Striking the Balance: Global vs. Local Ecommerce Strategies

    August 17, 2023
    Global vs Local Ecommerce Strategies

    In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, finding the right balance between global and local ecommerce strategies is a challenge that many consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands face. In the latest episode of the “Digital Shelf Cast” podcast, host Julia Glotz engages in an insightful conversation with Vanessa Thompson, Senior Director of Global Customer Success at CommerceIQ, to explore the complexities of this balance and how brands can navigate it successfully.

    The Global vs. Local Conundrum

    The episode kicks off with Julia Glotz introducing the importance of striking a balance between global strategies and the unique requirements of local markets. Global Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are crucial for steering multinational organizations, but smart localization is equally vital. Unfortunately, many companies struggle to find this equilibrium, leading to a disconnect between the brand and local consumers, resulting in lost sales and reputational damage.

    Vanessa Thompson’s Expertise

    Vanessa Thompson, an expert in helping CPG brands think globally and act locally in the ecommerce arena, brings her wealth of experience to the discussion. She shares her insights into developing effective localized ecommerce strategies that resonate with consumers in various regions. Moreover, she provides a glimpse behind the scenes of her role, helping CPG teams across different geographies and levels of ecommerce maturity achieve their online growth goals.

    The Importance of Communication and Listening

    According to Vanessa, the journey towards successful localization begins with clear communication and listening. Starting with a strong kickoff meeting that lays out the global agenda, brands must also pay attention to local nuances and requirements. Engaging in ongoing education and shared learnings, while consistently tracking progress across all regions, is essential. Ensuring that everyone is on the same page from the start sets the foundation for success.

    Framework for Global ecommerce Localization

    Vanessa outlines a comprehensive framework for achieving global ecommerce localization success:

    1. Global Strategy and Local Nuances: Establish a global strategy while considering the specific nuances of local markets. Deep-dive conversations with local teams are crucial for understanding the intricacies of each market.
    2. Education and Shared Learnings: Continuous education and learning are key for maintaining alignment across regions. Newer markets often bring unique insights that can benefit more established ones.
    3. Tracking and Benchmarking: Consistent tracking of key metrics across all regions is vital. Even if certain KPIs are not performing well in some regions, tracking them helps identify areas for improvement and benchmark progress.
    4. Local Market Focus: Engage in conversations with local markets to uncover hidden gems and strategies that can significantly impact growth. Avoid disregarding emerging markets, as they often possess agile testing and learning capabilities.
    5. Monthly and Quarterly Improvements: Focus on incremental improvements rather than overwhelming local markets with end targets. Month-on-month or quarterly progress is more manageable and motivating.

    The Future of Global ecommerce Localization

    Looking ahead, Vanessa predicts that ecommerce localization will continue to evolve, with local nuances playing an increasingly significant role. Different markets, emerging trends, and the rise of new channels will contribute to the complexity of the landscape. Brands will need to adapt by consistently learning, adapting, and staying attuned to market changes.

    Key Takeaways

    In summary, finding the balance between global and local ecommerce strategies is a complex yet vital task for CPG brands. Vanessa Thompson’s expertise sheds light on the importance of clear communication, education, and ongoing tracking. Brands must tailor their strategies to the unique requirements of each market while aligning with overarching global goals. As ecommerce continues to evolve, brands that prioritize localization will be better positioned to thrive in the dynamic digital landscape.

    For more insights and details, listen to the full podcast episode on the “Digital Shelf Cast.” Join Julia Glotz and Vanessa Thompson as they delve deeper into the nuances of global ecommerce localization and share actionable strategies for success.


