This also minimizes transportation distances, leading to fewer carbon emissions.
We can positively impact the environment by leveraging partnerships globally for local production and distribution. Global trade accounts for 25% of the world's carbon emissions, while international transportation accounts for 12%. As the EU states that 55% of carbon emissions must be eliminated by 2030, local production and matching supply and demand is essential. Legislation trends are favoring local production on demand, which is beneficial to both consumers and established merchants. By focusing on reducing international fulfillment, you can leverage more sustainable operations to contribute to the movement.