The beauty of eCommerce means you have the potential to sell your products and services to people from around the world, while you sit comfortably in front of the computer in your pyjamas watching The Antiques Road Show! However, many online retailers expecting to make international sales are not doing all they should to help convert international shoppers.
Even some of the biggest brands are getting it wrong. US brewery Coors’ slogan “Turn it loose” didn’t quite translate over into the Spanish market, where it was unfortunately read as “Suffer from diarrhoea.” This was obviously not the message they needed to boost their international sales!
With a weak pound, now has never been a better time for UK retailers to branch out overseas. Here are five ideas to make the online shopping experience a smooth one for your international shoppers:
1. Remember: variety is the spice of life
The UK leads the eCommerce market, but Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Belgium are also four of the largest eCommerce markets in Europe; conversely, they use credit cards very little. Therefore, it is essential that your website offers an appropriate variety of payment methods for the country you are targeting.
PayPal has more than 35 million active accounts across Europe and trade in 25 currencies. WorldPay has a dedicated site for small business and offers the opportunity to start trading and receiving payments online in one basic package.
There is also PlanetPayment and Google Checkout; all of these services provide a more efficient way to develop your payment options when first expanding internationally.
It’s imperative you translate your eCommerce site using a native language speaker. Machine translations can be spotted a mile off and will reflect poorly on your brand. But since different cultures interpret information differently, the localisation of your site extends far beyond word for word translation.
Ensure colours, symbols and graphic devices are appropriate for your new market. Even the Harry Potter books had a slight edit in titles when targeting new markets: ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ became ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ in the US. When moving products and services into new market, businesses cannot afford to underestimate the importance of people’s sensitivity to language and culture.
And having your goods or services displayed in local currencies is a no-brainer! At the very least provide a currency converter, but better yet, use a payment service that can give you an accurate price.
3. Remove the barriers
International address formats, foreign characters, and language barriers make capturing an international address seem like mission impossible.
With the cost of international postage to contend with, the price of getting it wrong can be amplified tenfold.
Invest in software where users can type in a fragment of an address and have a complete and fully validated record returned. Avoid the headaches that come with international addressing by ensuring the data is accurate at the point of entry.
4. Deliver over the pond
On your international shipping page, be sure to include information on estimated shipping times, product availability as well as your international returns policies. Explaining any additional shipping costs here is a good way to discourage cart abandonment.
It’s always a good idea to include a full list of contact information as well as customer service hours of operation in relation to specific time zones.
Most people will naturally presume hours are referred to in their own time zone and could find it frustrating if they cannot get hold of the company, not realising it’s out of business hours.
5. Resolve VAT issues
You need to ensure that your international website takes into account any additional charges or taxes that apply to the jurisdiction you are selling to.
VAT and Custom Duty rules are complex and will differ depending on factors such as whether the business is trading in or outside the EU and whether the supplies are to business or non-business customers.
Trading in any international country comes with myriad of challenges and rewards. However, the businesses that will succeed will be the ones that look and feel like they have been built within the local market.
Is there anything we’ve missed? What challenges have you faced, and what lessons have you learnt trying to trade internationally?