7 Tips to Localize Your Shopping Cart and Checkout Process

Online customers from North America have different shopping preferences than European customers who have different shopping preferences than Asian customers. Furthermore, each of these large regions is comprised of smaller regions who, in turn, exhibit additional differences in shopping habits.

Merchants who want to increase their online global revenue must have an in-depth understanding of customer preferences and how they vary from place to place. Utilizing that understanding to design unique shopping experiences for different regional customers is a necessary strategy for increasing online sales. Ignoring these differences gives your competition an enormous advantage.

Here are seven tips for designing the ultimate localized shopping experience.

1. Know Who Your Visitors Are
As an online merchant, it is vital for you to have access to an analytics tool that provides information on your traffic sources. Once you have an understanding of where your traffic is coming from, your ability to improve and optimize your product offering for global visitors is greatly enhanced.

However, looking at traffic sources by territory only presents part of the overall picture. For example, just because a visitor comes from the U.S., it doesn’t necessarily mean that an English shopping cart is best for them. Knowing what language your customer’s browser is set to is just as important as knowing where they are located. Once you have a good grasp of where your customer is and what language they speak, you can begin localizing your web pages. Remember to use a native speaker for translating content because a poor translation is just as irritating as no translation.

2. Know Which Visitors Are Converting
Once you discover where your traffic is coming from and what browser language that traffic uses, you need to figure out which demographic is completing orders and which demographic is abandoning your site without purchasing a product. If you notice a large gap between the number of completed orders compared to the amount of site traffic generated by that group/region, you are witnessing an opportunity to optimize your conversion rate with further localization techniques.

3. Offer Local Currencies
Most customers at least pause, if not abandon, if a product’s price is not shown in their familiar currency. The vast majority of U.S. customers are unfamiliar with spending money in any currency other than the U.S. Dollar. Seeing a Canadian Dollar, Euro or British Pound price will surely cause at least the 72 percent of Americans without passports to struggle to calculate what the cost is in U.S. Dollars, leading to cart abandonment. To decrease ecommerce friction and cart abandonment, set prices in every relevant local currency.

4. Allow Preferred Payment Methods
If your customers prefer to pay in a particular way, you should offer that payment method to reduce friction in the purchase process and increase conversation rates. In Germany, for example, wire transfers are the most important local payment method. Whereas in Japan, the Konbini payment method is a popular alternative. Most online merchants have dramatically expanded their payment options over the last few years as local payment methods like Konbini, Boleto Bancario, iDeal, WebMoney, MoneyBookers and others have grown in usage.

5. Set the Right Price
Pricing your products in local currencies and market friendly prices helps lower barriers to purchasing. For example, if you sell a product competitively for $50 in the U.S., converting that product to Indian Rupee results in a product that costs about 2,725.45 ₹ in India. However, competitors in India might price their product at 998.99 ₹ due to the weak currency. So even though you are pricing in the local currency, you are not pricing competitively and price conscious shoppers will likely abandon your site for a competitor’s.

6. Localize Form Fields
When designing for international visitors, the position of the forms and labels needs to adapt depending on what language the user prefers. If you place labels to the side of the field and allow 180 pixels of space, “Cardholder Name” will fit well in English with room to spare. But change the language to French, and “Nom du titulaire figurant sur la carte” will more than max out your allotted 180 pixels. The more languages you plan to translate into, the more likely you are to encounter this issue.

Of course, translating all your form fields simply won’t solve all the usability issues for international visitors. For instance, addresses, phone numbers and postal codes vary in length and format in almost every country. In the U.S., the standard telephone format is xxx-xxx-xxxx. The UK is xxx-xxxx-xxxx. Some countries have a country code of only one character (the U.S. is +1) while others have up to three characters (Finland is +358). In Italy, the house number comes after the name of the street. In Japan most streets do not have names. When you are designing your checkout, make sure to incorporate all these disparate elements in order to achieve usability excellence.

7. Comply with Tax Laws
Taxes need to be presented in a way that is consistent with which buyers are accustomed. Otherwise, you will raise suspicion and risk abandonment. How taxes are presented can vary dramatically among countries and regions. For example, in the U.S., sales tax is added onto the marketed price and varies widely across the country and within individual states. In the EU, however, Value Added Tax (VAT) is a tax on the perceived value of a product, so it is marketed as a component of the final price. VAT varies by country and legally sellers are required to show what portion of an order is VAT.

To best optimize your localization efforts, your ecommerce should incorporate GeoIP technology to determine and display region-appropriate content. Your customers have a better user experience because they are not clicking as many links, being forced to make unnecessary decisions or missing international options completely – all of which can negatively impact conversion rates.

As internationalization grows, it’s becoming increasingly important to create ecommerce sites that account for a global audience – way beyond simply accepting credit cards and PayPal or translating website text. It’s also wise to consult native industry experts to do a quick quality check of all localization efforts before flipping the switch. Don’t assume what works for some, works for all.

Craig Vodnik is a co-founder and the vice president of operations at cleverbridge. You can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

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