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  October 26th, 2015 | Written by

Five Survival Tips for Launching Global Ecommerce Sites

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  • Providing customer service in an international market’s preferred language is a best practice.
  • Localized content legitimizes a website, and resonates with consumers.
  • In many markets, bank transfers, invoices, e-wallets, and cash on delivery are preferred to credit cards.

For online retailers, international markets can provide instant and sustained sources for growth and revenue. But launching e-commerce sites in new territories can be intimidating.

Here are five survival tips to help you effectively engage these new customers:

Checkout and Shipping. Evaluate your order fulfillment process and adjust it to accommodate global customers. For instance: Does your current shipping provider offer overseas shipping options? Also, consider average order values (AOV) and typical order weights (the combined weight of an order including items, packaging etc.). These will impact shipping costs. Provide localized shipping address forms, too. Different countries have different address and name formats.

Localized Support. Providing customer service in an international market’s preferred language is also a best practice. This usually means translating e-mails, providing local customer service phone numbers and localizing “contact us” forms so they’re market appropriate.

This could mean using forms that are customized for local address formats, or having forms that require input in only a bare minimum of fields. For instance, western-style contact forms are often perceived as invasive in some Asian markets, since they ask for more personal information than local forms do.

Translation and User Experience. To be truly effective, global ecommerce sites should be translated. Localized content legitimizes a website, and resonates with consumers. But to achieve sustained success, an international website must transcend translation.

Savvy companies (or their website localization partners) use data-driven analysis—such as A/B tests and engagement metrics—to find ways to maximize the localized site’s user experience and conversion funnel (the process a customer takes, from the process of searching online and navigating an e-commerce site to finally making a purchase.)

This approach also extends to search engine optimization (SEO). Using localized keywords will make the site’s content SEO-rich, boosting the site’s rankings in regional search engines. URL translation is also important; it will improve search engine rankings.

Localized Payment Options. This may surprise many western companies, but payment methods such as credit cards and PayPal aren’t always preferred by international customers. In many markets, bank transfers, invoices, e-wallets and cash on delivery are all preferred payment options. Online retailers must cater to these local tastes, if they want to attract customers.

Take Japan. According to global payment management company CyberSource, half of Japanese consumers used credit cards for making online purchases, but nearly 20 percent prefer cash on delivery. Further, 15 percent prefer transfers at the bank or post office, and 11 percent prefer paying at convenience stores. They opt for these payment methods to avoid fraud and identity theft. One global payment service provider recently warned that companies that don’t support local payment types might sell only 20 percent of what they might otherwise generate.

Localized Sales Campaigns. Promotional campaigns such as discounts and reduced/free shipping absolutely contribute to an ecommerce site’s success. Companies can leverage these powerful tactics for their international markets, too. However, be sure to consider the nuances of these international cultures. Research the market’s travel holidays and gift-giving holidays—and conversely, holidays where people may do less shopping. Strategically time your important sales with those periods.


Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation, the world’s #1 enterprise localization platform. He may be reached at