- Technology, International
- October 11, 2021
- by Lucy Reid
As of September 2021, Shopify announced their merchants are 'global by default' with a new suite of internationalization tools called 'Shopify Markets'. But what actually is Shopify Markets? Right now, there's not a huge amount of centralized documentation on the feature, so let's explore each individual feature that is already available, and speculate on what these new features could also entail.
Before Shopify Markets, we already had...
First came the 'multi-store setup' approach with Shopify Plus, that allows enterprise merchants to run dedicated storefronts for every country or region in which they operate. With a Plus license, comes up to ten storefronts (with additional storefronts available but at a monthly cost).
Running multiple stores this way allows merchants to have complete control over the user experience and operational aspects of each region. For example, running different merchandising campaigns, promotions for different countries, and assigning specific inventory to a particular country.
However, many merchants complain of the overheads associated with needing to manage multiple storefronts, both financial (paying for one app or integration multiple times as it was installed on each store) and operationally (busy e-commerce teams needing to merchandise each homepage manually).
With the later arrival of Shopify Multi-Currency, merchants became able to sell in more than one currency, without needing to create another storefront. With Multi-Currency, merchants can add as many currencies as they want (well, up to 130) via the store admin, and their product prices will be automatically converted based on a choice of either:
That day's exchange rate.
A preset percentage increase.
This has been excellent for merchants wanting to assess how many of their customers were coming from overseas and how well they responded to being able to pay in their own currency, but it has had its limitations:
First of all, most merchants who already trade in multiple currencies and are looking at replatforming to Shopify aren't used to calculating their international price lists based on the day's FX rate; they have distinct pricing per country or region. This was not something Shopify's original Multi Currency offering accommodated but has now changed (more on this in a sec).
Gift cards have also proved problematic, as they can fluctuate in value and price. Although they can be rounded to the nearest zero, they'd often convert to something that doesn't follow the traditional pricing formats of gift cards e.g. £5, £10, £20 etc. because of what the conversions would come out at.
Additional shipping costs
Selling into other countries has also come with added complexities — around landed costs and duties i.e. the additional fees someone has to pay to get your product across borders into the destination country. Until recently, merchants' options were:
To work with a third-party solution like ZONOS.
To include a rough estimate in your product prices across the board and pay landed costs and duties directly to your carrier partners and hope no additional unexpected fees will be added on during transit (a common occurrence).
To charge all landed costs and duties to the customer — a conversion killer of epic proportions.
Another downside of traditional Multi-Currency was that customers could also 'play the system' in certain scenarios. Say, for example, if an FX rate were to be in their favor and a merchant was offering free global shipping, a savvy customer could pay under the odds for a product by choosing a different currency.
Penny-wise and pound stupid?
Another pain point for sticking to one store and selling in lots of different currencies is that merchants pay a conversion fee on every multi-currency transaction as opposed to no conversion fees when they have a dedicated storefront per currency.
Now we look at what happened when a merchant wanted to make their Shopify store multi-language. Initially, Shopify's Multi-Language API could only be used in conjunction with third-party translation apps. However, Shopify recently released a useful, new feature that allows you to import or export a translations' CSV directly via the admin.
This file supports the import of all Shopify-hosted content, but does not yet support the translation of dynamic content injected into your theme. One of the biggest challenges this creates is how to support multi-lingual search on one Shopify store. To get around this, you'll need to do one of the following:
Rely on Shopify's own products e.g. Shopify's Predictive Search API.
Build a bespoke integration with an enterprise search tool e.g. Algolia, Klevu.
Currently, when multiple languages are enabled, your Shopify storefront will automatically use subfolders to denote which language is selected. For example, mycoolstore.com/fr for French. Your store's master language, when selected, will not exist under a subfolder.
These sub-folders are still a good option for those wanting a multi-lingual store but aren't using Multi-Currrency (as you have to be using Multi-Currency for International Domains — the alternative we'll cover in a bit).
This won't be the case when you have access to Shopify Markets. Merchants will be able to utilize international domains and subfolders, regardless of plan type and whether they are using Shopify Payments or not (but we'll get to that).
Pardon my French but...
Translation is inherently complex on a single-store architecture. Shopify still maintains this concept of a 'master' language, with all translated languages decoupled from the original product record. Some elements of that record cannot be translated (tags and product handles, for example).
Clients who already have all of their translated content managed in a third-party system (like a PIM or a translation platform) may need to revisit their approach to translation management when migrating to Shopify. With a multi-store setup, this can be managed via a middleware platform. On a single store architecture, a more bespoke approach is required. **We've solved this problem for a number of our clients, including: Alessi, Pavers and North Sails.
Now, we look at International Pricing — a feature Shopify introduced around a year ago that allows merchants to:
Set price for a country or region
Set for a country or region
Wait, now I'm confused. What's the difference between this and standard Multi-Currency?
To use the International Pricing feature to set price adjustments for a country or region, merchants must be using Shopify Payments. To set product prices per country or region, they must also be on Shopify Plus or Shopify Advanced.
