Thanks to the internet and technology, consumers have access to a variety of interesting, global trends and can shop online with brands all over the globe. Offering massive opportunities for e-commerce brands like yours to engage and inspire international consumers and global growth.
This offers massive opportunities for e-commerce brands like yours, to engage and inspire international consumers.
Going global can be scary, and often e-commerce brands underestimate the complexities of selling across borders. But, if you’re doing well locally, it’s worth considering to drive sales across borders.
E-commerce managers tend to go too quickly when entering a global market and become overwhelmed. To be successful on an international level, brands need to take it slow and come to terms with the complexities of selling internationally.
Here’s some top tips to put you on the right track for global growth…
In-depth data analysis with Google Analytics
Whilst it might be tempting to quickly launch into every market offering opportunity, in-depth data analysis must be done first to determine if it’s right for your brand and if it is, where to start.
Consider seeking out your fans first, and where large numbers of your customers buy from. Then try to grow your datasets within this fanbase before investing in a global store setup.
You can then get a better understanding of if/what you need to change to adapt and optimise your website to customers overseas.
If you decide to take the plunge, it’s important to take the time to assess and recognise the different opportunities in each country, and to define a strong strategy around this.
Use Google Analytics to determine exactly which regions are generating traffic to your site with the “location overview” section and analyse whether or not you already cater for your most popular countries and regions.
Consider analysing the abandoned check out metrics to look at where customers are adding products but then abandoning their carts. This will help you to see if customers are abandoning their carts due to language, currency, delivery, or price.
If you make the decision to venture into new markets abroad, language is key to building trust with potential customers and increasing conversions.
There are multiple solutions, from automated IP detection and translation to managing a storefront per language/currency; it all comes down to time and resources.
As an agency who has launched multiple international stores, we can’t recommend the manual translation method enough. Automatic translation apps like Google Translate struggle to pick up grammar, tone, and style of each language, which frustrate consumers.
Diversely, a manual translation method translates everything, and native speakers will be able to convey the brand message in the correct tone and style. This involves building different front ends for each language and allows you to fully control each store.
This is also much better for SEO; having a separate French version of your store means Google will see it as an actual French website, and its URL will be localised (.fr instead of .com).
Ideally, a brand should dedicate a native language speaking country manager per territory (at least!). There are also translation agencies that specialise in this, but be careful to choose one that can maintain your brand voice in each language.
It’s not just your website that will need to be translated, (everything from product description to delivery FAQs to checkout and SEO).
You must also consider translating all outgoing communications such as invoices, delivery notes and all marketing campaign materials. You’ll also need to handle customer services in each language.
Currency and payments
Offering your customers the option of paying in their native currency and using recognisable payment methods is important for building trust and reducing friction during checkout.
Each country has different prefered methods of payment. For example, customers in the United States prefer to checkout using credit cards, whilst in China it’s Alipay.
Take the time to research your market, even look at your competition to see what payment gateways and methods they are offering to customers in that region.
Different payment gateways will have different transaction fees, some will have set up costs, or monthly costs. Investigate this thoroughly and make sure high volume won’t damage your bottom line.
Technically you’ll need to integrate each of these payment methods within each of your local websites. This can be tricky, especially when it comes to financial reconciliation on the back end.
Do you need a multi-currency store immediately?
Whilst language and currency are proven to affect conversion rates for international shoppers, true fans of your product will persevere, is it worth the investment?
Consider trialling offers such as ‘Free International Shipping Day’ and analyse where the orders come flooding in from.
It may not just be language and currency that affect international conversion rates. It could be that your international shipping rates are too high and return process is impossible. So, consider changing your policy or provider and increasing your foothold before investing time and money into a multi-currency store.
Warehouses are where your products are stored before they are delivered to your customers. Finding the right international warehouse for your e-commerce business can be very complex but crucial to global growth.
Choosing the right international warehouse is tricky, and a huge amount of trust is required. You are very likely to come across cultural differences, language barriers, and new rules and regulations for each country you deal with.
It’s a lot to keep on top of and can be overwhelming, but, this process can be optimised by integrating third-party logistics. 3PL’s make international shipments run smoothly by taking care of your distribution and fulfillment tasks without input from you.
3PL’s are the middlemen, they are people who receive, hold or transport your products but never take ownership of them. They are, however, legally bound to your inventory and are responsible to fulfill required tasks on your request.
Inventory management across the globe
Inventory management is about predicting how much inventory you need to fulfill orders online depending on a variety of factors. This becomes even more complex when going global and you might need to adjust your inventory management technique.
To enable you to adapt to international shipping times, customs and additional landed shipment costs, your re-ordering process and economic order quantities might need to change.
It’s important to consider the different holidays across the globe when working with international suppliers, their busy times of year could be completely different to yours and therefore, impact your inventory management.
If you plan ahead and get in sync with your suppliers holiday schedule, your re-ordering and inventory lead time will run more smoothly; preventing you from missing sales.
You should also consider automating your inventory management instead of doing it manually.
Different countries will operate different levels of compliance regarding customer data. The recent introduction of the GDPR has seen businesses scramble to be compliant, or face steep fines. Any brand wanting to sell to European customers must bring their data practices inline.
There are also varying levels of PCI compliance that need to be achieved, (If you are on the Shopify platform, you’re already covered!).
Make sure you’re compliant, including your privacy and cookie policies, in each territory you wish to expand into. This could mean changes to your T’s and C’s so it’s best to seek legal advice to make sure you’re up to date.
Tax and VAT
Tax varies country to country, and in New York, there are tricky exemptions such as the NY sale tax clothing exemption, (garments and footwear under $110 per item or pair are exempt from the New York State 4% sale tax).
It’s important to accurately determine taxes and tariffs, as inaccurate calculation may result in delays in shipping, fines and penalties from regulatory authorities, and reduced profit margins.
International tax is a complex beast and if you can't hire the in-house experts, we recommend outsourcing it. Shopify Plus customers can rest easy, as the fully integrated tax compliance solution called “Avalara Avatax” comes as standard with the Plus package. Avalara is easy to set up and has complex tax rules that will protect your customers and business.
Buying online requires a lot of trust. From safeguarding payment details and addresses, to providing an accurate and high-quality product, retailers have to be ready to take responsibility and ownership when things go wrong.
Language, content and country-specific payment methods will all help to build consumer trust. Display trust symbols clearly, such as the Verisign or Mastercard logo, and provide clear contact and office details per country. If you can’t offer a regional telephone, think about a 24 hour chatbot facility covering all time zones.
A bulletproof money back guarantee or returns policy not only safeguards your business from any potential customer misunderstandings, it also gives customers a safety net, especially if it is their first time ordering from your store. Make sure this is updated to include international delivery/returns times to give your customers peace of mind, home or abroad.
Going global can be very exciting and full of new opportunities for your brand. But, you need to be cautious, take it slow and make the right decisions to benefit your business longer term.
Before you invest into going global, make sure you are certain it’s the right step for your e-commerce business. Follow our tips and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful, international brand.
If you need support to go global with your brand, we have launched multiple international stores and can launch yours too! Contact us here.