May 1, 2013, 4:16 PM

Investing in paid search ads in international markets pays off for a startup online jeweler

Ritani finds less competition abroad means it pays less for valuable keywords.

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Almost immediately after the launch of its e-commerce site last October, online jewelry retailer Ritani began receiving inquiries from international shoppers looking to buy.

While selling internationally wasn’t in the retailer’s plans, the consumer interest led the it to search for vendors to help it deal with the logistical issues involved in selling to shoppers outside the United States, such as taxes, tariffs and shipping.

After settling on FiftyOne Global Ecommerce, which last month changed its name to Borderfree, it began selling in 12 international countries a little more than a month ago. And, as part of its marketing strategy, it launched paid search campaigns tailored to each regions’s quirks, says Kevin Flaherty, the retailer’s vice president of marketing.

“The things that work in one market won’t work in another market,” he says. For instance, Japanese shoppers typically only want nearly flawless diamonds, Flaherty says, and so its keywords focus around the Japanese word for “perfect.” In other markets shoppers are looking for a deal, so its keywords revolve around words like “value” and “deal.”

While large online retailers compete aggressively for keywords in the U.S. , there’s far less competition abroad, says Flaherty. As a result, similar keywords are 10% to 50% cheaper, he says. And they’re producing significant returns; roughly 10% of the retailer’s sales stem from international orders.

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