May 21 2009

Selling Without Borders: What to Consider When Going Global

One of the most appealing benefits of selling online is unlimited reach. While a brick-and-mortar running shoe store is likely to draw consumers from a 20- or 30-mile radius, an online seller can gain instant exposure to athletes across the world. Whether your target e-market is two miles down the road or three continents away, anyone with an Internet connection can browse and buy your products.

But before you grab your passport and head into the world of cross-continental selling, take the time to do a little homework. Jumping on the international bandwagon entails more than just adding a currency conversion tool to your site. Below are some tips for enhancing your eCommerce store’s global shopping experience and increasing the chances of converting buyers from around the world.

Tell them where you are.

Even if you’re not in their home country, international buyers will have more purchasing confidence if they know where their items are coming from. Be upfront about your location, and don’t be shy about touting its benefits. If you’re an Oriental rug seller based in Persia, for instance, your proximity to native rug artisans could be presented as a selling point.

Provide a dedicated page for international shipping info.

Most online companies have different policies for domestic and global shipments. Clearly outline your global requirements and procedures—lead times, time zones, taxes and duties, P.O. Box limitations, and more—so your international customers know what to expect. Include strategic keywords, such as “international orders,” to give the page an SEO boost. Make it easy for shoppers to find the page, too: place a consistent link in the same spot on every page, and also include a link from your domestic shipping policy and from checkout pages.

Include product-specific restrictions.

By letting buyers go all the way down the checkout path before informing them you can’t ship their kerosene lamp to Yugoslavia, you’re practically begging for a spike in cart abandonment rates and customer dissatisfaction. If a certain item has restrictions that prohibit international shipping, state those clearly on the product page.

Include a measurement converter.

Sizes and weights aren’t uniform across all nations. By building a quick conversion tool into your product pages, you can help shoppers from other countries purchase with confidence, knowing their sweater, shoes, or patio table will be a perfect fit.

Make the price right.

If all of your items are labeled with American prices, A Korean shopper may have trouble figuring out how much that great pair of Nikes is really going to cost him. Include a handy conversion tool that will allow potential buyers to switch over all price displays to their chosen currency with a single click. includes three tabs across the top that allow shoppers to choose English, Chinese, or Japanese.

Be upfront about shipping fees.

Ideally, the customer should be able to plug in their ship-to zip code right there on the product page and determine how much it’s going to cost them. This tool will improve usability for international and domestic shoppers alike, making it a wise investment in customer satisfaction across the board.

Go global with your marketing efforts.

The beauty of e-marketing is that campaigns can be launched anywhere, anytime, and can snag the attention of potential consumers in all corners of the world. Experiment with PPC placements, SEM campaigns, affiliate linking, and SEO strategies to increase your site’s worldwide exposure.

Comply with tax regulations.

Depending on where buyers are located, they may be required to pay different amounts of VAT and use taxes. Be sure to determine the requirements and make sure you’re charging the correct tax amounts to avoid penalties.

Fraud-proof your site.

When you open up your eCommerce store to cross-continental shoppers, you also run the risk of an increase in fraudulent purchases. This is because it’s much more difficult for the authorities to track down international scamsters, emboldening their swindling attempts. Check with your payment providers to make sure they have precautionary measures in place to protect you from fraudsters. You should also consider implementing more rigorous validation methods, such as requiring a contact phone-number, proof of billing address, or a faxed or scanned copy of the CID number on the back of the credit card.

Use quality carriers.

International fulfillment is less prone to hassle when you go with a world-recognized carrier, such as FedEx, UPS, or DHL. These providers can help guide you through the process of shipping abroad.

The pervasiveness of the Internet has literally opened up a whole new world to online sellers. With a little research and the right tools, you can attract qualified buyers of all nationalities, establishing yourself as a trusted international resource and boosting your bottom line.

Blue Acorn

One Comment

Matt Prindle
Aug 31 2009

Honestly, I didn’t have any plans on going global, but after checking out this post, you seriously convinced me otherwise 🙂


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