8 Things International Retailers Need to Know to Drive Cross-Border Conversion

Hardly a day goes by without some article, with tips on how to boost conversion, landing in my inbox. But it’s rare that the real drivers of cross border conversion are examined, with writers usually focusing on the tactical elements of converting traffic. The truth is that entering international markets is a strategic decision, so it requires a similarly strategic approach to maximizing conversion. Here are eight considerations that will help retailers drive global growth.

Use the Pareto Principle to choose markets and concentrate your efforts

Creating a go to market roadmap is not simply about deciding to sell to new markets and diving in at the deep end. That kind of approach won’t see the best results – you need to be selective to get the kind of conversion that justifies making a cross border move. Apply the 80:20 rule to web traffic analytics to help prioritize the top 20% of potential markets for your brand. These top markets will drive the vast majority of the sales you can expect, so you should concentrate your efforts and resources appropriately.

Each country has different expectations; you need to customize UX accordingly

You may be an expert on local UX, but that doesn’t equate to knowing how someone in say Mexico will engage with your site. Design, mobile first, good copy, and inspiring images are clearly important to conversion, but in cross border markets you must cater to each country individually. They all have their own nuances, including colors, pictures, layout, address fields, and beyond. For instance, Chinese shoppers expect to see up to 15 product photos. In the case of something as simple as a bag, it is expected that every detail will be shown, with photos taken from every angle – even exposing the interior of the bag and its pockets.

Load speeds can be up to 10 seconds slower in distant markets

Slow load speeds equal poor conversion… it’s that simple. A typical load time of a domestic page is optimized at about 200 mil sec. But that’s local shoppers accessing a domestic server—international shoppers typically see slower load times. An EU customer might see a US retailer’s page load in 6/7 seconds, and an Australian customer might be subjected to a 14/15 second load speed.

Slow load speeds on cart pages can be a huge issue, because the worst place to create doubt with a shopper is on the payments page. They need to know their payment was successful, and the goods are on the way, so fast loading of the order confirmation page is vital.
Tackle this by utilizing a content distribution network, which allows content to be downloaded locally, or ideally, host your webstore on local servers, at data centers positioned close to international markets.

 Basic Translation May Mean Locals Can’t Find Your Product

Simple translation won’t necessarily get your products found. For instance, Latin markets speak different types of Spanish, and sites need to be adjusted for each region. Using relevant language is the only way customers can find what you’re selling.

Just one example is translating the word jackets for Spanish speaking markets. Jackets are usually referred to in Spanish as “chaqueta”, but shoppers in Argentina will look for “champera”, Panama will search “saco”, Peru use “casca” and Mexico favors “chamarra”.

 Displaying prices – currencies and pricing models

Something as simple as the Dollar sign can lead to confusion, and confused customers tend to abandon carts. A Canadian retailer selling into the US market needs to either offer US dollar pricing, or make it clear that prices are in Canadian dollars.

Duties and taxes should be either embedded into the product price, or displayed as early as possible in the shopper journey. We’ve seen conversion improvements of between 23% – 66% when products are displayed with duties and taxes included.

Our experience shows that in-country pricing offers the ideal model, allowing you to take price positions in individual markets, and align the online and offline shopping experiences where relevant.

Whatever the pricing model you choose, best practice is to display a fully landed price at checkout, i.e. one that includes shipping, duties and taxes, and is guaranteed to the shopper.

Gone are the days when international shoppers were willing to pay a premium for purchasing across borders. Savvy shoppers know when they are being taken advantage of, and will just shop elsewhere. Sadly, some retailers and solution providers continue to try to ‘milk’ international shoppers with extortionate mark-ups on FX rates, or 3rd party vendor fees. Don’t give in to the temptation to do this, as it will kill two things – conversion, and your relationship with your audience.

Payments Methods, but more importantly, local acquiring

New markets can often mean new payment methods. Allow customers to pay the way they want to. This may be as simple as enabling bank transfers or as complex as tackling Cash on Delivery (popular in many emerging markets).

Routing card payment transactions via acquirers local to the same region/market as the issuing bank will yield higher rates of accepted payments. Doing this alone can yield up to double digit increase in success rates overnight.

Shipping and returns can make or break it
Although shoppers in some countries are more accepting of slower shipping times, fast delivery is becoming a standard expectation. Not surprisingly, free shipping is a key driver of conversion, so it’s important to have the flexibility to embed shipping costs in product prices to allow you offer free or subsidized shipping.

The 20-30% year over year growth seen by forwarding (mailbox) services, who typically sit between retailers and their international customer, is clear evidence of the impact shipping solutions and rates have on international consumers.  However, when a shopper uses a forwarding service, the retailer loses ownership of that valuable shopper data. Implementing the right region specific shipping strategy can help brands increase growth of international sales, eclipse the forwarders’ growth and more importantly, take back ownership of their customer and shopper data.

Again and again, shoppers cite returns as a key reason for abandoning purchases. You must have a clear returns policy, and free (or subsidized) local returns will build trust that leads to more purchases. Enabling a user friendly returns interface, and working with a partner that can reclaim duties and taxes, will allow you to offer full and fast refunds that will convert many shoppers into buyers.

The Challenge of Fraud – is it or isn’t it?

Fraud is a complex issue, and the card payments industry often prefers not to take chances. Card payments are regularly rejected for triggering rules, although up to half of those may not actually be fraudulent. Use a Payment Service Provider (PSP) that uses advanced fraud tools to reduce ‘do not honor’ triggers that are effectively turning away shoppers who have already made a purchase.

These are some of the strategic considerations that will really drive conversion in cross-border markets. Get these right, and watch crossborder conversion grow more than you ever thought possible through tweaking the usual levers.

Ahmed Naiem is Chief Commercial Officer for eShopWorld

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