Location, location, location – that’s the mantra of realtors everywhere to convey the number one factor in determining a property’s desirability. For cross-border online sales destinations, its glocalize, glocalize, glocalize. When it comes to international e-tailing, glocalization is arguably the most important factor for success.
Glocalization for B2C Internet retailers is much more than translating the text on a website; although translation is an important component. The goal of glocalization is to make online shoppers in your target geography at least as comfortable, if not more comfortable, purchasing from you than from a local vendor or other international competitor. With glocalization, potential customers are much more likely to find your site in the first place and then stick around to make a purchase.
So what exactly does successful glocalization encompass? Below is a checklist:
Language and currency translation
You can’t glocalize without translation. U.S. retailers, if American English is not the predominant language for your target audience, then it is imperative that you translate the text on your web pages and marketing communications into the local language. Dates and prices need to be in the local format as well. You also need to account for cultural nuances; word-for-word translation is not enough.
Your U.S. customers may pay with credit cards or PayPal but customers in other countries may prefer different payment methods. In Germany, for instance, most consumers prefer to pay by bank transfer or direct debit. In Russia, cash on demand is still one of the most common forms of payment, followed by “e-wallets” funded by bank accounts or cash deposits into local kiosks. If you want people to buy from your website, you need to offer the local payment options they prefer.
Your international buyers will want to know how much extra they have to pay for any customs fees or import duties and shipping. They will appreciate being able to discern that information up front as soon as possible in the buying process.
Local fulfillment options
FedEx, UPS, DHL, and the U.S. Postal Service probably cover most of your U.S. shipping and delivery requirements, but customers in other countries often rely on completely different express carriers and courier services. Some countries, such as Russia, have historically slow and unreliable national postal services. Localization requires providing fulfillment options that deliver your goods efficiently and reliably yet cost effectively.
International customers are more likely to purchase from you if you can provide answers to their questions and concerns quickly and in a manner they can clearly understand. High quality customer service also protects your reputation and brand. Ideally, you can provide customers with a highly visible local phone number or “live chat” option with a native speaker on the other end, one who is truly knowledgeable about your products, services, and policies.
Localized customer service also implies the ability for customers to return merchandise without hassle, as easily as your U.S. customers can return items. The right partner can handle the returns for you, reclaim any taxes that were paid on it, and enable you to put the product back in circulation as soon as possible.
SEO and personalization
Before you even begin translation efforts, you should know the keywords and key terms, in the target language, that consumers use to search for your offerings. Then you should use those words and phrases on your site and in your marketing communications. You should also know which search engines your target consumers use. Google is not the default search provider in every country. And don’t forget social media. In some countries, such as China, consumers rely on social media much more than in the U.S. to make buying decisions.
In every country across the globe, mobile commerce, or m-commerce, is growing as a percentage of total retail sales. Sooner rather than later, you will need to let your global shoppers buy from you using their mobile devices—as easily as they can buy from domestic vendors.
Mobile is not the only channel you need to be thinking about. Consumers are increasingly using all channels—store, web, mobile, catalog, call center—to shop. They are quickly becoming ever more informed and connected. In many countries, online and offline purchasing habits are already blurring, with consumers in brick-and-mortar stores comparing prices with online offers on their smartphones and downloading coupons and vouchers. It may take some time, but glocalizing the omni-channel will eventually be a fact of life for cross-border retailers as well.
High quality glocalization is essential to make the entire shopping experience, from start to finish, as easy as possible for your international customers.
Tommy Kelly is Chairman of the Board for global ecommerce and logistics management firm eShopWorld.