The competitive environment of eCommerce is expansive and covers the globe. Where B2B and B2C retailers of all sizes are in competition with one another. For many merchants, as their brand grows in popularity and size, the thought of going international begins to loom on the horizon. With all the excitement that comes with selling internationally, there are a number of considerations business owners need to make—particularly if it’s their first time. As all retailers know, it’s all about customer experience, and for international selling, that means organizing: fulfillment, currency & payment, and localized content.
It’s best we start with the obvious—how are your international customers going to get what they ordered? It seems like there’s a simple answer, but based on your size and volume, the way your orders are processed can vary greatly. Here’s a simple breakdown:
Small Merchants – retailers who experience a relatively low order volume or have a limited catalog.
- Solution: follow an international shipping guide—they break down everything you need to know about shipping internationally without any hassle. Check out these two guidelines from UPS and FedEx:
Medium Merchants – retailers who have consistent and growing order volume. For these merchants, shipping internationally may lead to longer shipping times and increased shipping costs due to customs fees, duties, tariffs, and other taxes. In the worst scenarios, customs can prevent products from being delivered due to international laws, policies, and duties.
- Solution: leverage a 3rd party, cross-border, logistics provider. Check out this comprehensive list:
These companies often operate on variations of revenue share pricing models and may charge between 10-30% revenue share on international orders. Fortunately, these providers also allow merchants to pass these costs onto their international customers.
Larger Merchants – retailers who are conducting hourly international transactions and are managing multiple international stores in a variety of countries.
- Solution 1: with a large number of resources, the retailer may decide to bring international fulfillment operations in-house. This reduces cost on fulfillments and allows them to offer better prices—all of which drive sales.
- Solution 2: partnering with an international third-party logistics company (3PL). When international orders are received, the merchant forwards them onto the 3PL for fulfillment. This approach consolidates the overhead of selling internationally by shipping large inventory quantities to the 3PL located in the geographical region of the customer. With this, there is a decrease in shipping time and reduced costs.
Currency Localization & Payment
A second and equally important factor for selling internationally is currency. We know that currency varies all over the world, so imagine trying to purchase a product from Canada when you live in Japan, and you cannot convert CAD to Yen (JP). Now picture that same issue for hundreds of customers.
To improve the user experience, merchants selling internationally should display prices in a localized currency for international customers. This makes the purchasing decision easier and more comfortable for the customer.
There are two approaches when considering how to localize currency.
- Solution 1: Same Pricing – under this approach the price would be converted to a foreign currency using the exchange rate (e.g. using the exchange rate $1 USD equal to $1.3 CAD, a $10 product on a US store would cost $13 CAD).
- Solution 2: Regional Pricing – offer a different price for each region (e.g. regardless of the current exchange rate, a product is offered at $10 USD to the US market and $15 CAD to the Canadian market).
Because the value of international currencies fluctuates, maintaining consistent pricing across international markets using exchange rates requires some automation. Fortunately, popular eCommerce platforms offer methods for keeping currency conversions up-to-date. Here’s two we recommend:
The advantage of an automatically calculated exchange rate is that it does not require merchants to maintain separate price lists or storefronts, which may be tedious and error-prone, particularly when dealing with large catalogs.
As expected, different regions have different standard payment methods. It’s in your advantage to offer localized payment methods to different regions because it gives customers the ability to checkout using payment options they know and trust.
In some regions, such as Germany, customers may prefer to pay directly from a bank account rather than via credit card. Understanding what payment methods your customers prefer can be challenging for businesses without international teams, however, customer feedback is a great way to find out what they prefer.
Planning an international expansion?
Let us help you put together your specific requirements so you can scale the right way.
In an effort to protect customer experience, it’s important to break down the barriers that separate your customer from a purchase, and in the case of international selling, language can be a major barrier. Just as with pricing and currency, customers need to be able to navigate your site in their own language. Luckily, there are two approaches that may be taken when localizing content:
- Solution 1: Maintain the Message – this simple approach translates content into another language without changing the message.
- Solution 2: Tailored Content – creating specific and intentional marketing content relative to each region separately. This allows merchants to be more targeted with their international initiatives.
Depending on which platform is used, the options for translation may be different. Translation may be achieved within the platform directly, uploaded via a CSV, or in some cases, may require a separate website or store view. Generally, unless merchants employ multilingual staff capable of translating content, they will work with a third-party provider to have their content translated by professionals.
Keep in mind that every content change made to a website will need to be translated into each other language—so maintaining multiple languages is a time-consuming task. Nevertheless, showcasing different content in different regions provides merchants with the maximum amount of flexibility within the platform to market and merchandise their content across the globe.
Language vs Region
When defining an international strategy, it’s important to differentiate between language and region. A visitor who prefers to view content in French doesn’t necessarily live in France, they may live in Quebec. While it may be appropriate to make language assumptions for some regions, the optimal user experience allows users in any region to select their preferred language.
Forcing users to view content in a particular language can be a dangerous tactic which may lead to an increased bounce rate for users who are unable to read the content. This is particularly risky if a merchant chooses to redirect users automatically to a separate language store view based on the user’s location. The best practice approach is to alert the user when their location or preferred language does not match the current site’s language and offer to redirect them to the appropriate view.
This attention to detail is something that resonates with users—put them in a position to buy. Don’t cloud the purchasing process with inaccurate or incorrect content translations. Keep it simple and easy for them.
Make the Move
Your store is growing and you are ready to take that next step, don’t let internationalization intimidate you! Stick to the basics: find yourself a solid fulfillment plan, organize your currency & payment methods, and localize your content. It’s the early steps in this process that pay dividends in the future.