You know it’s time.
Your business is ready to go beyond borders.
And to successfully make it global, you need a concrete plan for everything – right from identifying your niche and planning your market entry to the execution of all the minor details involved.
Once your strategy is in place, you need technology that supports your goals. This involves scaling up your backend ERM and POS systems, identifying international payment methods that suit you best, optimizing your website and everything in between.
Now, your shopping cart can go above and beyond just facilitating a purchase. If done right, it can turn out to be a great tool in your marketing arsenal that helps you significantly boost sales. If you’ve decided to take your eStore global, there’s some tinkering that your shopping cart simply cannot escape.
Let’s dive right in, and find out exactly what I’m talking about.
The terms ‘website translation’ and ‘website localization’ are often used analogously. Consequently, most people often mistake them to be the same. The key to effectively globalizing your store lies in understanding exactly what sets these two terms apart.
While translation is meant strictly for bridging the language barriers between you and your customers, localization involves curating your brand to ensure it meets the cultural, functional and lingual expectations of your global audience.
It’s not really a big task to translate your entire website using some online tools and translators. However, this may involve translation of product descriptions, marketing copy, reviews, legal and technical information, geographical references, humor, images, and graphics. If you really want to get it right, it’s best to involve a trained linguist at some stage.
On a more tactical level, you need to have a concrete localization strategy in place, especially for the initial one or two countries you want to target. You could have targeted content marketing strategies, cater to national or regional market interests, and ensure your content is geared towards maximizing cultural appeal.
Naturally, your shopping cart needs to adapt. You’ll need to make sure you translate everything from the product descriptions and product attributes to the form fields and in-cart suggestions. Things get a tad bit complicated when it comes to ‘form fields’. Addresses, phone numbers, and postal codes vary in length and format in almost every country. So, you’ll have to really get down to the minor details and make sure you localize your cart in the true sense and not just translate it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that support requests in regional languages may start trickling in eventually and your team needs to be equipped to handle them.
Currency Conversion and Dynamic Pricing
Let’s break the two aspects down.
Currency Conversion is one of the most basic tasks your cart needs to handle. You can’t have your customers calculate and convert every price tag they come across on your site. They’d rather just buy a similar product from a local store. Also, you end up creating a perception that payments and shipping are going to be a hassle if they buy from you.
And Dynamic Pricing? Well, you can’t expect the same prices to work in every economy. Do you remember the first time you came up with the pricing strategy for your products or services? Did you just directly slap on a price that you felt would work?
Of course not! You spent time on market research, calculated every aspect in play and only then did you finalize a price point. That’s exactly what you need to do when you’re expanding into new markets. Every market is different, and to have a competitive edge, you need to adjust your prices and marketing strategies based on your audience.
For example, you can have a ‘Thanksgiving Sale’ for your customers in the US, but for your Indian customers, it only makes sense to have a ‘Diwali Sale’.
How do you get it done? Once you have your pricing and marketing plan in place, you get your shopping cart on board – the discount coupons, promo codes, credits, gift vouchers and every other feature involved.
When a customer visits your website, you can track his/her location and accordingly display the appropriate version of your website. Based on a website user’s country, you can lay out relevant website content, product costs, discounts, offers and all the other bells and whistles you have to offer.
Implementing Country-Specific Taxes
You’ve set out on a route that’ll need you to deal with currency fluctuations, unfamiliar banking structures, regulatory and compliance differences and of course, the various tax regulations.
Taxes work differently in every country. There’s the EU VAT, US Sales tax, Canadian VAT, Australian GST, New Zealand GST, Indian GST etc. In case I haven’t made it clear already, ‘focus’ is key when it comes to going multinational. No matter the size of your business, unless you have a dedicated team that is centered towards expansion in one country at a time, you’re bound to find yourself muddled up in the process.
Coming back to the topic -Tax Calculations – you have two ways of getting it done. You can either use a Tax Table or you can have your cart customized.
Now, tax tables are easy to implement. The basic concept behind these tables is that each time a transaction is being made or a product is added to the cart, the tax calculations are carried out based on the data in the table. One drawback of tax tables is that they don’t take into account all the local taxes (taxes charged by the various states, cities, and counties).
If you choose to customize the tax calculations, you can have fine-grained control over the calculations. However, even though you automate the entire process, you need to keep a regular check on the change in tax regulations and accordingly update your system. The main advantage customization gives you, in this case, is that you don’t have to account for the missed local taxes and remunerate each tax jurisdiction at the end of a quarter (assuming you’ve considered them since the beginning of course!).
Also, your cart needs to handle the calculation of the shipping charges as well. Depending on the carriers you choose to work with and the delivery locations of your customers, the costs will vary, and your cart needs to be able to handle it all.
Vey important. This seems like a minor technicality if you’re selling products online. But honestly, it’s something you can’t do without, especially in the case of services. There are two main reasons you’d have to take time-zones into account – support and order tracking.
Now that you’re going global, you can expect support queries to keep coming in round the clock. Depending on the size of your business, you can consider having a 24-hour team that is dedicated to handling support requests. If you feel your business can do without one, you can easily set up auto-responders informing your client that your team will get back to them in a couple of hours.
Your buyers are a curious bunch. They need to know where their order is at all times. The absolute least you could do is tell them when they can expect delivery. This is again something your cart needs to do. It needs to calculate exactly when a product will arrive at its destination by considering the total distance, the time taken to process an order, the time required before a product leaves the warehouse, the time taken by the shipping carrier, and if you’re shipping overseas, the cart has the time-zone differences to consider as well. Based on all of these factors, the cart can give out a rough estimate of the products’ delivery date.
Let’s talk about services. Assume you’re running a consultancy firm in the US. In this scenario, you don’t have to worry about the shipping part of it. However, you need to allow clients from all over the world to book an appointment with you. Now, you can’t expect a client in Europe to calculate your business hours and check which time-slot syncs with his and then schedule an appointment. Some of your clients may put in the efforts, but a lot of others will just bounce right off. Displaying the bookable time slots in your clients’ time-zone may be a minor functionality tweak on your part, but it makes for excellent usability at your clients’ end.
This isn’t really a feature for your International eCommerce cart, but I believe it definitely deserves a special mention.
When you’re working with multiple sites, you can basically detect your visitors’ location and direct them to the right store. For example, if an Indian customer visits your USA shop, you could display a message that says, “Looks, like you’re in India. You can visit our Indian Store to avail cheaper shipping rates and offers curated just for you!” You can either ask them this in a popup or just push them to your Indian store automatically.
When you’re taking your business overseas, you’re essentially scaling it. Before you jump in and begin with strategizing, marketing and implementing the necessary features on your existing website, you need it to analyze if your current platform can support your requirements. You need to analyze the traffic that you’re expecting, the customizations your business needs, the changes in your backend system and any other software tweaks required.
Depending on what you come to find, you need to make a decision about continuing on your existing system or migrating to a custom solution that is made specifically for your business. Now, although a custom build always comes with a heavy price tag, it’s a great investment for businesses that are looking for a solution that’s nothing less than perfect.