One of the main advantages of having an online storefront is the ability to reach potential customers all over the world, at all hours. The reasons for wanting to do this are obvious, but there are various issues affecting multi-country e-commerce site that need to be addressed right at the planning stage to keep things running smoothly later on.Being prepared and thinking ahead will help ensure your website is truly localised, increasing conversions and avoiding the various potential pitfalls.

Here are a few things to look out for when planning your global expansion.

Language issues

The first thing most people think about when considering making a website ready to accommodate international buyers is the language issue. Although English is an international language, people feel more comfortable shopping in their own language. Speaking the potential customers’ language will also make them trust the site more, as long as everything is spelled correctly, of course. A good quality translation, taking into account local idioms and terminology is therefore a must, but depending on the language, there may be some design considerations too. For example, some languages are written from right to left, while others take up more space than English on a page. Is your website design ready to accommodate such changes?

Style & design issues

Research things like internet speed of your new territories in advance to see whether you need to make changes to accommodate slow Internet connections. Also, things like sizing units, times, dates, etc. are written differently in different countries, so this will need to be addressed if you want to avoid confused costumers.

Cultural issues

What’s popular in one country won’t necessarily carry in another, while badly performing items in one locale may do very well in others. This is another area where it’s worth spending the time to learn about the local markets before you begin, though as long as you give yourself the option to change things on the fly, a bit of trial and error is OK.

Silverbean have recently spent time targeting the Asian market with client Astley Clarke, and have generated large volumes of sales as a result of spotting trends, in this case the demand for high quality British products in the Asian market. Tailoring the campaign to the local market (in this case we opted for a red product which we found to perform particularly well in China due to the colours link with luck) resulted in an extremely strong ROI. To read more on this, take a look at our report.

Payment issues

What you may think of as the universal way of paying for stuff online may not be the way people do it in other countries. It’s worth investing time researching the market and competitors’ sites to see if the countries you’d like to introduce your brand to require any particular payment options you are not currently offering. Is your website set up to allow for those? Is your accounting system?

Legal issues

To put it bluntly – non-paying customers may not be as easy to chase when they’re operating under different laws. Not all countries have the same seller protection in place as the UK does. Educate yourself about the laws in the countries you are delivering to as much as possible and work with your legal department or advisors to put safeguards in place to stop fraud before it happens.

For more tips on running successful e-commerce campaigns, download our report.