$1.25 trillion. That’s how gargantuan the global e-commerce market is expected to become in the next year. As more customers gravitate toward online shopping with their mobile devices, the swelling bottom lines of international retail web stores are pointing to a different kind of bottom line: there’s gold in them thar hills of global e-retail.
All that Cyber Monday virtual doorbuster-sale craziness in recent weeks has shown us a telling trend as well: America’s retail culture is catching on in other countries.
This begs a looming question if you’re considering mining the increasingly rich hills of global e-commerce. How should you approach international retail and e-commerce localization for overseas markets? While there are many aspects to consider, we’ve singled out five big ones to help you build your strategy.
1. Consistent visual branding
For each and every foreign market that you expand into, it is extremely important that your end users feel that they can trust your localized website; lacking trust, they will abandon it and spend money elsewhere.
Part of engendering consumer faith in your company’s website for global e-commerce is maintaining consistent branding across all of your site iterations while localizing to their cultural expectations. Think about how much of your visual color scheme and layout you can reproduce, keeping in mind how translated text can expand or contract—take up more or less space—within content frames, lists or buttons on your localized website.
2. Payment processing
People generally feel more comfortable engaging in online monetary transactions when their own form of currency is used, so make sure that your shopping cart software is capable of performing currency conversion during the checkout process.
Different countries also have different preferred payment systems when it comes to global e-commerce. Conduct research to find out how your target markets expect to pay for products. Brazilians are big on mobile, so you may decide to offer your Brazilian customers an online payment mobile app. The Chinese typically pay upon product delivery, which Amazon catered to when they rolled out the Amazon China site. Germans, predominantly concerned about privacy issues, prefer physical invoices and debit cards as opposed to credit card payments online. And while PayPal seems omnipresent, it’s not available or accepted everywhere.
3. Local promotions
While the United States’ behemoths in global e-commerce outdid themselves during Black Friday and Cyber Monday by taking holiday deals global, it would still behoove you to design sales and promotions with your target countries in mind. You may need to push different promotions and abide by different schedules depending on your target market’s holidays and seasonal shopping habits.
Most of us are keen to shop for Mother’s Day cards and gifts—but not in the middle of the holiday season! While a special Mother’s Day online promotion around the first week of May would make sense for shoppers in the United States, the timing would be off for customers in Norway. In that country, Mother’s Day is celebrated the second Sunday in February.
4. Shipping and delivery
Of course, a large part of global e-commerce entails how you will get your products to your customers. Shipping costs vary wildly depending on which countries you’re servicing, costing just one dollar in Asia to ship one kilogram compared to around six dollars in the United States. Expectations around delivery timetables differ from country to country as well.
How fast do consumers in your target countries expect their products? Do they want an estimated delivery date displayed on your website? And for that matter, what are your shipping and delivery logistics within each target country? Are there any shipping restrictions in your target country that could pose a serious roadblock to delivering your items?
5. Online customer service
We don’t have to tell you how important reliable and localized customer support is for global e-commerce, no matter what country you’re dealing with. Every customer touch point is an opportunity for positive impact on your company’s local and global reputation. Now is a good time to think about the online support channels and features you will provide to your customers in other countries.
Are you going to provide live online chat environments? A social media account dedicated to the country you’re localizing for? Either of these options will require an in-country staff person and perhaps even a support center within your target country.
If this were a mammoth shopping mall of advice on global e-commerce, we’ve only just barely browsed a handful of wares. There are many other critical areas to think about.
In the meantime, we invite you to toss in your two quarters (upped from the traditional two cents due to the exchange rate). What are your plans for entering the global e-tailer ring?