This feature is different from Shopify Multi-Currency which calculates pricing in different currencies using FX rates and rounding rules.
International pricing has solved a few of the frustrations merchants have historically had with Multi-Currency:
No more sneaky customers
Customers cannot check out in whichever currency they fancy — the price and currency they pay is mapped to a specific shipping country. If a customer chooses to ship to a country or region that differs from the one selected on the storefront, then their prices change to match their shipping destination at checkout. This is why it's more important than ever to clearly communicate to customers that they should choose the correct country/currency combination when browsing.
More standardised gift cards
You can now set a specific gift card value per country using international pricing. However on redemption, gift cards are always applied in the store's base currency. This means that a merchant can potentially lose money when the FX rate fluctuates between the date a gift card was purchased and redeemed. As a result of this, Shopify advise merchants to not set specific gift card prices in different currencies.
Whilst this issue isn't solved yet, this is something Shopify have their eye on - watch this space.
Country-specific pricing & sales
Most international merchants charge different prices for different countries due to a number of factors. They may also run their sale periods at different times. With International Pricing, merchants can set their RRP and compare-at/sale pricing at a variant level on a country-by-country basis.
What's the catch?
Do not assume a search provider or third-party application natively supports international pricing at this stage. This is still a relatively new feature, and due to the pricing information being stored somewhere different to where multi-currency information is stored against a product, many apps will need to make updates to their platform to make this work by default.
International pricing is not supported on draft orders.
Checkout restrictions will only apply to physical goods that require a shipping address. A buyer can choose to pay for digital goods in any currency.
If the customer is shipping to a country or region that you haven't added in your Shopify admin, then the prices that the customer selected reverts to your shop’s base currency.
With Shopify moving away from the scenario where currencies and languages are entirely decoupled (i.e. where a Spain-based customer could shop on the .eu storefront, browse in German and pay in Danish Krone) they released the International Domains feature that permits the direct mapping of country to store URL: merchants with multi-currency enabled can now map languages and price lists to specific regional URLs. Now, one Shopify storefront can have up to ten regional URLs. This is positive, as it will improve your customer's chances of being served the correct version of the site via search and remove the need for multiple stores purely for SEO reasons.
Another international tool we've had from Shopify is their free Geolocation app. This uses the customer's IP address to determine from which country they're browsing. If said customer is browsing with the store's default settings (e.g. .com URL, English language, and USD currency) but they're in France — where the merchant has defined specific settings for French customers in the Shopify admin — then the Geolocation pop-up will offer them the opportunity to update their settings so that they're viewing the relevant pricing and content.
If a merchant has used the International Domains feature, it will also update their store URL to reflect this. Customers can, however, decline to update their settings and browse any country view they like. But it's worth remembering that, with International Pricing developments, now, shipping countries are matched to the corresponding price list so your customers will only be able to pay in a currency that marries up with their shipping address.
Moreover, merchants seeking a more custom or branded geolocation experience can build a bespoke geolocation form, rather than using the out-of-the box version that is installed when the Geolocation app is downloaded from the app store.
What is Shopify Markets?
International pricing, international domains, multi-language and tax and duties calculation were all features available prior to September 2021. Shopify Markets — rather than one monolithic tool — is the umbrella term for consolidation of these, along with some additional features that are yet to be released.
We can summarise the Shopify Markets toolset for the following:
To identify where your customer is browsing from and to direct them to the correct version of your site (Geolocation app or localization form).
To map a price list to every country you operate in via the Shopify Admin.
To make your theme, transactional emails and products available in multiple languages via the Shopify Admin.
To support regional languages in your store URL e.g. en-gb or fr-ch.
To map each country to a top-level domain or subdomain via the Shopify Admin.
To display different theme content to different countries using Liquid.
To offer the following localized payment methods directly from the Shopify checkout, rather than taking the customer offsite to complete a transaction: Bancontact, IDEAL, EPS, Sofort and Klarna (and more to come).
To use HS codes to calculate the exact taxes and duties for a customer's order and charge them via the Shopify checkout without a third-party application.
To map inventory locations to shipping zones to control which fulfilment locations can ship to which countries.
To display different product catalogs dependent on the country selected (coming soon).
To automate multi-currency and rounding settings for the best experience in a market if a merchant were to expand to a new one (and the ability to turn off automation if a merchant wishes)(coming soon).
Other features may be made available with the release of Shopify Markets to the wider customer base, but for now, this is what we know/Shopify will confirm for us.
...But what about Global-E and Shopify?
With the announcement of Shopify Markets making Shopify a 'global by default' platform, many have questioned where the much-discussed Global-E partnership comes in. The answer is that the Shopify/Global-e partnership is a separate service, perfect for merchants with more complex cross-border commerce needs. Whereas Shopify Markets makes international selling possible for brands of all sizes.
Lucy’s run 40+ Shopify rebuild and replatform discoveries since joining us in 2018. As Solutions Manager, she’s responsible for advising ambitious and growth-focused brands on the technical aspects of migrating to — and scaling with — Shopify Plus.