This is the third and final post in the ‘Secrets to Global Growth’ series, written by We Make Websites; (you can recap on the ‘Finance’ or ‘Products & Inventory’ posts now if you wish). With 10 years experience designing and developing Shopify Plus websites for global ecommerce brands, We Make Websites have launched multiple brands, both home and abroad.
Conduct in-depth data analysis
Whilst it might be tempting to quickly launch into every market offering opportunity, conducting in-depth analysis first is a must.
If your website is currently single currency, choosing the correct payment gateway(s) and preparing your website takes time and investment. Use Google Analytics to determine exactly which regions are generating traffic:
- Location overview is a good place to start
- Analyze the abandoned checkout metrics
- Find out where customers are adding products but then abandoning their carts (this could be due to language, currency, delivery or price)
Also, look at metrics away from your website; examine where you have the most email signups and data you can target to launch your international store. Fans of your brand will still purchase from you, regardless of currency or delivery fees. Seek out your fans first, and try and grow your datasets within this fanbase first before investing in a multi-store/multi-currency setup.
Do you need a multi-currency store immediately?
Whilst language and currency are proven to affect conversion rates for international shoppers, as mentioned above, true fans of your product will persevere. Consider trialling offers such as ‘Free International Shipping Day’ and analyze where the orders come flooding in from.
It may not be just language and currency that affect international conversion rates. If your international shipping rates are too high and return process impossible, consider changing your policy (or provider) and increasing your foothold before investing time and money into your website.
Speak the lingo
Once you’ve made the decision to venture into new markets, language is key to increasing conversion rates. There are multiple solutions, from automated IP detection and translation, to managing a storefront per language or currency.
It comes down to resources.
Ideally, you should dedicate a native language speaking country manager per territory (at least!).
As an agency who has launched multiple international stores, we can’t really recommend the manual translation method. Google Translate just simply isn’t there yet and (unlike translation apps), native speakers will be able to convey the brand message in the correct tone and style. Each language has differences in grammar, tone, and style, but automatic translation apps struggle to pick up these nuances.
It’s not just your website that will need to be translated (everything from product descriptions, to delivery FAQs, to checkout), you must also consider all outgoing communications, such as invoices, delivery notes and marketing campaign materials.
Currency and payments
Secure payment and checkout design can be half the battle of ecommerce purchases.
Paying in a native currency and using recognizable payment methods is important for building trust with potential customers. Each country has different preferred methods of payment.
For example, customers in the United States prefer checking out using credit cards, whilst in China, it’s Alipay. Research your market - even look at your competition to see what payment gateways and methods they are offering to customers in that region.
Different payment gateways will have different transaction fees, while some will have set up costs, or monthly costs. Investigate thoroughly and make sure high volume won’t damage your bottom line.
At present, Shopify Pay is available in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore, as well as the United Kingdom and the United States. However, if you wanted to specifically target the German market, you would have to consider other payment gateways such as 2Checkout.
Different countries will operate different levels of compliance regarding customer data. The recent introduction of the GDPR has seen businesses scramble to be compliant or face steep fines. Any brand wanting to sell to European customers must bring their data practices in line.
There are also varying levels of PCI compliance that need to be achieved; (if you are already on the Shopify platform, you’re already covered!). Make sure you’re compliant, including your privacy and cookie policies, in each territory you wish to expand into. This could mean making changes to your T’s and C’s so it’s best to seek legal advice to make sure you’re up-to-date.
Tax and VAT
Tax varies country to country, and across US states. There are also various exemptions and special rules, such as in New York where there is the NY sales tax clothing exemption, (garments and footwear under $110 per item or pair are exempt from the New York State 4% sales tax).
It’s important to accurately determine taxes and tariffs, as inaccurate calculation may result in delays in shipping, fines and penalties from regulatory authorities, and reduced profit margins.
International tax is a complex beast and if you can't hire in-house experts, we recommend outsourcing it. Shopify Plus customers can rest easy, as the fully integrated tax compliance solution called Avalara Avatax comes as standard with the Plus package. Avalara is easy to setup and has complex tax rules that will protect your customers and business.
Buying online requires a lot of trust. From safeguarding payment details and addresses, to providing an accurate and high-quality product, retailers have to be ready to take responsibility and ownership when things go wrong.
Language, content and country-specific payment methods will all help to build consumer trust. Display trust symbols clearly such as the Verisign or Mastercard logo, while clear contact and office details per country will also allay some purchase concerns. If you can’t offer a regional telephone, think about a chat facility during the shopper’s timezone.
A bulletproof money back guarantee or returns policy not only safeguards your business from any potential customer misunderstandings, but it also gives customers a safety net, especially if it is their first time ordering from your store. Make sure this is updated to include international delivery and returns times to give your customers peace of mind, whether they are domestic or international.
If you want to recap on the previous posts in this mini-series, you can do so now via the following links:
- Secrets to Global Growth: The Financial Considerations
- Secrets to Global Growth: 8 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Products