A localised online offering is key for international e-commerce success

The digital e-commerce market is set to increase to over $8 (£5.6) trillion by 2020 and eMarketer research predicted that e-commerce sales will make up 12.8 per cent of the total retail market worldwide by 2019. E-commerce provides retailers with an unparalleled ability to quickly grow their businesses internationally as they can offer goods and services to customers in foreign markets without the need for a physical presence.

Despite this, UK retailers looking to drive growth by targeting shoppers overseas often face a major barrier in the delivery of localised customer experiences for international shoppers, resulting in low conversion rates. This stunted opportunity is due in large part to increased expectations of the online retail experience from customers around the globe when they shop cross-border. Features such as cost-effective shipping, a guaranteed final cost, localised pricing and currencies, and no surprise fees or duties are not just ‘nice-to-haves’ – they are all essential components of a positive customer experience.

Retailers that do not localise their e-commerce offering for international shoppers are missing a golden opportunity to proactively improve the shopper experience and significantly grow sales.

Consider the experience of international shoppers

Think about the experience from the perspective of the customer, what works well, what doesn’t and how it could be made ever better. Retailers should aim for an online experience that is visually appealing, feels natural, is easy-to-use, and is consistent across the web, mobile, and all other channels and devices.

Beyond the look and feel, it is important to give thought to the sale and post-sale experience. International shoppers will not, and should not, accept lower customer experience standards simply because they’re making the purchase from another country. Only accepting a small number of payment methods or offering a limited selection of delivery options can be off-putting, particularly if a shopper is buying a gift and needs it by a certain date, or is not able to buy something after going through most of the checkout process. Think about how you can improve the experience by offering local payment methods, a wider choice of delivery options, local returns, and local pricing in local currencies, with full delivery costs and tax included.

It is also important to take time to better understand the market you are targeting. Local know-how around customer expectations of online retail is priceless and can save you from making costly or embarrassing mistakes. Working with a partner who is able to provide this knowledge and local market expertise can be a great solution if you don’t have a team on the ground in all markets.

Don’t just meet expectations, plan to exceed them

With consumer expectations rapidly rising, think about how you can go above and beyond what international shoppers expect today, so that you’re able to comfortably deliver what they will expect in the years ahead. For instance, shoppers now expect to be offered a variety of different delivery methods, from express delivery through to longer, more cost effective shipping, all with transparent pricing. This is a world away from just a few years ago when many retailers offered only one or two options and surprised shoppers by adding a delivery charge at the last minute, leading to a high rate of shopping cart abandonment.

The same can be said about payment methods. Just a short time ago it wasn’t unusual to come across an online retailer that only accepted PayPal or debit cards as the payment method. Today the consumer would expect retailers to accept all major debit and credit cards, and in many countries other local payment methods as well, such as Alipay in China or iDeal in the Netherlands. Today, retailers should be poised to accept mobile payments as well.

These things will not come inherently when implementing a new platform, nor are they easy to manage on a day-to-day basis. If retailers are to harness global growth opportunities, they must address a number of technical issues together with the need for market knowledge and marketing support. For instance, adding support for local pricing, local product catalogues, currency conversions and tax calculations which are not an integral part of the platform and need special attention.

How can retailers get more out of localising their online offer?

By localising the e-commerce experience for international shoppers, retailers can begin to capitalise on oversees traffic almost immediately, growing sales and enhancing the customer experience. However, retailers don’t necessarily need to wait until the next re-platforming project to benefit. By working with a specialist partner, retailers are able to enhance their existing platform to better cater to international shoppers, regardless of its underlying technology or structure.

Case Study: Griffin Technology

Griffin Technology is a great example of a household name in the US currently using a cross-border partner to support its plans for international growth, and therefore ensuring that its customers in EMEA and beyond receive a consistently high quality and fully localised experience. Griffin is one of the world’s foremost creators of accessories for home, mobile, and personal technology. The company used to work with distributors worldwide but struggled to support a compelling global online solution to markets outside the US.

By integrating with a fully responsive solution, Griffin were able to seamlessly localise their online offering by providing their customers with; local currencies, local payment methods, localised multi-lingual checkout, efficient multi-option shipping plus local duty and tax calculation and prepayment on any device. Following the implementation of Global-e’s solution, Griffin saw an increase in overall international sales and customer satisfaction. Enhancing Griffin’s online platform increased the brand awareness in international markets, uplifted speed to market of new product lines and enabled Griffin to test products in international markets before entering in a more significant way.

Nir Debbi, co-founder and CMO at Global-e