Make no mistake: International eCommerce is worth the investment. BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are ground-zero for internet usage growth and global expansion. Currently, over 40% of global internet users surf from Asian-Pacific markets, and an increasing number of those users are shopping with smartphones and tablets. Companies that provide clear, flexible payment methods and fast shipping times will dwarf those that complicate the process.
According to a 2013 UPS whitepaper on Asian & Australian eCommerce, “more than half of shoppers prefer to see estimated shipping costs and delivery dates early in the process” and “the majority (over 70%) of customers in Asia stated that they are not willing to wait more than 5 days for most of their purchases.” The second most important factor in the checkout process included “having a variety of payment options, like PayPal or Google Checkout, in addition to a credit card.”
Digital shoppers want access to the payment processing solutions that are customary in their market. In Mexico, Japan, and Taiwan, for example, COD (cash on delivery) is common for eCommerce purchases. And in Brazil, merchants have a long history of accepting installments for purchases. More than half of all online card transactions use partial payments in Brazil today.
The two most popular routes for setting up international eCommerce payment processing are 1) establishing an international merchant account, or 2) using a third-party payment processing vendor. An international merchant account provides payment processing, fraud prevention, and currency conversion for deposit in your U.S. bank account. Typically, international merchant accounts are established for large business ventures and can involve an extensive application process with initial setup fees.
Third-party payment processing vendors are often geared toward smaller businesses and provide turnkey payment acceptance and security compliance. Many of these processors do not require a merchant account. PayPal, for example, provides payment in 24 different currencies in 190 markets. Other options include Google Wallet (formerly Checkout) and Alipay (in China). These processors take a percentage of each order and charge monthly fees.
But what about shipping? You’ll need to understand customer expectations in your target country. How fast will you be able to fulfill the order? Being able to provide inclusive shipping costs and an estimated arrival date is essential. This means understanding duty fees and taxes associated with your market so customers aren’t rudely surprised by higher costs. It’s also important to take into account delivery service issues, such as packages not reaching your customers because they’re at work or because of poorly developed local distribution networks and/or infrastructure. Online fashion retailer Zalora now allows their customers in Thailand to have packages shipped to local 7-Eleven stores for 24/7 pickup.
Where you go in the world will dictate more than language choices for your eCommerce website. Get to know your shoppers. Localizing international payment and shipping methods will allow you to offer them excellent customer service and keep them coming back for more.