Azra Ahmed is the English Community Manager at DaWanda, the most popular online marketplace for makers in Europe.
She is English and has worked with many designers from the UK who sell well domestically in the UK, but are completely daunted by the idea of selling overseas. She really enjoy showing them just how easy it can be!
She also contributed to a very popular The Design Trust blog post with other experts on how to sell expensive crafts online.
Here are her 3 steps to help you find your niche when selling online across borders:
Step 1: Get multilingual support
The good news is, you don’t need to be fluent in Spanish or au fait with French culture to make a splash on the continent!
Joining the right online marketplace is a great place to start.
Does the site use English as a language or the national language? Look for a marketplace with multilingual support and multilingual editorial content, as that’s where your international audience is more likely to be.
DaWanda has not one Customer Support team but seven – one for each language we operate in. All teams work together behind the scenes to maintain smooth communication between buyers and sellers with different first languages. You can easily translate your listings into other languages and set up international shipping profiles.
When you join a handmade marketplace, you not only find a platform from which to sell, you also join a community of like-minded individuals. DaWanda designers share their experiences with selling overseas in the Forum, on Facebook and through seller profiles in the DaWanda Blog. The community welcomes questions and is filled with friendly advisers from many different countries.
Of course, lots of conventional wisdom about selling online still applies when you take your brand overseas. You will still need excellent product photos, lively product descriptions and comprehensive shop policies, for example. DaWanda’s Seller Education Portal contains advice on all these topics plus even more specific tips on going international.
Step 2: Find your specific audience
Europe is a big place! You will want to focus your energies on specific local markets, at least when starting out.
But how do you find out which national markets would be the most receptive to your work?
Make a list of the top 30 – 50 most important keywords for your product and your brand. Use free online translation software (e.g. Google Translate) to translate your keywords into other languages.
Armed with your new foreign keywords, you can start to use the trend-forecasting tools you already know, but in a new way. Head over to another country’s Google Image Search page and search with your international keywords. This is a great way to see what kinds of associations your brand identity has within another culture.
You will begin to see trends emerging in different European countries, and different cultural responses to different types of craft. Perhaps you will find that there is a thriving alternative ceramics scene in Italy, for example, but little interest in the topic in Spain. You might then decide to focus your energies on your Italian audience!
Or perhaps you come across an intriguing craft trend in Spain which you’d love to try – you might then decide to expand your range with items in this style, so you can connect with a new Spanish audience.
It’s also great to try searching with foreign keywords on sites like Pinterest and Tumblr. The curated, interactive nature of these image sharing sites makes it easier to identify which styles and trends are the most socially engaging and gaining the most momentum in different language cultures.
Step 3: Engage with European influencers
Finding your target audience within Europe is a great start. But how do you keep abreast of changes, new trends, new markets and techniques to explore? The answer is to dive in to the international blogosphere.
Though this might seem awkward given the language barrier, the prominence of image-heavy blogs and the efficiency of Google Translate has made it a whole lot easier. Established bloggers are opinion leaders and influencers, keeping their finger on the pulse of their local handmade and design scene. Even if you disagree with their style choices, it can be illuminating to see how their readers respond to them.
Getting featured by the right blog can establish your position in another country’s handmade scene and significantly boost your sales. Using Twitter is a great way to engage with bloggers and find new blogs to follow.
Follow other DaWanda designers from across Europe, and take a look at the most influential profiles which they themselves follow.
Many foreign-language bloggers also speak English, and don’t mind if you reach out to them in English, as long as you do so politely. Maybe you have a fresh insight on an opinion piece they wrote. Or maybe your products would make a good prize in a giveaway.
If you have something to offer your new favourite blogger, so much the better for them – and for you.