General Localization in Cross Border eCommerce

Once you have built your cross border foundations and ensured you are able to accept international customers (download eBook to learn more) your next step is to optimize for international but in a generic, wide reaching way. You want to localize in multiple countries and languages in the most easily accessible way.  In reality, for most countries, it will not make sense to invest in building a dedicated website or integratinga dedicated, local marketplaces to your back office systems.  At the same time, you want to ensure you get the most out of these countries with the least possible investment.

If you’ve done the basics already you will likely be seeing some international sales, but you are not going to be visible in all the right places and your sites won’t be in measurements, languages or have prices that foreign buyers are familiar with.  Remember, as with sales in general your role is to help potential customers through the funnel to ultimately complete the buying action and, ideally, keep coming back.  You can only do this by removing experiences the buyer considers a barrier.

It’s been shown in many studies that converting your products and user experience to your buyers domestic experience can have a significant and measurable effect on purchasing. Figures range from 80% to several 100% conversion increases once you are localized in a market.  This makes sense when you consider that buyers spend most of their time on sites and shops that are in their own language. They search on Google or marketplaces in their own language, not in yours. Even though translation services are available and ready to use, within a browser experience, buyers still spend most of their time on websites they don’t have to translate.  

To expand on this point because it’s important. Assume that a buyer wants a product and they know they can’t find it in their own country, so they search for it in a country where they know they can get it.  Now they find the site but it’s in a language they don’t understand. OK, so they know they want this product, they’ll translate the site, read it and look at the price. Annoying. They have to leave the site, convert the currency and come back. Done. They go through the checkout. Shipping prices. Now they’ll go and convert the shipping price. They may even check to see if its a reasonable shipping price. But it’s ok, they want this badly so they’ll do it! And they probably will.

What if they came across your competitors site in the search results, it’s in their language, their currency.  They don’t have to take lots of side steps through the process. What’s more, they could have found it on their local search as your competitor is optimizing for their search experience. Likelihood is they would have brought from your competition and never looked around to find your site.

Although this all makes sense you can’t optimize for all countries and all markets, and neither should you.  The purpose of optimizing in a generic fashion is, with the least possible work, to cast a net widely and to learn where your buyers are. By optimizing to a certain extent, keeping costs down by automating what you can and spreading your digital presence over a wide area, you can test where you make the most sales. You can engage with your new customers and through strong analysis you will be able to make assumption on where to add more effort.

In many countries, most in fact, the generic optimization we go through here will be the most it makes sense to invest. At least you’ll know that before spending many thousands, often 100s of thousands, localizing for a country that you shouldn’t.

How to localize generically?

There’s four ways to do so:

  • Use a Cross Border Trade Technology provider

As with most things in retail, and business in general, getting the technology part right will help you manage your cross-border journey much more easily.  With international being only a part of your business, albeit potentially a significant part, it makes sense to make it fit as seamlessly as possible into your existing day to day practices.  The right technology can help you achieve this and there are companies who specialize in localizing your products for you. The most common of these are your eCommerce Platform – the software that hosts your own webstore, Listing Tools – if you manage multiple sales channels you may already be using one, Shipping Tools – to manage your global labeling etc… and Marketing Tools

  • List on Global Marketplaces

As we’re still looking for generic localization you want to go for those marketplaces that have the greatest reach with the least effort. Testing in Europe and the US is easiest for most sellers regardless of location, focus on eBay and Amazon at this stage. You can also look at the likes of Mercado Libre if you have Spanish listings and are up for what can be perceived as more challenging markets.

  • Localise your eCommerce Platform with apps

There are plenty of plug-ins available for localization and you should consider these rather than developing any bespoke solution.  You can do that later when you’ve proven a market fit. Have a look what’s available in your platform’s marketplace. Usually this will be price conversions, translations, shipping solutions.  None will be perfect but many will be good enough to get started.  

  • Partner with cross border retailers

There are a few companies out their already who act as your international arm.  They provide the technology, services and often the traffic while you provide the products and logistics.

In Summary, you want to look for ways to easily breakdown barriers for your international buyers in order to see where you get your sales from. This process will help you start to learn where you might do well if you invest more and in the meantime get you an increase on your current sales if done right!

About Mark Ellis

Mark is the VP for Growth and Partnerships at Webinterpret, a leading Cross Border Technology company. Before that Mark was leading the operations for eBay's European cross border program. He has over 20 years of eCommerce industry experience, guiding and delivering strategic change in retailers, working with companies such as Dyson, Regatta, Boots and Arcadia Group, leading multi-million dollar programs for industry giants like Dunnhumby and working with small businesses delivering innovative retail solutions.

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