    Julia Glotz  0:03  

    Hi everyone. This is your host, Julia Glotz. Welcome back to the digital shelf cast, where we discuss how growth driven CPGs can win in ecommerce at speed and scale. Every episode I’m speaking with industry experts about the latest trends and challenges on the digital shelf and how you can accelerate your growth online. Make sure you subscribe today so you don’t miss out on any of our insight packed episodes. Thanks for spending time with me today. Let’s jump straight in. Hello, and welcome to the digital shelf cast. It’s great to have you with us. Food is global taste is local. It’s a well worn phrase that encapsulates the tension that can exist between global strategies and the unique requirements of local markets. Global KPIs are of course essential for steering multinational organisations at a high level. But smart localization is also critical. However, many companies struggle to strike the right balance between global and local, including on the digital shelf. This can lead to a disconnect between the brand and local consumers, resulting in lost sales, and even reputational damage. This is where our guest for today’s episode can help. Vanessa Thompson is Senior Director of Global Customer Success at CommerceIQ and an expert in helping CPG brands think global and act local when it comes to ecommerce. Today Vanessa will share with us how to develop localised ecommerce strategies that resonate with consumers in different regions. And she’ll also give us a glimpse behind the scenes of how she helps CPG teams in disparate geographies and different levels of ecommerce maturity, achieve their online growth goals. Vanessa welcome. It’s great to have you with us. 


    Vanessa Thompson  1:53  

    Thanks, Julia. Lovely to be here.


    Julia Glotz  1:54  

    Now before we dive into today’s topic, we’ll start the episode The way we start every episode here at the Digital shelf cast. I quizzing our guests on their own online shopping habits. So Vanessa, spill the beans, what’s been in your online shopping basket of late? 


    Vanessa Thompson  2:11  

    Good question to start with Julia. So two things are in my shopping basket yesterday, one an actual physical item and one a virtual item as well. So two experiences, one was purchasing some tickets for Bluey live for my children on Ticketmaster. And then the second was school uniform. It’s that time of year already.


    Julia Glotz  2:31  

    Wow. And anything that stood out to you about those experiences?


    Vanessa Thompson  2:35  

    Yeah. Interestingly, this Ticketmaster, one was the level of stress and the frustration of going through the process and almost how many security verifications you had to go through. I knew I was a desperate mom trying to get front row tickets. And I think I went through because I was using my Ticketmaster account, then my PayPal account, which was linked to my Amex account. There were three separate verifications. And all I wanted was those tickets and, yeah, very frustrating process. But we got there in the end.


    Julia Glotz  3:03  

    I’m glad to hear that it does sound like high stakes purchase.


    Vanessa Thompson  3:07  

    Absolutely. Absolutely.


    Julia Glotz  3:09  

    Now, let’s turn to today’s topic. In my introduction, I said localization is important. But I think it’s actually worth spelling out precisely why that is, from your perspective. What is it about localization that is so critical for online retail success?


    Vanessa Thompson  3:25  

    You’re absolutely right, Julia, we have from emerging markets to develop markets from different retail and channel prominence to general nuances in buying behaviour across different markets. And I think so many times global businesses set out a global, almost agenda. And actually 80 90% of the time, that’s fine across everywhere. But it’s those nuances that will make the success for each each country specifically,


    Julia Glotz  3:48  

    And how does this tend to come up in conversations with your clients? What tends to happen internally for them that makes them go hang on, we need to start thinking a little bit more about localization.


    Vanessa Thompson  4:01  

    I think we always start off when whenever we take on a client use tend to start at global level first, essentially, if you’re starting from a global point. And those early conversations before the clients even come on board, we go through a very rigorous onboarding and adoption process. And when we start talking about region as well as country lead, those conversations are already in the making. And for me, the key to the success is two things is listening from day one, and deep diving, and then consistent tracking across all areas. Just because we’re not necessarily using it as a success measure for a country doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be tracking it. So I think it starts from day one in the conversation.


    Julia Glotz  4:38  

    What are some practical steps that you would recommend brands should take to ensure their global ecommerce strategy delivers for local markets? Is there a framework or a set of steps that you tend to take clients through?


