The Global Shopping Cart: 10 Elements for Taking your
Retail Website International
Thinking about ways to expand your business? With more and
more growth in online retail markets worldwide, it may be time to set your
sights abroad. But it's important to remember that retail and eCommerce localization
is much more than just buying the domain name for your target country. Before jumping
into digital markets in Brazil or France, you’ll want to do a little prep work
and evaluate all angles of your soon-to-be multilingual retail presence.
Here are 10 elements to consider as you begin your
User Interface: How your site looks and feels to local
customers is crucial to its global success. Consider how to make your
eCommerce platform friendly in each locale. Japanese sites, for
example, are often very busy with lots of banners and graphics to engage
customers (quickly seen when comparing the Japanese and American version of the Toys "R" Us homepage). Even something as basic as the shopping cart button can
benefit from culturally-sensitive localization: will you have an image of
a cart, basket, or something else as the icon in each particular market?
Remember, too, that most languages
expand when you translate from English (although the opposite is true for
languages like Arabic and Mandarin), so text will typically be anywhere from
20% to 50% longer. Dynamic text that adapts to these changes means nothing
crucial will get cut off of buttons, lists, or product descriptions.
Language Selectors: How
do you want your new international customers to access your site in their
language? Automatic selectors can be misleading, particularly for
countries with multiple languages like India or Belgium. While flags might
be a popular way to visualize language options, they can be tricky too:
Does a German flag apply to Austrian customers? If working in the widely
understood Egyptian Arabic, an Egyptian flag might exclude other potential
Arabic-speaking markets. A text-based language list and/or country
selector is probably your
best bet for international navigation options — it’s clear, user-friendly and effective.
- Currency and Payment Processing: Online shoppers prefer to
purchase in their home currency, so you’ll definitely want your shopping
cart to make the conversions for them. You’ll also want to consider the
standard payment processing solutions in each of your new markets. Your
payment options should be tailored to local norms and include services
like PayPal or direct bank transfers (a practice common throughout Europe)
when customary. Mexico, Japan, and Taiwan use COD (cash on delivery) for
purchases. And then there's Brazil, where merchants have a long
history of accepting installment credits for purchases. Today in Brazil, over half of all online card transactions use partial payments, making this an important
factor to consider when moving into this $9.2 billon eCommerce market.
Checkout steps also vary from
country to country. Amazon illustrates this perfectly. The U.S. site has four
steps from "Sign In" to "Place Order" while the U.K. site
has seven steps from "Welcome" to "Confirm" (steps which
hold true for Amazon's other European sites). Decide which steps make the most
sense for your customers in each market.
- Exchange Rates and VAT: You want to make money expanding into
new markets, not lose it due to fluctuating exchange rates. Consistent
prices show commitment to your new market, so make sure to set prices that
reflect exchange rates as well as your localized pricing strategy right
from the start. Conversion norms also might be different from country to
country. In Japan, for example, the yen is the smallest unit, so there are
no decimals involved, making decisions about how you round important. When
it comes to VAT (Value
Added Tax), make sure you build in the rules for when it applies. How
will you display it? European Union prices already include their VAT, so
customers don't expect taxes to be added in the shopping cart (as is
typical on most American retail sites). Research what other taxes need to be taken into consideration.
- International Laws: Legal implications from liability and
privacy to return policies vary greatly from country to country, so make
sure your eCommerce site adheres to local legal standards. For example,
the EU requires credentials on the website stating who owns the site, a
contact email, the company's registration number and place of
registration, VAT number, and other information about the company for the
site to be considered legitimate.
When it comes to returns, you’ll want to follow the rules. In the EU, for
example, customers have two weeks to return goods while in Australia,
they can seek a refund in "a reasonable period of time." Knowing
what you and your customers are legally entitled to can make all the
Finally, pay attention to local laws about claims like "The best
online shoe store in Spain" on your site. In Europe, the European
Community competitive laws are strict — they require documentation for
this type of claim and forbid direct comparison between sites. Similar
restrictions exist in other markets. So if you're the best, have a study
or survey to back you up to avoid hefty fines.
- Customer Identification: Another factor is how you actually
address your customer when they log in. In Germany, for example, first
names are not commonly used by strangers, so a more formal address
(analogous to something like "Mrs. Brown" in English) will set
customers at ease. Be aware of name
order and even how many names to expect your customers to have (from
two to over five in some Arabic countries).
- Communication Norms: We've talked about user interface style
differences, but what about your global voice? Many American companies
have an informal style at home while opting for a more formal presence
abroad. Market research will help you make some decisions about how to
best localize your brand messaging in specific countries. Your research
will inform everything from the imperatives on your buttons to your
product descriptions. Would “buy it now” or “proceed with your purchase”
work better in Russia, for example?
- Customer Service: If customers have a problem, how will you
help them? Live chat, a phone hotline or email support in the customer's
language are some options. It's best to have someone in-country to handle
support (instead of hiring a translator to decode all those customer
emails). If you can only provide phone support in English, make sure this
is clearly stated so that customers aren't unpleasantly surprised. Don’t
forget to localize your auto response emails that
follow up on an order or confirm shipping.
- Search Engine Marketing: When it comes to global eCommerce,
it's worth taking the time to find keywords in your target countries
(don't just translate what works for you already). Google now weights
location of a search, which makes a U.S. page less likely to appear in
another country. Even when dealing with the U.K., spelling and meaning can
drastically change the keywords you target (as a quick comparison, search
for "pants" on a U.K. and a U.S. search engine). Also
remember that not every country uses Google as the primary search engine;
in China Baidu is the search engine of
- Outreach and Social Media: How will you engage your customers
to build your brand abroad? Social media sites are a major focus when it
comes to marketing strategy, but it's costly to assume that everyone is on
Facebook or Twitter. Find out what sites potential customers are using and
work from there. A Facebook marketing campaign for China, for example, is
probably not the best move since the site is officially blocked in that
market. You’ll have more success engaging on one of the many Chinese
social networking sites like Renren. By being present where people
actually spend their time, you'll find out more about your market and customers'
needs and habits, building your global market share from the bottom up.
You’re already on your way to selling your products in
international digital space. Contact Acclaro today to learn more about how retail and
eCommerce and website localization, marketing
translation, and global SEM can
make your business stand out in the global marketplace.