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Going Global: Mastering Localization [Part 1 of 3]

By: James Gagliardi
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In this first installment of our three-part series about supercharging your global ecommerce business, we’ll address the importance of mastering localization to create superior experiences for your customers around the world.

With the world economy expected to grow by 3.9% each year over the next two years, we are in the midst of the broadest global growth upsurge the world has seen this decade. This, along with increasing internet usage across the globe – over 4 billion people are now online – has created unprecedented opportunities for businesses to reach new customers around the world, whether they’re in established markets or emerging ones.

Breaking down borders

More and more, we’re seeing ecommerce break down borders, allowing businesses to capitalize on this global economic opportunity. In 2017 alone, global retail sales reached $2.3 trillion, demonstrating a nearly 25% increase year-over-year.

So, what does all of this mean for your brand? Now is the time to think global. Expanding to more markets around the globe puts you in a position to access a larger ecommerce opportunity, diversify revenues, and offset slower online growth in mature markets with faster growth in emerging markets.

In order to successfully go global, you must also go local – providing familiar experiences that meet the expectations of your customers, wherever they may be in the world. With more shoppers than ever purchasing from overseas retailers, it’s imperative to offer localized languages, payment methods, and currencies to your customers.

Communicating without an accent

We like to think of localized language and shopping experiences for your customers as ecommerce without an accent. When selling your products in different locales around the world, more than just language translation is needed. Most of the time, brands can’t simply translate pages and materials they’ve used in other markets. Idioms usually don’t directly translate between languages, and dialects can even vary greatly within different regions of the same country.

In China, localized language and shopping experiences are essential in gaining the trust of Chinese shoppers. Similarly, Canadians are proud nationalists with 60% preferring .ca websites because they are Canadian. It is vital for ecommerce businesses to offer a fully localized experience for shoppers from Canada, including both English and French languages and local transaction currencies and payment methods.

Consider looking for a partner that can help navigate the nuances of each region’s local language so you don’t have to do it on your own. Native experts are key to giving your shoppers the localized messaging they prefer. And the more complex the content, the more important it is to have someone knowledgeable on the region.

Offering preferred payment methods

To keep up with shopper preferences that are constantly evolving, it’s crucial for your brand to be able to offer the local payment methods that your consumers know and trust. Each region has different preferred payment methods that change over time, so staying current on preferred methods is key to converting customers.

For example, e-wallets are predicted to become the preferred payment method in the United States in the next few years. In India, cash-on-delivery – where a shopper will pay for an item in cash when it is delivered to their home – is the most popular payment method throughout the country. There are certain payment nuances to consider in France, with popular payment methods including Carte-Blue, a debit card that can be used as a credit card. On the other hand, German consumers often prefer to pay by a direct debit from local banks.

If your ecommerce channel is not set up to accept these kinds of payment methods, you can expect higher instances of cart abandonment. In Spain for example, 41% of shoppers would abandon their cart if there was a charge for using their preferred payment method and 39% would leave if their preferred method wasn’t available.

The most effective way to overcome these obstacles is to partner with a payment service provider that has the infrastructure and regional insight to properly manage your payment processes in the countries you wish to do business. Offering the local payment methods that consumers around the world prefer can be the difference between a satisfied shopper who will keep coming back and a shopper that abandons the cart and finds a different merchant to purchase from.

Highlighting the right currency

When showing currency options on a product or checkout page, it is important to include the preferred local currency in the correct format, even if that means including more than one currency. For example, there are a large number of Canadian expats that live in the United States. So, when selling a product in the US, it can be beneficial to include both USD and CAN prices.

Another thing to note: currency is more than just the symbol ($) and the three-letter code (USD). To give your shoppers the localized experience they expect, brands must also pay attention to the placement of the currency symbol, the number of decimal points included, and the use of commas and periods when displaying a price in the local currency. For example, countries such as Sweden and France put the currency symbol after the numbers. And sitting outside of the Eurozone, Norway and Switzerland both have their own currencies altogether.

Acting local to go global

When you offer your consumers the local currencies, payment methods, and languages they prefer, this will signal that your brand has the broad cultural understanding necessary for seamless and successful ecommerce transactions. Providing your shoppers with the localized experiences they expect will help keep them engaged and satisfied not just through the initial buying experience, but for the entire customer relationship.

In the next installment of our Going Global series, we’ll dive into how your brand can leverage various shopping holidays to engage customers around the world. And finally, in the third installment, we’ll wrap up this series by discussing the growing importance of regulation and compliance for your global ecommerce business.

To learn more about creating localized experiences in key global markets, download our Simply Global guide.