The Internet has revolutionized international business in powerful and unexpected ways. Companies are discovering that “going global” with their e-commerce efforts makes an immediate and sustained impact on increasing customers and profits.
But for companies still on the fence about expanding their online e-commerce presence – or for companies still in their earliest days of courting global customers – the task of might feel overwhelming, or fraught with risk.
Fear not. Here a few “must have” survival tips to consider when expanding your online business to new markets, communicating with international customers, and fulfilling their cross-border orders.
#1: Checkout and Shipping
Before taking the plunge and launching your e-commerce site in new international markets, be sure to assess your order fulfillment process. You'll need to adjust it to accommodate global customers, if needed.
For instance: You'll need to provide shipping options to your new markets, so research what options are available. Take into account such factors as AOV and average order size/weight in relation to shipping costs. Speedy shipping to far-flung regions of the world can be expensive … but cheaper methods can take ages to arrive.
Also be sure to provide localized shipping address forms, customized to reflect a country's address format. Even fields for names may require customization.
#2: Localized Contact Information and Support
Does your company provide customer service in the form of e-mails, phone calls or "contact us" forms? If so, be prepared to provide those same customer feedback opportunities, in language, for new global markets as well.
This means translating e-mail correspondence, providing customer service phone numbers in global markets (or having staff capable of taking these calls, or contacting customers, in their own language), and having “contact us” forms that are appropriate for the target market.
This could mean using “contact us” forms that are customized for local address formats, or having forms that require input in only a bare minimum of fields.
"Residents in some cultures - namely some Asian cultures like Taiwan or Japan - don't like to provide too much personal information to companies," explains Victoria Bloyer, a Global Online Analyst for MotionPoint's Global Growth team. "They may find western-style 'contact' forms as invasive, because they usually ask for more personal information than the local norm."
#3: Translation and Customer Awareness
Another "must-have" is language translation. When performed by world-class professionals, your site's translated content will resonate with the target market in ways that other solutions (such as machine translation or lower-quality human vendors) simply can't.
However, we've found that in order to achieve sustained success, an international website must transcend translation. After all, once the site is in-language, your company must make sure its new customers know about it.
"For instance, your site should signal to search engines that international versions of the site - in alternate languages - exist," Victoria says. "This helps search engines serve organic search results that are most relevant to the user's language preferences, and where they live."
Also, the customer user experience is paramount. For instance, consider these questions:
- Must shoppers waste time hunting high and low for an on-page "switch" that will activate their translated website? This alienates users.
- Can they instead be easily and elegantly redirected to the site that best serves them, in their country, in their preferred language? This best practice dramatically improves a site's traffic, conversion and revenue. (By as much as 157%, 17% and 300+% respectively, according to our analysis.)
Translation is certainly an art, but savvy companies (or their website translation partners) can also apply science to this process, to further boost a website's performance. Critical data-driven analysis - from A/B tests, traffic and engagement metrics, and more - can identify ways to optimize the localized site's translations, UX, and conversion funnel.
This approach also extends to the site's SEO efforts. Prioritizing the identification and correct translation of keywords will make the site's content SEO-rich, boosting the site's rankings in regional search engines.
#4: Localized Payment Options
While many companies (especially in the west) believe credit cards and PayPal are the lingua franca of global e-commerce payments, there are many more payment options & platforms worldwide … and they’re preferred by millions of customers. If these customers don’t see their preferred payment options, they won’t transact.
For instance, in many countries, bank transfers, invoices, e-wallets and cash on delivery are all preferred over credit cards.
Take Japan. Here, people largely prefer paying in cash. According to global payment management company CyberSource, half of Japanese consumers used credit cards for making online purchases, but nearly 20% prefer cash on delivery. Further, 15% prefer transfers at the bank or post office, and 11% prefer paying at convenience stores.
“These options allow Japanese shoppers to avoid the risks involved with using credit cards,” Victoria says, “like fraud or identity theft.”
Indeed, global payment service provider Digital River recently warned that companies that accept credit cards exclusively do so at their peril. This can reduce sales to only 20% of what they might otherwise generate, if local payment types were supported. Ouch.
Companies must also consider what forms of currency to accept, and how to handle currency conversion.
#5: Localized Sales Campaigns
Promotional campaigns such as discounts and reduced/free shipping absolutely contribute to an e-commerce site's success. Companies can leverage these powerful tactics for their international markets, too.
However, it’s important to consider the nuances of these international cultures.
“Important days and holidays in the west are sometimes ‘just another day’ in other regions,” Victoria says. “Research the market’s travel holidays and gift-giving holidays – and conversely, holidays where people may do less shopping. Strategically time your important sales with those periods.”
MotionPoint launches & optimizes localized sites with these international e-commerce best practices every day. Learn more about our process, or contact us to discover how we can help your company achieve Global Growth, Fast.