How to Bring International Customers to Your Site

| May 31, 2016 | Strategic Growth

International E-commerce TipsSelling internationally opens your business up to a world of possibilities. Statistics show that there was $1.67 trillion in retail e-commerce sales worldwide in 2015, and that number is predicted to grow to $3.578 trillion by 2019. An international expansion can help you claim a bigger piece of the pie. Plus, research shows that shoppers in foreign countries are particularly interested in buying from US online retailers.

That said, there is a lot to consider before you dive into international sales. These are the most important things to consider when attracting international buyers to your e-commerce site.

Research potential markets. First, think about what international markets you want to target. There are 196 countries in the world, but it is best to take a slow, calculated expansion rather than haphazardly going all-in. Experts suggest that you should choose just one country and focus on achieving success in that one location before expanding.

Do research to make the right choice, including consumer demand for your product and barriers to entry such as language and cultural barriers, tax codes, legal compliance issues, shipping and logistics. This initial research will help you understand how to target customers in your chosen international market, including whom to target, what products to push, and how to make your marketing culturally relevant.

Consider a third-party marketplace. It can be costly and time-consuming to convert your website to international sales, even if you’re targeting just one country. If you’re just starting out, you may consider going where the international customers are rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.

Shoppers in different regions and countries prefer various marketplaces, so choose a marketplace that is popular in your target country. Amazon and eBay are big in Canada, Europe, and Australia; Tmall (by Alibaba) is the biggest marketplace in China; Rakuten is preferred in Japan; and Traetelo and Mercado Libre are popular in Latin America. Amazon’s country-specific sites are always a good option as well.

Customize your website. If you are using your own e-commerce website, you’ll want to customize to make foreign visitors automatically feel welcome and to boost their trust in your business. The first step is translating the website into the local language, which can be done with translation tools but it is often best to get professional translation from a fluent speaker.

Read more: Customer ID: What Every Retailer Should Know

Customization can also include changing images to match cultural preferences, or even creating new pages from scratch that better target visitors from that country. Don’t neglect the importance of SEO either, which will help international customers find your business through search.

Make prices and payments simple and transparent. Finally, international customers will feel more comfortable purchasing from you if prices are clear and payments are simple. List product prices in the local currency and clearly communicate shipping and other fees to avoid customers abandoning their shopping cart when they see the total. For completing the sale, you’ll want to investigate local and international payment types then offer the forms of payment that are most widely used in that country. In many countries, credit cards like MasterCard are extremely popular. You’ll also want to explore alternative payment methods like PayPal.

Read more: Is Your Payment Process Driving Customers Away?

International sales offer plenty of potential, but the rewards can only be unlocked through careful research and planning. Follow these tips to attract customers to your e-commerce site and you’ll be able to enjoy a slice of the global e-commerce pie.

Follow Ramon Ray on Twitter @ramonray.

Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana
Ajeet Khurana wears many hats: author, angel investor, mentor, TEDx speaker, steering committee of the NASSCOM Start-Up Warehouse, Director of Founder Institute, Venture Partner with the seed initiative of a top Venture Capital firm, and former CEO of IIT Bombay’s business incubator, among others. Before all this, he was entrepreneurial twice in the field of education and web publishing. As a lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, he taught e-commerce back in 1993, when the term "e-commerce" had not yet been coined. An undergrad in computer engineering from the University of Mumbai, and an MBA from the University of Texas, Ajeet is presently an active name in the startup ecosystem. From starting two ventures as a solopreneur, to helping a large number of startups with their go-to-market, he has never shied from getting his hands dirty. At the same time he has helped dozens of startups raise investment. He truly believes that small business owners are driving change in the world, and need to be facilitated as much as possible. Innumerable small businesses have gained from his attitude, vast professional networks, financial acumen and digital mindset.

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