If you’re an ecommerce entrepreneur, you might feel you have the world at your fingertips. And with worldwide internet access on the rise, the global market seems like just a click away. Well not so fast, founders. Just because users in international markets can access your website, doesn’t mean it’s going to resonate with them.
Even if a page is translated in a consumer’s native language, there’s a range of website offerings that can make them turn their nose up at your company, and focus their business on a more familiar, local competitor. It’s a challenge all businesses face when expanding overseas – however, when it comes to ecommerce companies, there are plenty of ways to appeal to an international market. Here’s some tips:
Know about the big shopping holidays
Who doesn’t love some Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales? Those buying from U.S. retailers certainly do. Last year, online sales November 23-26th reached a whopping $13.03 billion, a record number. But while the shopping holidays may go over well with North American consumers, marketing them to your entire international customer base will leave some people drawing blanks. Black Friday is global, but Cyber Monday is not – in Russia, for example, it takes place an entire week later than in the U.S.
Many countries have their own, unique shopping holidays, too. White Day is celebrated in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, during which a partner treats their loved one with ‘something white’ – think chocolate, or flowers. White Day is on March 14th, and gifts are meant to thank a significant other for the Valentine’s Day presents given a month earlier. One of China’s busiest online shopping holidays, Single’s Day, is on November 11th. And Australia features Click Frenzy on November 20th – it’s the country’s version of Cyber Monday.
So in short: you need to pencil in the appropriate international shopping days on your ecommerce calendar, so not to miss out on any big marketing or sales opportunities. Because while Cyber Monday might be a dud in China, offering the right Single’s Day sales can really bring in some cash. In fact, Alibaba alone brought in a record $25 billion last year.
State prices in local currencies to gain trust
No matter how large the global ecommerce industry grows – it’s expected to reach $4 trillion by 2020 – some customers are bound to feel a little wary of shopping online. With the ever-present threat of malware, online fraud and poor customer service, it’s up to ecommerce websites to gain consumers’ trust – especially if operating in a foreign market.
One way to do this is to use the same domain name across all international websites – think something like company.com/UK, or company.com/US. This increases credibility among customers, because it upholds the presence of a bigger brand.
Even more, it’s imperative to state prices in the local currency. U.S.- dollar only pricing doesn’t cut it for international consumers, and has actually been proven to limit global ecommerce sales. According to one study, 92 percent of global respondents said they’d prefer to buy products online in their local currency – and more, 33 percent said they’d abandon a purchase if it appeared in U.S. dollars.
So not to leave any money on the table, ecommerce companies must display prices in local currencies, keeping these updated based on the currency rate set by each country’s national bank. Consider it a sign of respect for international customers.
Have a customer support team close by
For brick-and-mortar retailers, an employee’s smiling face could be enough to make up for a customer service mishap. But ecommerce shops don’t have the same luxury – and well, it can cost them big time. In fact, 60 percent of U.S. consumers say they’ve not finished a purchase because of poor customer service. For e-retailers, this translates into a $83 billion loss.
Considering this, it’s imperative for ecommerce businesses to make customer service representatives available at all times – no matter where their customers are based. This means hiring support teams to work in the same – or very similar – time zones as your target market in order to communicate with consumers via phone, chat or social media.
Remember that 72 percent of people that complain to brands via Twitter want a response within an hour. So while your team might not be able to flash their pearly whites to win over an angry customer, providing swift and competent service online just may do the trick.
Understand taxes – and especially VAT
The value added tax – or VAT – is charged in more than 160 countries globally, excluding the U.S. So if you’re expanding your ecommerce business across seas, there’s very high chance you’ll run into it. While VAT rules in every country are different, you’ll have to register as a VAT seller to be able to submit tax returns. You’ll also probably have to add VAT to your product prices – that, or pay it yourself to the government in the country you’re selling.
Just like any compliance issue, VAT needs to be made a priority for your ecommerce business. However when juggling customers in various markets worldwide, it can get pretty overwhelming. The best path forward is to partner with a tax expert in each country, to ensure your company won’t be liable for any penalties. For more information on VAT, check out this resource at Avalara VATlive.
Entering a new market is a big step – and you’ll want to do it right. So remember: no matter how successful at home, your ecommerce business probably won’t make a big splash immediately upon entering a new market. But while it’ll take plenty of time and energy to get things right, all the new customers you gain will certainly make it worth it.