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E-Commerce Tips For More International Conversions

Posted on 3.15.2009

In an increasingly flat world, running an e-commerce website is in some respects easier than ever as merchants, once restricted by location, can now sell products to people anywhere in the world. Many Internet retailers however believe that being online alone will aid in making sales to international shoppers, when in reality, that's not the case at all. Let's look at a few ways to make the online shopping experience smoother for international customers.

Keep in mind that many of the suggestions listed below require either modification of your existing shopping cart (primarily the structure or order of pages) so detailed planning and testing before implementation is absolutely necessary. That being said however, you'll find that even the small changes outlined below will yield an improved purchasing process for international shoppers and yield a greater number of conversions to the benefit of your Web enterprise. 

Develop a Dedicated International Shipping Section
Taking the time to create the answers regarding important international shipping questions which ultimately end up buried in a third tier of your site is just not enough. Creating a dedicated section for international buyers, and promoting it by making it accessible from every page of a site (whether in a footer menu or upper right hand corner - near a login link perhaps) will prove to make a positive difference in conversion. You'll find that developing a dedicated section for international buyers, if you've got an international marketing plan, will end up receiving a good deal of traffic which is why it's presence on the remainder of this list is so prominent.

So what does one include on these international shipping pages? While it is common knowledge that merchants should clearly state return policies, customer service hours of operation (and time zones), estimated international shipping times and whether order tracking is available - few actually do and even fewer do it for their international audiences. In addition, consider developing a list of the countries shipped to is recommended, if not required. It is also crucial that you inform customers of additional duties and taxes they may end up paying depending on where their geographic location as well.

Promote the Availability of International Shipping
Online shoppers have been conditioned to scan footers and corners of a webpage for additional corporate information from an online business- including shipping information. If these links to dedicated sections are not present customers might just assume international shipping is not available and be on their way - right away. Developing a dedicated section of your website is not enough, linking to it at every opportunity (from every page neccessary) and promoting it within customer emails for example is a key to a smooth shopping experience for international shoppers. 

Consider making your shipping policy accessible by search, too. If you've invested in a top-of-the-line site search function make sure the dedicated international shipping page you have created can be found. To make that a reality, consider programming your search engine or customizing its results to deliver the page for various searches - looking at server logs and/or analytics will yield lots of useful information on what shoppers are actually searching for. Merchants may also want to display shipping availability on product pages. Some merchants may carry products domestically that can’t ship abroad even if you can ship most products. For example, certain health supplements are legal in some countries and illegal in others. It’s a courtesy to mention this before the customer gets to the checkout.

Act International
The most savvy e-commerce vendors make shipping cost tools immediately available on product pages - and you should too (not that you're not one of the more savvy merchants out there). Doing so clearly helps international customers but there is also some value for domestic Web shoppers. If this is not a feature of your current shopping cart, you will find that all major shipping companies ( FedEx, UPS and even the USPS) provide API access for web developer to make this functionality a reality. Many shopping carts do feature plugins or come with this feature already enabled but merchants may have to activate it. Another way to act international is to convert currencies (even weights and measures) on product pages as it is also an important aspect of increasing conversions for international buyers. Most of us can’t convert centimeters to inches in our heads (clothing size charts, for example) or kilograms to pounds, let alone currencies that fluctuate daily. Again, most e-commerce platforms feature this capability but make sure!

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