    Vanessa Thompson  4:50  

    There absolutely is Yeah, so as I mentioned before, on our onboarding process is then rule number one for me is bring everyone on the journey. So how Have a really good kickoff meeting where the Global Agenda is laid out. And the process we’re going through and listen and discover. That’s going to be my next stage. And I’ll take you through that in a little bit more detail in a second. And then it’s education and shared learnings is key throughout. So making sure that we continue to educate. And education is a two way street. Just because the developed markets are further ahead in some areas doesn’t mean they’re ahead on everything. So those newer markets and emerging markets, because still bring something to the table. But as I mentioned, in my previous discussion, consistency of tracking is really key. So even if there’s certain KPIs where some countries in playing particularly well in at the moment, we need to compare apples with apples, and we need a benchmark starting point, which is why we have a global roll up, and then detailed scorecards per country. And you can set global targets. But it’s important to make sure you benchmark and then have interim targets along the way. Second, is have a global strategy, but then an understanding of local nuances that need to be brought into the consideration. Bringing in local considerations without losing that global goal, I have sessions with a local markets is something we always do. So even if there’s an a global agenda, we’ll have a conversation with every country to deep dive in half discovery, because it’s those local nuances that will uncover a hidden gem or something that could really move the dial because ultimately, as a global agenda, something like rich media, maybe a top topic or availability, but actually in a local market, just getting the gold standards, right, move the dial so much more. So it’s about understanding that local market. And then I said before, the thing where so many global brands fall down is sharing best practice talking with each other, we’d very much encourage governance along the process, learning from each other. And we’ll talk later about that being a two way street, and keeping that conversation going. My other recommendation there is focus on month or month or period quarterly quarterly improvements rather than end targets. For some of those local markets, it can be quite scary having a huge target. You know, if they’re looking at a 90% availability, they may be only at 40% at the moment, and that’s such a huge leap month on month improvement is the way to focus.


    Julia Glotz  7:09  

    That’s super interesting because I suppose keeping people engaged and motivated around those big global targets is absolutely important.


    Vanessa Thompson  7:19  

    Yes, absolutely. Correct. Absolutely correct that.


    Julia Glotz  7:22  

    And what are some specific platform features that you would use in this context? How can CPGs use CommerceIQ tools and services to execute ecommerce locally?


    Vanessa Thompson  7:34  

    Yeah, so absolutely. So as I mentioned before, it starts with that onboarding process. So we will do a deep dive and create commercial objectives at global and local levels, we can understand and actually, we’ve done it both way rounds in the past. And often there’s a real consistency of themes, but there’s those nuances. And then we do personalization for each country. So whilst there’ll be global goals, every country can feed in their own specifics, whether it’s about retailers brands, search terms, priority skew lists, you then have the global scorecard, which is there to give that helicopter view for that senior steering group, they can look down and see where their bigger KPIs are doing. But we have the detailed scorecard for each country or each region. And that’s where they can signpost, their actions and go first, and then you deep dive into the digital shelf optimization tool to actually take those actions and move it forward. So there’s a real clear process that we follow through training, and three monthly catch ups and quarterlies to ensure success. And we keep an eye on it with the client to make sure that they’re going in the right direction.


    Julia Glotz  8:36  

    What do your clients tend to struggle with? What if things go wrong? Or things get in the way of localization? What is that? Typically?


    Vanessa Thompson  8:46  

    I think there’s a few things for me, it’s probably two ends of the needle. So it’s either focusing too much globally or too much locally. Neither is right, and neither worrying about one or the other isn’t too much. And it’s focusing what’s going to move the dial the most, ultimately, we want growth. So for each market is where is that growth going to be generated for? So for example, there’s no point having the greatest content if you’re not visible on the shelf. So you if you focus too much on one area, it means nothing unless you get all those attributes, right. And I think the other one for me is don’t discount emerging markets or smaller markets, they can bring as much they can, they’re much more agile to do test and learns. Actually, some of those markets are much more ahead of the game on things like apps and market so you know, leading in app only, so making sure all the markets can bring something to the table and not discounting those. And as I said, sharing case studies, sharing best practice ways of working is crucial along the way. If you learn from other people’s mistakes, you’ll move faster forward.


    Julia Glotz  9:49  

    Do you find that sometimes organizations set global KPIs that may not be applicable across all markets? Is that something that tends to come up?


    Vanessa Thompson  9:58  

    It can happen. It won’t be the only KPI but there’s ones and I think where it works best is a realization that people are at different levels of maturity on different KPIs. And again, it’s not down to the overall economy maturity, for example, something like ratings and reviews, it’s still new in some countries. Yeah, other countries, it’s hugely established. Same as rich media, there are certain countries where rich media is much further ahead than others, or even down to availability and pricing. You know, pricing is such a complexity, and it can vary by store even, whereas others, there’s a generic price across the board. So as I said earlier, it’s really important to track all those metrics for everyone. But targeting is really key for me, and making sure to keep that attention from each local audience that we’ve got realistic targets, but also attainable goals on the way to those targets,


    Julia Glotz  10:50  

    which I suppose brings me on to the next point, which is all about the importance of communication. And I suppose that really ties in with what you were just saying about a listening, but also being really clear about how different global KPIs might apply locally. Have you found that there are sort of typical areas or KPIs where that need for clear communication is particularly important any cultural barriers, for example, that can can get in the way?


