Considerations for eCommerce Outside of the U.S.

Thinking of Taking Your eCommerce Business International?

With broader internet availability, buyers, including those that patronize your website, will have better access to businesses all over the world. One of the most exciting ways an eCommerce company can expand a business is to establish itself in the international marketplace. This can open vast new customer bases and markets while making it more competitive at home and abroad.

If you are new to international eCommerce, start small by selling a few items in a selection of markets. Once you have tested some key products and have targeted a market, you are ready to create a plan to start attracting an international clientele. – Rose Burg, EY Studios

However, when you start selling to international customers, you must start thinking differently about your marketing and general mode of operation. Four of the most important things to include in your business plan are language, currency, shipping, and branding.

Language

The first thing enterprises must consider when attempting to expand abroad is the language barrier. If you are unable to communicate clearly and effectively with your new customers, it is unlikely you will be successful! For example, cultural nuances are very important when translating your message from English to another language. Using a literal translation of your existing website often results in international clients misinterpreting a message.

Use professional, native translators to help build your website brand message. Considering hiring someone who has native fluency in the language to give your international customers the most effective translation and presentation of your business and customer service.

If you need some guidance for hiring a translator, check out these tips.

Optimize your current website by installing a multi-language toggle. Another possible way to overcome the language barriers is to create a custom website for certain markets, including possibly investing in a local domain name.

If cost is a factor, take the location of your international business into consideration. Many countries other than the United States consider English as one of their official languages. You may only need to change a few things, depending on the spelling conventions and local English language nuances, to make your website compelling to this new client base. At a minimum, consider writing the landing page and the checkout page in the local language for improved customer service.

Currency

Research buyers’ preferred payment methods. Remember, the checkout page is usually where many international customers abandon their transaction because their preferred method of payment or currency is unavailable.

The preferred method of payment can vary significantly by country. For example, the Dutch prefer to use direct debit, while almost half of Germans citizens pay for goods by online bank transfer.

Most locals prefer to pay in their own currency. If this is not possible, include a conversion rate as well as shipping costs, so they know exactly how much they are paying at checkout. Also, consider using a payment provider with a reputation for security. PayPal ranks among the top international payment methods because of its reputation for security and purchase protection, and it can be used across multiple devices.

Fluctuating exchange rates may play a factor in how you are going to price your goods. Make sure you re-evaluate your pricing on a regular basis to ensure the best service to your customers.

Shipping

When you shop internationally, there is much less certainty as to where your package is, and it takes longer for your customers to receive their order. Shipping costs and delivery time are obstacles for international purchases.

So, what can you do? First, it is important to know that, depending on what country you are shipping to and what time of the year it is, shipping is going to cost a significant amount. Even if you have your customers paying for the shipping costs, you still are concerned about the estimated date of arrival at their destination. To overcome this hurdle, purchase shipping insurance and tracking so you know when and if your order arrives at its destination.

When you know that your international customers are going to pay extra for shipping, your pricing for goods and services may be different. If shipping is too much of an obstacle for some international customers, consider subsidizing the freight costs.

Branding

If you are a business that is successful enough to be ready for international growth, you more than likely have successfully branded your business to suit the needs of your American customer base. However, when you are thinking about going international, you must begin to rethink your brand and ensure the goal of your message translates correctly in the country or culture where you want to do business. Many times, you must make adaptations and modifications to your brand to get the right message across.

Each country where you conduct business has its own unique culture, language, and characteristics. You must keep the same essential branding and message of your company – this is who you are, and what your business means. However, you may have to adjust your message for each country. Creating local and translated landing pages with locals used in the imagery is a good first step.

Example Website

One recent international expansion effort that proved successful is Made 4 Fighters. This company, based in Europe, has sold MMA clothing, equipment, and accessories since 2007. Many of their customers came from outside Europe. To further their growth and capitalize on one of their strongest profit sources, the company needed help in rebranding their business and creating a modern website that would fit the needs of their international clients.

The Made 4 Fighters strategy was to create one brand that would resonate with domestic and international customers alike. They created a website that was interactive for customers and which filled the needs for both client bases. These changes increased website views and purchases, which resulted in substantial growth.

Final Thoughts

If, like Made 4 Fighters, you already have a prosperous eCommerce business, expanding internationally can have positive effects on your bottom line. If you take these tips into consideration when developing your business plan, your chances of success will increase substantially.

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