When building an international presence, maximising your online approach is key. Your website may be fully optimised to process international credit cards, but is that enough to ensure international sales are made? asks Julian Wallis
Figures recently released in a report by Ecommerce Europe state that the B2C e-commerce market grew in Europe by 19% in 2012 to reach £262.5bn. This represents 35% of the global B2C e-commerce market (£746.7bn) and is larger than the US and Asia Pacific markets in terms of sales. Furthermore, over 11% of European online purchasers bought from websites outside their own country of residence equating to some 40bn being spent on cross border purchases.
Investing in a cross-border commerce strategy is therefore a worthwhile move considering these current trends.
Here’s my guide to establishing your business as a truly effective international brand.
Some key questions you may wish to ask yourself:– are you appealing to local markets overseas?– are you thinking the way local people think?– are you possibly excluding potential buyers?
Considering the marketing and sales efforts retailers put into developing their websites, one of the key issues is that the payment process and experience is often overlooked. If a customer finds this process confusing, unfamiliar or difficult to navigate, they’re likely to abandon the purchase. Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes is paramount to success. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
Although it is generally accepted that English is the universal language for the Internet, when it comes to actually parting with their hard earned Euros/Sterling/Dollars/Yen etc, customers need reassurance. Do your payment pages offer the option of seeing the payment instructions and relevant payment acceptance brands in the consumer’s chosen language?
Ask yourself, what works for my business? A local domain approach using local languages could be a good investment if you want to sell to consumers in specific countries.
A number of options are available to online retailers and it’s important to adopt a strategy that is right for your business:– accepting all local currencies in all target markets– accepting key international currencies such as Sterling, Dollars and Euros– providing Dynamic Currency Conversion services (DCC)
Whilst providing all local currencies for all target markets may be the ultimate goal, this may not always be practical and in fact it may be trickier and costlier to offer a very large range of currencies especially for a smaller merchant. In such cases, it may be more efficient to offer key international currencies that the majority of your target audience may recognise and are happy to use. Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) is being increasingly deployed which can add value and again demonstrates your customer centricity as it provides your online customer with choice.
Local payment methods
A study by the European Commission on e-commerce for consumers found that 60% of all cross border transactions are not completed because the merchant does not accept adequate payment methods for international payments. Each country has its own preferences when it comes to payment methods and merchants need to be increasingly mindful of this if they want to attract new cross border revenues. A good example is the phenomenally successful bank transfer payment method in The Netherlands called iDEAL. Launched less than 10 years ago, it dominates the online world for Dutch consumers by far as the preferred and sometimes only local payment method. Similar offerings exist in other countries such as Germany, Belgium and the Nordics.
It is therefore critical that merchants carefully consider their target markets and prospective customer profiles as this will determine what local payment methods should be available on their websites. In terms of implementation, whilst it is possible to set up individual contracts with each local payment method, this can be time consuming and difficult to manage. A good PSP will be able to provide a collecting service whereby a single contract will allow the merchant to offer a broad range of local payment methods…a great way to expand across borders in a fast and efficient way.
In summary, there are some key questions to be asked before embarking on your international expansion journey and the more accurate you are with your answers to these, the better the chance of success.– Which countries and regions are you going to target and why?– Which payment methods are you going to accept in each country?– Does your online payment service provider offer specialist knowledge and support on local and international payment methods?– What’s your approach to localisation on website language and domains?– How will you handle local pricing and currencies?– Have you considered the VAT implications for cross border ecommerce when reaching certain thresholds? In some markets where rates are lower, you could actually be better off.– Is your checkout process seamless or are their barriers that could lead to abandonment?
Of course there are also many other factors to consider in terms of the format, design and navigation of your payment pages that can help reduce the abandonment rates and a good PSP will be able to share advice and steer you through your international expansion.
Generally speaking, the more you can localise your offering, the fewer stages you have in the checkout process and the closer you can get to a ‘one step’ or ‘one click’ checkout process the better. However, a potential 60% abandon rate due to not offering adequate local payment methods should be one of the prime considerations for merchants looking to benefit from the rapidly growing cross border ecommerce market.
Julian Wallis is head of sales for UK & Ireland at Ogone