    Vanessa Thompson  11:19  

    Yeah, I think there’s a mix in there. And I think the best practice is where we have a partnership right from the start, so to me, and that is between CommerceIQ was and the client and the client across all their regions at the same time, the more we do that first part of the journey well, and onboard well and get everybody on the same path. And you’re right, there are cultural differences. There are differences between emerging markets versus established and channel differences. And some of it comes out through the journey. But to me, it’s clear about having that communication upfront and linking it to the journey forward. And the realization of having honest communication, and honest open conversations about what it will mean for this year versus future years. So clients can see the journey, and local teams can see the journey of where things are growing. And I think being able to influence and add to the strategy if they feel listened to them is much more likely to adopt the strategy. And as I said earlier, having realistic goals and almost gatekeeping points to go towards things as well. And chasing that month-on-month progression.


    Julia Glotz  12:23  

    How important is it to have imagery or visual materials to sort of illustrate what it is you’re looking for, and to ensure that nothing has been lost in translation? I’m just wondering whether there’s anything specific around helping ensure communication between different local markets and global teams is as clear as possible, and nothing gets lost along the way.


    Vanessa Thompson  12:46  

    I think there are a couple of things there, Julia. So you’re right in imagery, but Simplicity is the one that comes before that. For me, where we add complexity or where our clients are, complexity is where miscommunication happens. And that’s where you go down a whole rabbit hole instead. So to me, simplicity is the number one rule here as well. And then things like we run our training in a number of languages through our eLearning suite. So we can make sure that training hits the mark, we’ll make sure that we go with each country through their training plan and get those nuances and make sure we understand them thoroughly at the start on what will work and what won’t work for those markets. But to me, rule number one is simplicity.


    Julia Glotz  13:26  

    You’ve touched on market maturity at various points already. How does that come into play? What should CPG clients pay attention to when it comes to different maturity levels?


    Vanessa Thompson  13:38  

    So I think it’s making sure that the goals work, even if they are a global goal, making sure they work for those different maturity levels, so not having something that one country can have already smashed and takes the eye off the ball. Because we all know, that’s a mistake in itself, you know, nothing is ever complete. And actually taking your eye off the ball is the riskiest thing you can do versus having almost gatekeeping areas for emerging markets as they move through. And as I said, it’s not as simple as putting them into three buckets. People might be at a different maturity level on rich content as they are on ratings and reviews versus availability. So it’s been mindful that it’s not a 2D map of those two things going together and that there’s actually a number of complexities in there. And again, we work with our markets to have different targets or different KPIs depending on the maturity at a KPI level, as opposed to just overall. But ultimately, you still want to track global KPIs on a like for like, it’s the target that will be different across the board because at a senior level, you need a helicopter view down and you need to be able to compare everything as the same.


    Julia Glotz  14:45  

    We’ve talked mainly about making sure global teams are sensitive to local requirements so far, what should local teams focus on when trying to establish common ground with their colleagues and global teams?


    Vanessa Thompson  14:59  

    So I think the same rules apply to making sure they understand the local goals as well as the global goals and how they fit. And that’s, again, if we start with global level objectives, we’ll look at the local objectives and marry the two together with the right training and the right almost focus on areas starting forwards. And then also, it’s making sure they open the doors to those connects of who they can learn from. So again, it’s at those local levels, making sure they have an open door to governance to make sure they can understand and learn from each other as well as just at a local level. 


    Julia Glotz  15:35  

    Whenever I talk to someone from CommerceIQ, and I’ve spoken to many of your colleagues on this podcast, we often hear about the importance of fixing the basics and getting the fundamentals right. How does that apply in a global versus local context?


