This guest post was written by ecomdash, a multichannel ecommerce platform. Ecomdash focuses on providing small to medium-sized businesses with actionable tips for building a successful online retail business.
If you are an ecommerce business owner with a successful online store, you may be entertaining the idea of expanding internationally. While there is a tremendous amount of opportunity in global expansion, it isn’t as simple as listing your products on international markets. Selling to regions outside of the United States requires commitment to research and a great deal of cultural understanding.
With some luck, you may see minimal increase in international order conversions, but to truly be successful internationally, you must be able to provide foreign customers with the same level of excellent customer service that you provide domestically. Localize your brand to the regions that you intend to sell in. Once your brand is localized and customer service is taken care of, the likelihood of success will increase with more sales, and increased revenue.
If you are committed to expanding beyond the borders of the United States, here are five ways to improve customer service and create loyal, international buyers.
01. Localize your website.
Your website is one of the first impressions an international customer will have with your brand. Are they able to read it, or do they speak a different language? Is the verbiage familiar to them? Will they understand the pricing if it’s not shown in their local currency?
Designing a website for international audiences is going to take some time and work. However, if being a global business is your goal, this has to be done. You know how important it is to have a website that is appealing, relevant, easily navigable, and quick loading. The same holds true of reaching international audiences. 72.4% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase if the website in the local language.
A localized website that your international customers can understand, is the first step toward providing more effective customer service. Depending on the intricacies of your website, this can be a daunting task. Take small steps and focus on one country at a time. Use a website analytics tool to determine the jurisdictions with the most traffic. Once you’ve selected the country, find a translation service or hire a freelancer to translate your most popular products first. 56.2% of those same consumers found that localized websites were more important than price, so it will be worth the investment.
02. Market effectively.
Not only does your website need to be appeal to international customers, so does your marketing efforts. You must learn about the markets you are selling in to effectively strategize and customize marketing campaigns. Attend trade shows or other types of events to view potential customers and competitors. What type of messaging are they using? What pain points are they addressing? What type of marketing materials are they using? Don’t have the money to travel across seas? Try social media groups or webinars.
The key to successful marketing campaigns is the ability to understand your audience. You will need to research the country and their cultural norms. You will need to know what holidays are important locally to them (ex. Singles Day in China). Once you have a grasp of the cultural and language nuances, you will better communicate your brand and product.
Coca-Cola is a great example to prove that a slight change can make a huge difference. When selling their products in Latin America, they noticed the word ‘diet’ was not received well because of its negative connotation. They changed all their materials to Coke Lite and were better received in that market.
Getting acquainted with a new market is going to take some effort on your part, but being able to tailor your marketing to a specific audience is key to its success. And, you will enjoy the results that it brings.
03. Localize payment methods.
Do you know which types of payment methods buyers in other countries use? Are you currently able to accept them? When selling in different markets, provide as many payment options to ensure you do not inconvenience potential customers and causing them to buy elsewhere. More than 50% of shoppers cancelled their purchases because their preferred payment method was not an option.
Again, this is a step that will take some research because preferred payment methods are different in different countries. It is also important to allow customers to purchase products in their own currency so they do not incur transaction fees. Any hidden fees will cause a customer to abandon their cart. PayPal allows you to sell products in over 200 countries and accepts 26 different currencies. This is always a good option to offer along with Google Checkout.
04. Utilize the most efficient shipping solutions.
Excellent customer service isn’t just about getting your product to a customer. It’s about shipping the product safely and quickly, so that your customer receives it all in one piece, and as promptly as possible.
Shipping outside of the United States isn’t the same as shipping internationally, so you may have to consider different strategies for distribution. Consider outsourcing your order fulfillment for international orders. That way you can ensure that their package is delivered in a timely manner. FBA and other marketplaces, along with shipping software offer various shipping options for international sellers.
Additionally, shipping costs differ depending on the region. Will you offer flat rate shipping fees, which is convenient for customers, but might not be cost-effective for you? Or will you attempt to charge exact shipping? You need to have a plan to avoid confusing international buyers and ensuring they receive their packages promptly. When checking out, the customer should be able to view the various shipping methods you accept and an approximate shipping date.
05. Upgrade your customer service strategy.
Whatever your customer service strategy is for domestic customers, know it will need to be modified for your international ones. Trying to use the same methods for both is not only inefficient, it will be ineffective in the long run.
Work on finding the right partners to work with – they need to be companies you trust and that have the customer’s best interests at heart. It’s essential to have a carefully crafted network to handle the logistics of selling internationally. Everything from the supply chain to customer service support needs to be planned and tailored to the regions where you will sell.
Make sure to have 24/7 customer support with the language skills to help your customers. 84% of consumers were more likely to do business with a company with phone response rates that were less than a minute. If you can’t handle this, there are many companies that offer those services for affordable prices. This will keep customer satisfaction levels high, which is essential to your success internationally.
Expanding internationally can be an enormous success when your customer service levels don’t decline. Use the information above along with Pitney Bowes global ecommerce solutions to help plan for your business’ global growth and ensure that you navigate the foreign waters well.
Learn more about Pitney Bowes Designed Cross-Border™ services.