Launching an eCommerce store in a new market is a time-consuming, complex, and multi-layered process. It can entail running into an array of challenges affecting customer experience, from cultural differences to payment issues and outdated infrastructure, which is why you need the right approach to succeed. Our client Sportland embarked on an international expansion journey five months ago. Here’s our growth hacking strategy and the how and why it worked.
Being the number one sportswear retailer in the Baltics with an award-winning in-store experience, Sportland’s strategic next steps were to expand its operations into a new market. At the time, Poland’s customer had no idea who Sportland was, and Sportland Poland (PL) was to be an entirely new venture. Partnering with scandiweb meant a holistic approach with the simultaneous involvement of all teams—SEO, PPC, CRO, and development.
Goals and objectives
Building brand recognition in a new country takes time, a lot of work, and thorough market research to overcome challenges in establishing trust and credibility among consumers.
With the new store launch getting near, it was time to bring traffic of potential customers to the new website with the help of scandiweb’s PPC and SEO teams.
The client expected the PPC and SEO projects to contribute to the successful penetration of the market, leading to increased brand visibility, customer acquisition, and overall business growth in Poland. The expected result was a ROAS of 3 in three months and an overall positive trend of paid and organic traffic translating into revenue.
The PPC team was informed and involved in the process leading up to the launch. Our main focus was to have Google Ads campaigns ready in parallel with the go-live, and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) tracking, as well as best practices applied for conversion tracking in native channels to be set as well.
PPC steps to enter a new market
- Review business niche and competitors in Poland
- Understand customer lifetime value
- Plan a 3-month strategy, goals, metrics & KPIs
- Create a new Google Ads account for Poland
- Conversion tracking setup (primary—transaction/purchase, sign-ups/newsletters; secondary—add-to-cart, checkout) and GA4 audience setup
- Create Looker performance report for Google Ads
- New feed creation, QA & feed testing
- Keyword research
- Set up a target audience based on our user persona
- Set up responsive display ads
- Meta Ads setup: audience research and setup, ads setup and optimization, feed creation
- Review active campaign performance, ad groups, and keywords; keyword bid management and adjustment based on location, device, demographics, and ad schedule; campaign budget optimization
- Launch and manage conversion campaigns with different audiences.
Here’s the breakdown of our PPC efforts and key learnings:
We tested multiple channels and ad formats—Display, Shopping, Search, and Performance Max (Pmax). Seeing progress with building brand identity in the market and raising ROAS to the desired level, we expanded to Meta Ads. We tested several audiences and ad formats and landed on collections with catalog assets and dynamic carousels with catalog assets as the best-performing ones.
Sportland PL was set to launch in July. We had a good start by having back-to-school campaigns during August, which helped us to increase sales. By September, we were able to improve our ROAS and revenue two times in comparison to August. With the Sportland team’s assistance, we leveraged the learnings, tackled all marketing campaigns, and implemented sales tactics in ads, resulting in a x4 higher ROAS and record-breaking revenue. Flash Sale and feed optimization were up next, and November, the Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales month, became the most successful month from ROAS and revenue aspects.
Google Ads highlights
- July: started advertising
- August: Back to School campaign impacted overall sales and assisted during the go-to-market phase
- September: Flash Sale start and feed optimization
- October: Product range increase—traffic and conversions increased significantly. Key learnings:
- Google Merchant Center feed improvement should be consistent, and it has a positive effect if done right
- Improvement in stocks and product range affects the conversion rate
- Google machine learning prefers higher stock and works better with more products.
- November: Black Friday
Paid traffic attribution
We noticed better performance from all channels once we launched the first paid campaigns. It turned out that ~30% of users in Poland don’t consent to any cookies for tracking or use ad blockers. In addition, users may see the ad from one device and convert from another (i.e., seeing an ad from the phone and then buying through a laptop), affecting the attribution.
In our experience, Pmax campaigns outperform the rest of the networks and drive better results. For Sportland PL, we focused on Pmax campaigns and optimizing asset groups and audiences. The plan was to allow Pmax to gather more data and scale the daily budget to align with the generated revenue, reduce changes in good-performing Pmax groups when possible, and leverage best practices and good assets across all campaigns.
Meta Ads highlights
In October, we started advertising on Meta. The goal was to leverage social ads to increase brand recognition in Poland. A holistic paid media approach assisted each channel, and we had better retargeting audiences, bringing improved results each month.
