E-Commerce Success Strategies: Think Local, Not Global
The borderless promise of e-commerce doesn’t mean one size fits all. Your business can have customers from around the globe, but if you want to keep them and grow, it is crucial to understand local shopper preferences and behaviors, and be able to respond to them. Without localization, you won’t have an effective go-to-market strategy, and your opportunity for growth will stall.
Sure, the advent of selling online means that conventional borders no longer exist. Consumers are expected to spend US$1 trillion on cross-border e-commerce by 2020, according to a report by McKinsey.
Also, online buyers are not afraid to purchase goods from foreign merchants, as a recent KPMG study confirms, with international sales making up more than 40 percent of the total for the countries located in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
However, selling across borders is not the same as selling at home. If you can’t create a localized, trusted and customized experience for shoppers, you definitely will suffer from low conversion rates — or even worse, fail to win their business at all.
Audit Your Local Audience, Markets and Resources
Once you have prioritized your markets and determined which ones you want to optimize, focus on auditing the unique aspects of those markets that will impact buying behavior the most.
Any strategy that doesn’t consider the language, culture, preferences, needs and even idiosyncrasies of the local market is doomed to fail.
Connecting with global buyers requires an approach that treats each market differently. This means localizing each aspect of the buying experience, which includes everything from the payment method, currency, prices, text, labels and messages, to date and time, phone number, graphics, formatting, punctuation and addresses.
Creating an audit of the market will help you determine the must-haves to be successful in the region.
Translating Your Site Is Not Enough
Many sellers still believe that translating a site into the local language solves the localization issue. It doesn’t. English is the language of the digital world, but the reality is that in most countries, 80 percent of transactions occur in the local language.
However, translation is only a small piece of the puzzle. Localizing content, product, all documents, pricing, communication and onboarding also should be considered. Ultimately, support must be offered in the local language, too.
Consider a Different Layout, Flow and Shopping Cart
Besides language translation, there are many localization elements to consider. The design of a website for China should differ greatly from one for Japan — even if you’re selling the same product. Likewise, user experiences that work in Europe don’t always have the same impact for shoppers in North America or other regions.
As with website content layout and flow, buyers expect your shopping cart to reflect their local preferences and norms. Conversion rates for non-localized shopping carts are significantly lower.
This involves localizing every aspect of the cart — which means text, labels, messages, dates, times, phone numbers, prices, graphics, formatting, number of steps in the ordering process, length of forms, information that is prefilled and more.
It’s essential that you research the best layout and flow that will work in each region, and then fine-tune them by testing different versions and comparing their conversion rates.
Online shoppers in France, for example, prefer carts with a blue and white color scheme and a more formal tone to their text.
French customers also react better to positive language versus negative — such as “what to do” instead of “what not to do.” Plus, in France, they are very fond of the Carte Bancaire payment method.
On the other hand, in China you need to offer Alipay as a payment method or WeChat Pay. In our experience, businesses that sell in the Chinese market conduct more than 50 percent of their transactions via Alipay alone.
It’s not just payment or colors schemes either. Cultural and societal considerations are critical. In China, it is recommended that you avoid the number four, which is considered unlucky.
In some countries, selling online can be more difficult for foreign companies. For example, Latin American countries such as Brazil, Chile and Argentina have stringent currency laws that make it illegal even to publish prices in currencies other than the local one. In addition, it’s a prerequisite that customers have a nationally issued bank card for any payment purposes.
You need to know the lay of the land in every country you want to have a presence in.
The Price Needs to Be Right
An important deciding factor when buying online is the price. While some aspects may be beyond your control, such as shipping and handling or fulfillment, many others are not, such as regional-appropriate pricing.
Just because your product is priced competitively in one market, that doesn’t mean the same is true in another. Transparency can be accomplished by giving shoppers the option to view the price in their local currency. However, a better practice is to use GeoIP detection technology, which identifies the shopper’s location and displays the local currency automatically.
Being able to set the pricing by location allows you to adjust your strategy to the economic reality of each market, and to the costs that you incur by doing business in that particular geography.