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Premier Ship Models is a London-based retailer of model ships and kits. Initially trading from stalls at boat shows across the UK, this company is now an example of how local businesses can achieve international trade through developing an online presence. Over the past 12 years, they have successfully responded to industry changes and feedback, extensively increased their product range, and globally established four international websites. This article aims to both provide informative lessons about their experience, and share their expertise in trading globally from a local base.

A lesson in website localisation   

Launched in December 2013, Premier Ship Models AU was faced with multiple challenges. Having already established a fully functional and lucrative website in the UK, Premier Ship Models now had to solve the problem of international customers dealing in a different currency.

Unfortunately, the solution was not as simple as setting up an international domain and then replicating the existing product base on the new website. There were two key issues with using this method. Firstly, if an Australian customer went to the AU site and made a purchase in AUS dollars, and then a UK customer went to the UK site and made a purchase in UK pounds, it would become very confusing very quickly; especially when it is a small business with a small team of staff.

The solution to managing different currency purchases: the implementation of a multi-site back-end, such as Prestashop. This allowed both websites, the UK and the AU website, to be managed from the same back-end. Customers could shop separately on the AU website, and on the UK website, they could make purchases in their currency, but the transactions would all appear in the same back-end.

Having solved the issue of multi-currency pricing, it is still not as simple as duplicating your website across to a separate domain. This is because all of the content on a website, down to the words, the images, the page titles, the page URLS; are all indexed by Google and other global search engines. Google uses the information on a website to determine its relevance to what people are searching for, and ultimately which page of the search results the website appears for a particular search query.

If Premier Ship Models had simply duplicated their content from one website to another, then Google and other search engines would not be able to determine which website was more relevant for a specific search query. For example, if somebody in Australia had searched ‘model ship of the HMS victory’ would they be directed to the UK website or the AU website? Because Google cannot determine the answer to this question, they instead penalise both websites and in some severe cases, websites can lose their index status; in other words their website simply won’t appear in the search results! This problem can be solved by implementing geo-targeting. Google determines which website will appear based on where the user is located. They also recognise that both websites belong to the same person(s) and therefore neither website needs to be penalised.

Localising your website is not the only task ahead   

Ultimately, you can have one of the best designed websites, the website can be fully optimised to bring in traffic; but people still like to deal with people. Retail has not fully progressed to the point where everyone feels comfortable making transactions online, especially when the value of the product is high.

Therefore, it is always important to have a local agent who can deal with customers personally. Premier Ship Models AU has an AU currency, it has an AU telephone number, and an AU domain; and most importantly it has an AU agent. The agent is arguably the most necessary part of the whole process, a website can bring in thousands of enquiries but in the end those big purchases will be made through people.

Learning from the Australian market

With the one year anniversary of their Australian website on the horizon, what have the results been?

Premier Ship Models are in a good position to analyse the response of the Australian market. Having an extensive product range across four countries has taught them that Australian people really love boats!

Proven to be most popular are the model kits and the custom built models. Australia has a rich maritime history and a flourishing sailing culture which Premier Ship Models believes is the reason for the success and warm response their Australian website has received.

Looking to the future

Unfortunately, building and maintaining an internet business doesn’t stop when the website eventually goes live. In order to stay relevant to Google and your target audience, you must keep updating your website. Whether that might be new products, company updates, industry updates or even photos, keeping your website up-to-date is the most important thing for continuing to develop a web presence.

This is why big international retailers like Tesco have huge teams of staff dedicated to running social media and creating website content. Google measures the relevance of a website through how often it is updated, and how often the content of the website is shared by others. For that reason, it is essential that you are always creating unique and engaging content that will encourage your target audience to not only make a purchase through your website, but also share your website with their friends.

You can read more about Premier Ship Model’s journey by visiting their website, www.premiershipmodels.com.au

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