Traveling internationally to a country with an unfamiliar culture can be challenging, even for the most experienced global traveler. Whether you are asking for directions, hailing a taxi or even ordering a cup of coffee, what seems like simple interactions can become hurdles due to language, protocol and culture barriers.
One of the most common mistakes online retailers can make when expanding globally is presenting international visitors with a site experience that mirrors their domestic site. To keep global online shoppers engaged long enough to make a purchase while addressing all of their needs, it’s critical to truly understand where they are coming from, and not just based on their geographic location.
Three important factors U.S. retailers need to understand and address to meet international shoppers’ needs for overall global ecommerce success include:
Devices consumers are using to shop online
According to our 2015 Global Online Shopping Study, consumers in China are open to buying goods via mobile devices, but consumers in countries like Japan and Russia far prefer to shop on laptops or desktop computers. Mobile shoppers are often on the run and may have limited time for browsing. So, if visitors suddenly abandon their shopping cart, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be back, nor does it reflect the quality of products being offered or how international-friendly a site is. However, if there is a cart abandonment trend among desktop consumers, who are usually more serious about shopping, it may be worth taking a closer look.
How international shoppers are finding products online
Retailers need to look at how visitors are finding products on their websites. Did they simply type their address into Google? That indicates brand familiarity even though the consumer may appear “new” in their analytics. Did they arrive through a paid campaign or social media? What keyword or image attracted the shopper? The answers to these questions can help retailers better engage with international consumers and make them more active within their brand.
The geographic area shoppers are coming from
Location is important, but it involves more than simply knowing what countries shoppers are coming from. Retailers should match the experience on their sites to their real buyers. It’s critical to understand the dynamics at play within those countries. According to our study, the majority of consumers in Russia (78 percent), China and the U.S. (both 76 percent) are likely to purchase products from online marketplaces, while consumers in Australia (81 percent), the U.K. (72 percent) and Canada (71 percent) are most likely to buy products directly from a retailer’s website. Some shoppers may also be wary about buying products online and others may not even know they can purchase products from retailers outside of their own country.
If retailers have a low conversion rate in certain countries, it may have more to do with the preferences of consumers there than their actual sites. An analysis can help retailers tailor their sites to better answer those preferences, and running a segmentation engine may also help.
For some retailers, there may be an untapped international market base and an opportunity for growth. By gaining a better understanding of what devices global consumers are using, how they are finding products online and where they are coming from, U.S. retailers can stop guessing and start analyzing how well their sites are working to turn browsers into loyal shoppers.
Gregg Zegras is Senior Vice President, Sales and Business Development, Global Ecommerce, at Pitney Bowes.