Every business today has the potential to go global from day one. The Internet enables merchants from one side of the world to connect with consumers on the other side in an instant. This size of opportunity is mind-boggling.
Three to five billion consumers who have never used the Internet before will come online in the next five years, and most of them will be mobile-only users. By 2020, 8 billion people (or 65% of the Earth’s population) will be connected, and they are going to transact online.
However, every market is different, and a one-size-fits-all approach to digital payments experiences is insufficient. Let’s take a look at four strategies to set your online store up for success in the global arena.
Online payment checkout is a delicate process, any friction along the way — whether it’s too many fields of entry, unexpected costs, or a complicated user experience — and a sale can be lost. Localization is an essential part of removing friction. Have you ever tried to navigate an online checkout in a language you don’t know? It’s a nightmare. And don’t expect that your customers will know or transact in English. According to a recent Common Sense Advisory report, 30 percent of international respondents never bought at English-language sites, and another 29 percent rarely purchased.
There are a number of simple steps any merchant can take to localize their content. First, translate your site’s language based on the user’s IP address. This provides a comfortable experience for international buyers with little effort, and produces better results than hitting the “Google Translate” button. Start with the countries and languages that are most important to your business, and install plugins like WP Geocode Filter or GeoIP Detection, so your webstore can identify the countries and languages of your visitors. Then coordinate the translated pages with each international IP you choose to target. Even if the translation is not perfect, the effort tells your customer that you care about their business.
If you don’t feel that translating text goes far enough, think about publishing images and creative videos in the native language. This culturally-specific content will help you connect with the local audience. If that is not feasible, consider altering your content to include voice-overs, captions, or subtitles.
Merchants can also lose global customers by failing to take into account local culture. For example, the color white symbolizes death in India. This means that a minimalist website which resonates in the Brazilian market may not be appropriate for the Indian customer. A big challenge for merchants is to localize their brand while also preserving its integrity.
A good starting point is to determine whether you are dealing with a high-context and low-context cultures, and tailor your website and content accordingly. According to anthropologist Edward Hall, high-context cultures (like Japan and Greece) put emphasis on family life or working as a group. They tend to emphasize visuals over text, and can communicate through local messages that other cultures might not understand. Content that integrates local humor and non-verbal cues work well. In contrast, low-context cultures (like the United States and Norway), value speed and put more emphasis on holistic explanations. In these cultures, multiple words are used to express concepts.
To succeed in the global payments market, do your homework and figure out the main drivers and deterrents for your target country. Make an effort to restructure your website to adapt to the local culture’s norms and expectations, without sacrificing your brand’s values to fit in.
Localization also requires meeting consumers where they are. This means on mobile devices and social networks.
According to State of Mobile research, global mobile traffic now accounts for 15 percent of all Internet traffic, and 50 percent of the average global web user now uses mobile as their primary or exclusive means of going online. You can’t succeed globally without a seamless mobile presence.
In addition, it’s important to remember that some of the most popular U.S. social networks are not popular abroad. Research which platforms are popular in your target country, and if you’ve never heard of them, find a local expert who can explain their benefits. Local experts are key here because social media is about authenticity; spreading yourself too thin will only come back to haunt you. The only thing worse than not being on social media is doing social media poorly.
Master International SEO
In the global market, as well as at home, SEO is absolutely essential for generating traffic. Again, the secrets to mastering SEO vary from country to country. The metatags and keywords that put you on the front page of Google in the States may not apply everywhere else, and you will need to decode how local search engines work. Don’t just translate your keywords and metatags into the new language. Like everything else, they will need to be evaluated and produced in the context of the culture they target. It’s also a good idea to hire someone on the ground in your target countries, who understands its SEO needs. Finally, take advantage of hreflang tags, which keep you away from auto-translate.
While it’s certainly not easy to localize content for an international audience, it’s well worth the effort when done correctly. Take it slow and start with one region, rather than trying to tackle them all at once, and establish a local network of support. Remember that authenticity, an understanding and respect for cultural sensitivity, and a can-do attitude will go a long way towards succeeding in the global payments market.
Quent Rickerby is the managing director of 2Checkout