So you’ve had some success with your eCommerce shop, and you are now aiming to scale up, way up, to the international market. It’s a tremendous opportunity in a world where globalization is inevitable and barriers to international commerce are getting lower and lower. And it’s an ambitious goal, with a lot of moving parts and vitally important regulations around currency exchange, residency requirements, data security, and legal compliance.
Further, doing businesses in other parts of the world requires a firm grasp on brand identity and cultural preferences so you can ensure your brand connects with diverse audiences. Here are a few pointers to consider when trying to scale your eCommerce store to the global market.
Be Clear About Price and Payment
Offer local payment transaction types and currencies, and make them available without passing foreign exchange (FX) fees to the consumer. The only thing more frustrating for a consumer than not knowing how much they’re paying (because the transaction takes place in your currency, not theirs) is completing a payment online only to find an exchange fee show up a few days later on their statement. Find out how to process and settle locally, and learn how to move funds back to your HQ location while remaining compliant. Also, be sure to set up an offshore merchant account to process credit card payments. Happy customers mean fewer disputes, returns, and logistical challenges.
If you offer a physical product, think about how shipping, returns, and guarantees will work with local payment types – will you have to have different return policies in different areas? Will the process to reverse payment work differently? How will you have to adjust your budget to be able to provide a uniform experience worldwide? Thinking through the physical fulfillment process, including contingencies, will help you prepare for anything that arises and provide the best customer experience possible.
Make the Right First Impression
McDonalds, Starbucks, and Coca-Cola don’t lose their essence when they show up all over the world; on the contrary, their extraordinary global success is evidence of a distinct brand identity. What they’re able to do is adapt that identity to fit within cultural norms: The name and logo don’t change; how and where they’re placed often do. For example, the Starbucks that opened in Kyoto in 2017 is housed in a 100-year-old Japanese tea house. Its designers, committed to blending into the neighborhood’s aesthetic and the city’s cultural significance, placed the famous logo on fabric panels nestled well inside the shop’s entrance. The same goes for your eCommerce site. Understand how your brand performs in your target markets, and adapt your site design to local aesthetics, sensitivities around imagery and language, navigation habits, and checkout preferences.
Just as your mobile site may already make suggestions by identifying where an opted-in user is, geolocation tools can also help determine the appropriate way to present your site. The ability to determine and display the correct currency may have the most impact, but it’s also helpful to auto-display imagery and products that are either meaningful in the target region or available only in that area. If you’re selling soccer jerseys in France, for example, you’ll want to make sure the price is conveyed in Euros and the football jersey on screen.
Break Through Language Barriers
It’s safe to say that nearly every online retailer with any presence outside the US will have language options for the countries where they do business. But that’s the lowest common denominator. To provide a seamless customer experience on an international scale, language preferences must be accounted for consistently and automatically throughout the site. This can include detecting a device’s location and loading content in the country’s reference language or adapting to communication preferences in chatbots and other dialogs. A critical step here is to hire a local to review your site – and employ local customer service. As you do with visual branding, when you communicate with people in their own vernacular, you open the door to earning their loyalty.