    Vanessa Thompson  15:50  

    We don’t forget the basics is probably rule number one, I would say on that I think there is a focus sometimes, are we hitting our number, and you will see countries that are just driving a number. And it’s are you driving the right actions? So are you driving an extra 1% on an area to hit a target when actually you’re 33% behind or actually that 1% improvement in another area might mean so much more in sales. So to me, it’s making sure that you’re chasing the right area. But we don’t forget the basics. If we if we break down on the basics, we will not succeed. As I said earlier, you know, we’ve got to be visible on the shelf. And we’ve got to have the right attributes on there to communicate the right branding message.


    Julia Glotz  16:31  

    And I suppose it might just be worth reminding listeners when we’re talking about fixing the basics and getting the fundamentals right, we are precisely talking about things like visibility and performance and search and what else would sort of fall under that fixing the basics bracket?


    Vanessa Thompson  16:45  

    I think, yeah, for me fixing the basics is your naming your imagery, your secondary imagery is becoming much more paramount now because that’s evolving, but also what good looks like on an app or on a food aggregator site. So again, the complexity comes of what your rulebook is for a traditional website versus an app is slightly different. And again, that’s where some of our most successful global clients are, is that creating the playbooks with us of what good looks like on those levels. So again, it’s making sure that everyone’s got everything they’re needing to succeed. But you’re right, Julia, it is about fixing the basics. But it goes beyond it could be the descriptions that go on things, the keywords that are included in there. Ratings, search is still an absolutely crucial one. Ad vs organic, and even pricing and promotions, everything in there, you’ve got to keep moving. And that’s why it’s so important to have your global scorecard. So you’ve got that overview of your key indicators. So you can identify the opportunities, but also the threats that are coming into your market.


    Julia Glotz  17:49  

    And I suppose you also need local account managers and ecommerce managers that are absolutely focused on getting those details, right? What’s your advice to CPGs on how they can help account managers and ecommerce managers really nail the details?


    Vanessa Thompson  18:05  

    I think it comes from a number of areas, what good looks like and what success is laying out key metrics from the start, not just a figure. So actually, you could hit a figure, but you’ve hit a figure by doing the right thing is the most important. So allowing those playbooks and the tool we have really helps deep dive into where those actions are needed, and what is going to move the dial in the greatest way.


    Julia Glotz  18:28  

    We’re nearly out of time. But before I let you go, I just want to quiz you a little bit on some ecommerce Trends. What are some current trends in global ecommerce localization that you think are particularly relevant at the moment?


    Vanessa Thompson  18:41  

    Yeah, for me, the ecomm market is not as simple as bigger more establishes as knowledge source for everything, those smaller and emerging markets can lead on certain areas, especially when it comes to something like apps. As I mentioned before, they’re prime for test and learn and bringing those successful learnings from those agile markets and sharing successes across the board is key to creating best practice and not only just improves results, but it makes that journey easier.


    Julia Glotz  19:08  

    And if I asked you to get your crystal ball out for a second, what do you expect the future of global ecommerce localization to look like?


    Vanessa Thompson  19:16  

    I think those nuances at a local level are going to grow. So I think those differences apps are constantly changing at the moment. I think those trends in markets, the new channels, the new retailers, the new ways of working, the new ways of things looking will continue to become more complex over time


    Julia Glotz  19:33  

    Fantastic. Now we really are out of time now, before I let you go in a sentence or two What’s your one essential piece of advice for our listeners on how to retain your brand’s global identity while adjusting ecommerce strategies for local online success, striking the balance between global and local in a nutshell, what would you say?


    Vanessa Thompson  19:54  

    It is absolutely that Julia so those are will seed will dry from a global level but key listening and learning at a local level.


    Julia Glotz  20:02  

    Fantastic, Vanessa, if people want to connect with you, what’s the best way to do that?


    Vanessa Thompson  20:08  

    You can grab me on LinkedIn or you can follow through on the CommerceIQ site.


    Julia Glotz  20:12  

    Fantastic. Vanessa, thank you so much for a great conversation.


    Vanessa Thompson 20:16  

    Pleasure as always, Julia. Thank you.


    Julia Glotz  20:20  

    Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the digital shelf cast. We hope you enjoyed the discussion and got some useful tips for how to navigate your brand success on the digital shelf. If you enjoyed the show, we’d also appreciate it if you could give us a rating and leave a review. Thanks again for listening. See you next time.


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