So you’ve mastered the art of selling online in your domestic market: sales are robust, feedback is positive and you’ve managed to streamline your ecommerce platform to, well, almost perfection. This is exactly what you had envisioned as you began your online retail venture.

So what’s next?

International ecommerce is a rapidly growing sector, with the promise of boosting sales, increasing profitability and expanding brand awareness. In today’s economy, ‘rest on laurels’ as a business strategy simply doesn’t work - savvy internet retailers are recognizing that once you begin to sell online, you have access to a global audience. The internet has created a single global marketplace where anyone with access to a computer, can shop online anywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your successful site can now benefit from coverage in key markets around the world.

Retailers who have already experienced success in a domestic market can and should consider opening the global doors and expanding internationally.

Where Do I Begin?

Much of the time, when ecommerce merchants consider the global appeal of their site, the first and often only instinct is to offer payment by credit card in multiple currencies. Much emphasis can been placed upon adding the capacity to accept multi currency credit cards to an ecommerce site, but this is by no means the only route to creating an ‘international marketplace’. Sites that only accept international orders are taking an ‘accidental tourist’ approach, rather than investing the time to research key markets in order to optimise local appeal, and therefore sales.

Market Research

There can be no better investment in achieving your long term goals. Market research is one of the most important aspects of your business strategy, and cannot be overlooked. It will provide you with invaluable data that will help you to determine which locales you should be entering. A diligent and thorough assessment of specific market will expose the potential for success, and expose areas of concern.

To begin, you should ask yourself some key questions, such as:

  1. Is my product relevant to this specific market?
  • Attempting to sell a product that is out of line with local culture will be a disappointing experience; for example, a self tanning cream would garner miserable sales results in Asia.
  1. What are the logistics of shipping my product?
  • If your product is bulky enough to incur prohibitively high shipping costs, you’ll need to either contract with a fulfillment company that can provide the service at a cost you can bear, or make decisions on where you will ship.
Localise your site

In key markets, you will need to understand the culture, language, buying habits and more in order to create a site that is accessible and appealing to the specific locale. A reputable translation company can often offer a lot more than simple language translation, be sure to ask them to include an assessment about the colour and symbols that are featured on your site, in order to circumvent any potentially embarrassing gaffs, which could repel, or worse, insult, local consumers.

In addition to taking a close look at the language and aesthetic appeal of your site, be sure to provide clear information regarding shipping times and costs, which can go a long way to managing expectations, and therefore, consumer satisfaction. Offering Dynamic Currency Conversion, which is a tool that will show a consumer what the cost of the product is in their local currency, is a great way to increase the comfort level of your international customers. Knowing exactly what an item is going to cost in their local currency can go a long way to deterring cart abandonment.

Understand Local Payment Preferences

The importance of payment preferences to your overall success cannot be understated. The need to understand the specific payment requirements of each new market will be key, and chief among these requirements will be the need to offer the most popular payment methods. As an example, if you decide to market your product in Germany, you will fare better if you offer the option to pay on invoice using bank transfer, or to pay by direct debit, both of which are a popular form of payment. Even if your market research reveals that the German public should be clamouring to buy your product, if the only method of payment is by credit card, you are risking a serious spike in cart abandonment, and a missed opportunity in terms of revenues.

If you decide to contract with a third party payment processor, be sure to choose one that can provide you with the information you require in regards to specific markets. If they can’t, you should continue to shop around for a processor that can empower you not only with the facilities to accept payment from around the world, but with insight into various key markets.

When in Rome…

It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In that same vein, you can look to successful online retailers in your chosen markets and take note of key components of their site.

Once you have identified the markets that you feel would be most amenable to your specific product, you should follow the lead of the cream of the crop. Research the most successful local ecommerce site, and see how they are presenting their product and what type of payment methods they are offering. Their success speaks for itself, you need only follow suit.

By Renée Frappier, Director of Marketing, PacNet Services