June 13, 2010, 3:01 PM

Arriving at global sales via different routes

Blinds.com goes it alone, while Drugstore.com works with vendors to sell outside of the U.S.

Lead Photo

Esther Steinfeld, marketing manager at Blinds.com

There’s no one way to go global, David Lonczak, Drugstore.com chief marketing officer, told attendees last week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in a session entitled “Taking the scary part out of going global.”

No two retailers are exactly alike, which is why no two retailers’ international expansion strategies should be exactly the same, he said.

For instance, Drugstore.com works with vendors such as E4X Inc., a developer of geolocation technology that recognizes where shoppers are coming from so that the retailer can display prices in local currency.

Blinds.com, however, took a do-it-yourself approach to its expansion into the Canadian market. Blinds.com bought the Blinds.ca domain name, found Canadian vendors and developed a Canadian search engine optimization strategy.

Canada was a prime expansion opportunity because there are many remote areas that don’t have a major retail stores on every corner, said Esther Steinfeld, Blinds.com marketing manager. Moreover, no retailer was dominating search engine organic search results.

The retailer figured that, if it could optimize Blinds.ca’s site content for organic search, it could quickly become the biggest online provider of blinds in Canada. Within four months, it did just that, Steinfeld said. “It’s important to recognize underserved markets because if you go to market without much competition, you can get your site a high ranking before others realize there’s an opportunity out there,” she said.

Despite Blinds.com’s success in Canada, global expansion presents a slew of potential pitfalls, such as complying with local tax laws, Steinfeld added. “Tax laws change all the time,” she said. “Make sure you’re fully versed in tax laws, or bring someone in who is.”

Because of the risks of selling in foreign markets, both Drugstore.com and Blinds.com conducted extensive research before moving into new markets. “Retailers need to ask themselves whether expansion fits in with their business model,” said Lonczak. “For Drugstore.com, it fits with our growth plan. But there are other ways to grow, so before you decide to face the challenges of global expansion, make sure it fits your company.”

Drugstore.com is No. 46 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; Blinds.com is No. 231.


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