5 Survival Tips for Launching Ecommerce Sites in Global Markets

More and more retailers are discovering the wisdom of “going global” with their ecommerce strategies, and are launching localized websites into new international markets.

It’s a smart bet. Done properly, such online expansion can deliver an immediate and sustained impact by increasing customers and profits. But this kind of growth isn’t always worry-free—after all, international markets are “uncharted territory” for many businesses.

Here are five survival tips for expanding your online business, and fulfilling cross-border orders.

Checkout and Shipping

Make sure to assess your current order fulfillment processes before diving into new online markets. Do they accommodate international orders and global customers? Nothing will sink your expansion efforts more quickly than offering products to customers who can’t buy them.

For instance, be sure to provide shipping options to your new markets. If your current solution can’t accommodate this, research alternatives and consider important factors such as Average Order Value, and average order sizes and weights. These will affect international shipping costs.

Also be sure to support shipping forms found in other countries. These should accommodate each country’s particular address format. Even fields for names may require customization.

Localized Contact Information and Support

If your company provides e-mail or phone customer service, it’s a best practice to provide those feedback opportunities in your new global markets—in those markets’ languages of choice.

This requires some effort to translate e-mails (or have fluent employees answer them directly), and to provide customer service phone numbers in global markets (with phones manned by fluent employees or contractors). This also includes having “contact us” web forms that are culturally appropriate for the target market.

This is more nuanced than you might suspect. For instance, residents in some Asian countries are reluctant to provide personal information to companies. A “contact us” form that might not worry a Westerner can be perceived as invasive in an Asian market, since they often ask for more personal information than the local norm.

Translation and Customer Awareness

As we mentioned at the beginning of this story, launching localized websites for global customers—in their languages of choice—is a “must have” for expanding online. Indeed, when such translation is performed by accredited professionals, this content will resonate with local shoppers in ways that other localization methods (such as translation software) simply can’t.

But here’s a little-known secret: translation isn’t the final step in engaging a new market—it’s the first. To be genuinely and sustainably successful, an international website must transcend translation.

Your new customers must be told that your new site exists. A great way to start this process is by configuring the localized site to signal to regional search engines that international versions of the site exist. This helps deliver organic traffic.

Also, an intuitive user experience is paramount. Visitors must be able to easily and elegantly switch from one language to another. The very best examples of this “language preference detection” technology can dramatically improve a localized site’s traffic, conversion and revenue by as much as 157%, 17% and 300+% respectively, according to our analysis.

Translation is certainly an art, but science can also be applied to this process, to improve website performance. We’ve found that data-driven analysis—including conducting A/B testing and examining engagement metrics—can positively impact UX, and conversion funnels.

This approach also extends to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Using locally resonant keywords will make the site’s content SEO-rich. So will incorporating keywords and translation into the site’s URLs.

This optimization will improve search engine rankings. In addition, users will have a greater understanding of where they are while navigating the site.

Localized Payment Options

Contrary to popular belief in the West, credit cards and PayPal are not the global standard of e-commerce payments. Indeed, hundreds of millions of customers worldwide prefer many other payment options and platforms, and if they don’t see their preferred payment options on an e-commerce site, they simply won’t do business there.

Your company must adapt, and support these alternate payment options. For instance, bank transfers, invoices, e-wallets and cash-on-delivery are preferred in many countries.

For instance: In Japan, people largely prefer paying in cash to avoid the risks associated with using credit cards, like identity theft or fraud. According to global payment management company CyberSource, 20% of Japanese e-commerce shoppers prefer to pay with cash on delivery. Fifteen percent prefer transfers at the bank or post office. Another 11% prefer paying at convenience stores.

Another global payment platform recently warned that companies that only accept credit cards are actively reducing their sales to only 20% of what they might otherwise generate. The message is clear: Support local payment types, and currencies.

Localized Sales Campaigns

Finally, be sure to leverage the power of promotional campaigns (from price breaks to free shipping) in your new international markets. But, be sure to consider the nuances of these international cultures.

Major Western holidays are often “just another day” in other regions. You’ll want to invest some time researching the market’s culture, and understanding its major travel holidays and gift-giving holidays. And be sure to note the holidays where people are doing less shopping. Time your important sales accordingly.

Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation. 

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