Making your eCommerce Store Accessible to Foreign Buyers

Before investing in stores focused on any specific country its important that your existing, domestic store is making it easy for buyers from overseas to purchase.   There are a number of areas on your site that can make it difficult or even impossible for buyers overseas. There are other areas that simply put them off.

The obvious reason to do this is to get more sales from overseas. But what’s more important is being able to identify countries where your products and brand resonate, in order to invest more there in the future.  Ensuring you can get this data from your eCommerce store, with international customers coming to you, is one of the best ways to identify this.  If your site is making it difficult then you won’t get good data from your own store.  You need to make it as easy as possible for your non-native buyers to move through the sales funnel.

Here we’ll explain the areas that become challenges for international buyers and discuss how to fix them. I’m going to assume you have the foundations of your eCommerce platform set up for international. If not, download our eBook and read this before you start.

SEO

Getting found by buyers is the first step.  You can’t advertise in the usual places, like Google Ads, if you don’t have a local site; but you can still be found when buyers search for your products. Usually, when you launch your webstore it is available worldwide. There are ways that you can block access from some countries, logging their I.P. Address in the .htaccess file for example, but generally it can be accessed by people overseas by default. 

That’s not to say it will be found in search results of course. When optimizing for search engines try to think outside of your own region.  Using a non-country specific top level domain (TLD), i.e. .com, will help as Google and other search engines consider this a high domain authority which can outrank local TLDs.

Ultimately, language is going to play a major part in international SEO and along side this your site’s server location, but you can work on building local links and social media followers.

We’ve a previous post talking about the main areas to concentrate on for SEO on sites that are localised which you can find here.

Language

It would be best to have your site translated into all major languages so that buyers can naively browse your products. Early on in your eCommerce journey that’s far from realistic, practical or even advisable.

What does make sense is to give your users the option to easily translate your site by providing a choice and action to translate it. It’s important when doing so to make it clear that this is what is happening. Letting your buyers know its automatically translated so they don’t expect perfection and can double check any items that don’t make sense to them.  A good way to do this is by providing a drop-down to select translation via Google or Bing (far from the best but people know what to expect).

Why is it important to translate the site?  Primarily it is easing the journey for your buyers. Most people abroad do not speak your language, many of those who do would still rather browse in their own language.   By translating you are helping buyers feel comfortable to remain on your site.

If you use a generic eCommerce platform like Big Commerce, Shopify or Woo Commerce you will find there are plenty of plugins you can use for this functionality.  It’s not a perfect solution. But its an improvement and will help your buyers.

Note, most of the time automatically translated content won’t be picked up by search engines. These translations are usually real time and transient, the search engine spiders don’t follow them.

Pricing

The same is true when it comes to pricing and currency.   Buyers are much more comfortable in their own currency. Don’t make them work for it, you should localize the pricing at the same time you localize the language. This will not only enable your buyers to stay on your site and not have to go elsewhere to get the price, it will make you look more professional.

Try to make sure you display the prices throughout your site and not only when you get to the checkout.  This will not always be the case with plugins or third party providers but it’s important to let buyers know the price of their items before they put them in the basket. Otherwise you will artificially increase your cart abandonment rate, making it difficult to identify the issue.

There’s more information on this in our post Setting Pricing for Foreign Currencies

Forms

Obvious but too often missed is ensuring the forms on your site accept international information.  Restricting to UK Post Codes or US Zip Codes is a common problem. As is enforcing buyers to enter a state from a drop down list that doesn’t have an option for none.  Make sure your buyers can enter the information needed to enable a purchase.

Shipping

I won’t cover this much here as I’ll be repeating a couple of other posts, here and here, but make sure you are offering shipping of a reasonable price to any country or region you want sales from. 

Payments

Finally, make sure of two things in your payment process. One, ensure you are charging your buyer the price you’ve been showing them through their journey on your site. All too often a plugin used to show the price of products conflicts with the plugin showing your price on the checkout. Make sure they are aligned and ideally use one plugin for both parts of your site.  And two, don’t use a payment method that is restrictive. American Express might be fine in the US but it’s not common elsewhere.  If possible, use a wallet that accepts multiple payment types. You want your buyers to be able to pay.

If you’ve followed the process outlined in our guide making sure that your foundations are set and then checked these six elements on your site, you’re in a good place to start making some international sales.  Ensure you track and monitor so you can work out which are good countries to invest in more in the future.

Thanks again for reading and we look forward to you comments and input below!

Happy Selling!

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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