Improve the offshore shopping experience

Nov 01, 2011 9:30 PM  By

The whole world is “window shopping” on U.S. websites, but few offshore shoppers are converted to buyers. According to Forrester Research, 25% of U.S. web traffic comes from international shoppers, but the actual orders from such shoppers are only 4% of total U.S. web sales.

Why the disparity? One reason for such a low conversion rate is that U.S. websites are not friendly to offshore buyers.

If you want to improve the offshore shopping experience on your site, an international shopping facilitator might be able to help.

Several service providers that specialize in international shopping have emerged in the past few years, such as Bongo International, eShopWorld and Fifty-One, among others. By combining technology and logistics services, these companies help remove the barriers to cross-border shopping and enable the offshore consumer to buy with more confidence.

How do international shopping facilitators help convert overseas browsers to buyers? These are a few of the services they typically provide:

  • FULLY-LANDED COST FOR SHOPPERS: The online retailer’s checkout displays the “fully landed” cost. The offshore consumer sees all charges — including retail price of the product, customs duties, local taxes and transportation charges — prior to submitting the order.

    That means no surprises or cross-border hassles for the consumer to deal with when the order arrives in-country. The buying experience is similar to that of a domestic shopper.

  • PURCHASING IN THE CONSUMERS’ OWN CURRENCY: The international shopping facilitator processes the payment and assumes the risk of currency exchange and the fraud risk.

  • EXPORT AND IMPORT REGULATORY COMPLIANCE: Such compliance is the responsibility of the third-party international shopping facilitator. The facilitator also prepares the international shipping documentation and assumes responsibility for the accurate calculation and payment of duties and taxes.

  • INTEGRATES WITH THE RETAILER’S CURRENT ECOMMERCE PLATFORM: Generally, several integration models are available for the retailer to keep IT resources to a minimum.

  • GLOBAL RETURNS MANAGEMENT: Most of the international shopping facilitators offer a returns management program, and in the case of both eShopWorld and Fifty-One, offer duty and tax drawback as well. Such duty and tax drawback is refunded to the consumer at time of return.

Most of the international shopping facilitators provide service to 50 or more countries, so they also offer global coverage.

Ecommerce transcends borders

U.S. online retailers may lead global ecommerce today, but they should not be isolationists. Already, many offshore online retailers are targeting U.S. consumers.

ASOS, a U.K.-based apparel online-only retailer, is reportedly fulfilling thousands of orders per day to U.S. consumers. ASOS provides an excellent shopping experience to U.S. consumers by removing the international shopping barriers listed above. The buying experience is similar to that of a U.K. consumer.

Think about this if you have or are contemplating a global strategy. And if it makes sense for your business, you might consider an international shopping facilitator firm.

Gerard Hempstead, a retired vice president for DHL, is president of shipping consultancy Hempstead Consulting.