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How to sell internationally on Shopify Plus with a multi-store setup

Shopify Plus Advice|12.06.2018

As the leading Shopify experts, we know international e-commerce can be a challenge for Shopify store owners. Tim Richardson, Head of Growth and Sales, has helped many brands, big and small, overcome the challenges of multi-currency, here's how to do it.

The challenge? At present, Shopify provides the ability to show prices in multiple currencies using real-time exchange rate data.  However, once customers progress to payment, they are only able to pay in the base currency of the site.  For example, if you have a UK bank account, your US customers will see products displayed in dollars, however, at checkout, the total will revert to pounds.

How do you solve the challenge of international multi-currency? 

So first things first, brands need to step back and assess if they truly need a multiple currency solution. In many cases, they want their customers to be able to checkout using their native currency. However, some clients, for example, don’t mind their European customers checking out in dollars or pounds. Overseas customers make up such a small amount of their total revenue that financially it doesn’t make sense to invest in a multi-currency solution.

However, this can and will affect conversions. Customers want a seamless journey and checking out in their native currency is part of that. For brands looking to really push into international markets, multi-currency is a must.

How can smaller startup brands expand internationally using Shopify?

The first step for startups or smaller brands is to start selling internationally. You want customers so interested in your product that they are still paying for it no matter what and use analytics to gauge where the majority of interest and opportunity is. 

Stage one toward multi-currency is quite simple. Implement a multiple currency drop down which allows customers to browse products in their native currency. However, remember at checkout this will revert to the base currency. It’s a good interim solution, especially if you only want to manage one store.

The next step will be to create multiple storefronts, one for each currency. Brands need to be sure which markets to expand in. For each currency store owners want their customers to check out in, you must have 2 things:
A business bank account in the country of choice
A Shopify store instance linked to that bank account

There are other implications, such as warehouse solutions, VAT and transaction providers, but from a really simple high-level view, it’s those two things.

For true multi-currency, each currency will need a separate instance, so a separate store per currency. Europe can be a simple first step. You can set up one store and cover most of Europe using the euro currency. That’s quite a large geographical coverage with just one additional store instance. You can even use an app such as Weglot to translate your Euro store into multiple languages. So if customers are landing on your page from France, you can translate your store to French and enable checkout in euros. This can be done via IP detection or a manual choice, where the customer chooses their location.

What Shopify plan do you need to create multiple storefronts?

Whilst we recommend Shopify Plus for a multi-store setup, it is possible to have multiple stores using the Shopify Advanced package. You can run 6 Advanced Shopify instances before you get to the same price as the Plus monthly subscription. 

There are additional benefits that come with the Shopify Plus package, however, such as up to 9 store instances and a customer success manager, that will help you clone your store so you can have operation instances pretty quickly. If you are setting multi-store up in the advanced package, it will be pretty manual and disjointed, so you would really need an agency to help you get up and running correctly and quickly.

Most people will go for three or four base currencies, so dollars, euros, pounds and Australian dollars if there’s an opportunity for growth in that market. And then one currency that facilitates the rest of the world. 

That can be a real talking point for international businesses. Is your ROW store in dollars or pound? With pounds, there has to be a VAT conversation. Customers outside the EU do not necessarily need to pay VAT on purchases. One way around this is to create 2 UK stores, one with VAT and one without, and use IP detection to direct ROW customers to the correct store.

For a multinational company replatforming from another provider, such as Magento, what would that project look like?

As you move from the start-up to the medium size to enterprise, the level of complexity, operationally, starts to get bigger. It’s on a case by case basis, as brands running at that level will all face different challenges, so the key question is why do they want to replatform to Shopify? What are the big challenges they are facing? It could be that they have big legacy systems in place that just aren’t reliable or flexible enough, therefore, the Shopify solution would be a great fit.

Have they got some sort of system in the background controlling their stock and feeding it to different places?  Do they already have that or do they need to focus on their back-end operations first?  That is where you get on to your ERP discussions. How is everything from products to accounts to warehouses already managed in this multi-store environment?

In these cases, we act as a consultant and bring in specialist partners that are able to help us devise what is the most efficient and long-term scalable solution for the entire business.

Larger projects become a discussion about the whole business operational process. As soon as multi-store becomes a discussion, other things questions need to be answered first. The multi-store setup works well. We have large multinational clients who are using it with an ERP and WMS solution working very, very effectively bringing in thousands of orders online from different locations, every day. 

One of the big challenges that clients can see with the Shopify multi-store setup is the manual work of updating multiple sites, how can customers overcome this?

So really, choosing the Shopify Plus multi-store option is more a change in the way a business thinks and operates.

With, say a Magento store, for larger businesses you will need an in-house development and infrastructure team, updating and developing your store. Now with Shopify, the Shopify team handle the infrastructure and the sites are really user-friendly and intuitive. So, in theory, you could have your country manager, or marketing manager, responsible for each areas websites, or you may employ an agency to take care of them all.

The rest will be one-off integration pieces, such as an ERP system, to make sure every aspect of your operation is communicating with each other. If you invest in something like Netsuite or similar products, all your financial reporting and admin will all be in the one place. Even with a Magento store, when a business is that big we’d recommend products for ERP and financial management, it just makes good business sense.

However, it always goes back to a case-by-case basis. Some clients have different business units operating within their organisation, therefore, having a localised team that can only control the merchandise in one territory is actually very beneficial. 

Others go to the opposite end of the spectrum and they want as little duplication and management as they possible.  And Shopify is flexible enough to accommodate all instances.

What makes Shopify a strong contender for international e-commerce? 

There are considerations in any sort of decision making, benefits versus costs and in all cases, the benefits outweigh the considerations. Shopify is a scalable, flexible solution, PCI compliant with 99.9% uptime.  These are the things that Magento just can’t compete with.  

That’s on a platform level. When you introduce things like multi-store, that need a change in the way brands think or operate, you have a case where you want more localised control, from an SEO or management perspective, then that’s exactly what multi-store is perfect for.  

Although it can sound like a lot of work, actually the cost is a lot lower as your integration pieces will be a one-off setup, and you won’t need an in-house team of developers or IT experts to keep your store operational.

How can we help?

Get in touch to discuss your e-commerce ambitions and we’ll help you get there.

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