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  • Writer's pictureLucas Bergmans

How to launch in new countries: 7 hot tips

Updated: Jan 4

Just over a year ago, I was part of the team at Cazoo that rolled the brand out into Europe, 2 years on from a successful UK launch. We launched in 4 markets within 6 months, growing our total addressable audience from £100bn to over £400bn. From an operational point of view, this was a huge undertaking. In each market, we needed to buy cars, refurbish and photograph them and have the logistical infrastructure to deliver cars to customers’ homes across the country.

 

My focus was on how to roll out the Cazoo proposition and customer experience to all 4 markets, at pace, and striking the right balance between staying true to the ‘secret sauce’ of what had worked in our home market and localising it effectively.

 

Having worked as the local market lead for big global brands like Heineken and Pepsi, I have often uttered the classic refrain: “our market is different, this won’t work for UK customers” when working with global teams launching new products or marketing campaigns. This time, the shoe was on the other foot - I was ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ telling my colleagues from France, Germany, Spain and Italy how things were going to work. If I didn’t play my cards right, I would become ‘the arsehole from HQ’ or - worse still – the Business Prevention Department.

 

It was an intense but very rewarding few months, to say the least. I learned a huge amount on how to launch a digital proposition into multiple markets at speed (sometimes the hard way) and much of it is relevant for other products and services, so I’ve pulled together my ‘Top 8 Hot Tips’ for anyone planning their next international expansion!

 

1.     Focus on what’s universal for your proposition

Brits drive on the wrong side of the road (or is it the right side of the road?) The French are very patriotic about their choice of car brands. Surprisingly, the process of registering a car in Germany is horribly inefficient and slow (who knew?!) On some level, every country is different. But there are universal truths about the category that are the same everywhere. Every customer in every market approaches the prospect of buying a used car with a sense of dread and anxiety that overshadows what should be a joyful experience. No one trusts used car dealers. In general, they are used to buying other products online and find it more transparent, more convenient, better value – just a better experience. Why not used cars?

 

2.     Assume everything’s the same and adjust where it’s not.

If you’re looking for speed of launch first and foremost, you don’t have time for endless internal debates or lengthy research projects. At Cazoo, we had launched in the UK and learned a huge amount in 2 years, including making plenty of mistakes along the way. The starting point for our rollout was a ‘blueprint’ document that mapped out the proposition and customer experience in detail. For this to be adjusted in any new market before launch there would have to be a clear reason, primarily in terms of local regulation, occasionally from the point of view of the customer or competitive set.

 

3.     Be clear on what is core and what’s up for grabs.

Once we had launched in each market, we wanted the business to grow and thrive with local teams having (some) autonomy to make changes as they needed, to delight their customers and deliver commercially for the business. This would involve making sensible adjustments to the customer experience. For example, a greater role for customer service agents in leading customers through the online journey in markets where online shopping was less established or offering an additional (chargeable) service for managing the hell of car registration for our German customers. But we also needed to be clear on what was off limits and what was true to our principles as a brand: the things that will always make us different to incumbent car dealers. Transparency on price and quality was paramount; opaque pricing and haggling were verboten; the 7-day money back guarantee was sacrosanct.

 

4. Language matters, so don’t leave it all up to AI.

The Cazoo UK website had nearly 100,000 words in it, including car search results with descriptions of each; longer form content to explain how Cazoo works and plenty of editorial content to help customers choose their next car. On top of that, reams of copy off-site for search ads, CRM, affiliate listings, documents to give to the customer with their car, etc, etc. To translate that volume of copy into 4 languages at pace needed a combination of AI translation tools and a human touch. Exclusively human would take too long and cost too much. Over-reliance on AI tools could result in mistranslations or a tone of voice that just doesn’t fit the bill for Cazoo. If you’re trying to sell used cars through a website, mistranslation can undermine customer confidence very quickly.

 

5.     Advertising copy doesn’t translate

While some advertising copy is there to simply describe your proposition or a rational benefit – in paid search especially – some of it is there to entertain, to charm and be memorable. This is true of endlines. We’d done a pretty good job of landing ‘Cazoo yeah, you can!’ in the UK, but directly translating this into different languages would be a mistake. Another mistake is to try and come up with your own ideas, which I soon learnt when my brilliant suggestion of ‘Cazoo-là-là’ was shot down in flames by the French team.

 

6.     Use data to take opinion off the table

Post-launch, each market wanted to get volumes and margins to grow, and each country team had a wealth of ideas on how to optimise their business. Many things were simple to adjust on a local basis, like changing marketing spend in different channels. Other changes could impact the customer experience negatively without having a meaningful positive commercial impact – changing a 7-day money back guarantee to 14-day money back guarantee for example. But how to know the best way forward and make the right decisions collectively? For this, we created a conjoint model through an external research agency that allowed us to use data to objectively demonstrate what changes would have the greatest impact on customer demand. We had a model for each market, and this did show interesting variations. In Spain, for example, having the car delivered quicker after purchase was important, as our competitor in that market had offered this for a long time and set a level of expectation.

 

7.     Try not to swear

As any Italian speakers will know, Cazoo is just one letter away from Italy’s favourite swear word. You’ll have to look it up yourself, but I suggest you don’t do it in front of senior management or children. It’s like a super-swear word that covers multiple equivalent words in English. The full story is worthy of a blog post in itself and, in truth, you’d have be spectacularly unlucky (lucky?) to find yourself faced with a branding challenge like this. The short version is that we stuck with the name and ‘styled it out’ focusing on what’s great about the customer experience and reaping the benefits of being a memorable name, even if not for the best reasons!

 

In the end, our European adventure didn’t last, as the 2022 ‘techlash’ put intense pressure on our ability to further invest in expansion. Cazoo is now focussed on the UK market only, and will no longer be winning happy customers on the continent, including plenty of baffled/offended Italians. Aside from the invaluable experience of being part of this epic rollout project, I also had the pleasure of meeting a wide variety of smart, driven and wonderful people right across Europe. You know who you are, so ‘Salut, Hola, Ciao and Guten Tag’ to you!!

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