We learned that an integrated marketing communications strategy with smooth communication and alignment between teams and 3rd parties brings excellent results. Progressing with the same approach allows the PPC team to prepare for seasonalities and each important marketing event. We noticed a significant impact on all paid campaigns by being able to tackle the relevant offers on time and being more proactive in comparison to our localized competitors.
The plan is to keep outstanding promotions for up to one year to gain brand recognition in Poland.
In parallel with PPC efforts, our SEO team worked on getting Sportland PL to rank in organic search results to bring relevant organic traffic to the new site. This is what our approach consisted of:
Semantic SEO review & keyword mapping
To understand the optimization directions and focus points, it was necessary to carry out a keyword gap analysis during which Sportland’s competitors are analyzed based on their rankings. This information enables us to target our SEO efforts towards queries and topics with the highest potential return on investment (ROI). We performed the keyword gap analysis for the Polish market and categorized our findings based on search intent, mapping them with relevant Sportland URLs.
Semantic keyword analysis includes
- PDP semantic layout identification & relevant keywords and entities for content creation
- Review of additional PLP creation based on semantic audit results
- Keyword database creation according to competitor research
We also identified relevant keywords and optimized the brand page and product page (PDP) content, meta tags, and other elements to improve its search engine visibility and attract organic traffic.
For new eCommerce websites with minimal brand recognition, as in this case regarding an entirely new market, it takes time to accumulate volume for brand-specific queries. With growing brand awareness, branded searches and related organic traffic increased significantly.
To help with brand awareness, the SEO team worked on entity home optimization by content updates for the Homepage and About Us page and organization structure data markup implementation. Additionally, for a new market where the brand is not yet known, it’s important to introduce informational content, so a blog will be introduced in the near future to support transactional pages and raise brand awareness.
Navigation menu audit
Finding the best and most commonly used keywords and queries was important for the top menu organization. We conducted keyword research and optimized the navigation menu labels and structure for PLPs to improve user experience and search engine visibility. These findings were also helpful in further website optimization, correct meta title and description creation, and updated category SEO namings.
The SEO team worked on making adjustments to meta titles and descriptions that appear in search engine results for categories on a website that do not serve as part of the site’s navigation menu.
As entering a highly competitive and established market is challenging, a backlink-building strategy has been created to support transactional content. Our goal is to explore competitor tactics and find low-hanging fruits for local directories and listicles where Sportland PL could place their links and receive high-quality local backlinks. Additionally, we recommend building backlinks to freshly optimized pages and the homepage.
SEO specialists can search for local news agencies to add sponsored articles for a readership that aligns with the website’s target audience or geographical location, local directories to make free listings, and additional paid backlink opportunities and unlinked brand mentions.
When we looked back at 2023 for Sportland, the Polish store, despite its launch only in July of that year, did remarkably well in generating revenue, with a convertibility of 1.9%. Successful PPC and SEO strategy ensured Sportland PL quickly received its first orders. From no orders in July, we witnessed a steady climb, and in November, there were already over 1,200 orders coming in monthly. The Polish market managed to pick up the pace quickly after its launch, with eCR being 2.5% in November.
As for registered users (Magento customers), the Polish store accumulated over 3K users, with ~30% of transactions and revenue stemming from orders with the Welcome Series coupon code usage.
Most notable PPC improvements (comparison of Q4 results to Q3)
- +468.54% ROAS (5.28)
- +1,485.50% revenue
Since the store launch, Sportland PL has expanded its online visibility organically, generated revenue from organic search, and enriched its backlink portfolio.
SEO results highlights (November compared to July)
- +845% organic traffic, accounting for 13.9% of all Sportland PL traffic
- +5,267% revenue from organic search
- 1,570 new keywords
- +673% growth rate for the homepage
- +119% clicks for non-branded keywords (110 non-branded keywords are in the top 10 on SERP)
- +471% clicks for branded keywords
- +331% clicks for PDPs
Branded searches noticeably increased over October and November, with branded queries accounting for 19.89% out of all organic search queries. Sportland PL’s North Bend page secured the second position on SERP for the “North Bend” search query. In addition, four branded pages are ranking in the top 10.
In just four months, organic search revenue reached 14.4% of total revenue share, with the website performing particularly well during peak season.
scandiweb has high goals for Sportland Poland in 2024. The PPC team aims to increase ROAS, improve CPC, increase brand recognition, and widen the audience. The SEO team is set to increase organic traffic and organic revenue, bring more traffic to category pages, grow domain ranking to a competitive level, and work on blog improvements for better non-branded visibility and new user acquisition, in addition to other teams working on UX improvements, marketing automation, first-party data, and new features’ implementation. Let’s check back in after checking off these goals!
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