E-Commerce: A Gateway to Export

The Internet has become a staple in our lives; we work, play, and read our news online, and now, more of us are buying online. It makes sense then, that businesses are using the Internet to sell their products and services.

Many small and medium sized businesses have adopted e-commerce, which involves selling or buying over the Internet, as a primary sales method. Not only does e-commerce allow businesses to cut their overhead costs, it also allows them to expand their geographic reach. Businesses in isolated or rural areas and businesses focused on niche markets can reach global markets with the click of a mouse. Many businesses, however, have yet to take advantage of this technology to move their online business from e-commerce to e-exporting.

Attracting a global audience to your e-commerce site is not as simple as creating a site and waiting for international orders to pour in. Customers want to order from a website that’s convenient for them and caters to their particular needs. Here are some steps to ensure your e-commerce site is export-friendly.

International Shipping

Adding an international shipping option is the simplest way to access global customers. It involves a low investment and causes minimal disruption to your business operations.
The increase in international e-commerce in recent years allows online businesses to access global consumers with relatively low risk and at a low cost. If you plan to outsource your shipping to a third-party, research all your options to find the best fit for your company.

It is important to have a clear shipping policy that’s visible on all your webpages. For international consumers, after product and price, the next thing they will look for is your shipping policy.

A simple tool to calculate shipping costs and applicable duties and taxes, is essential in converting web traffic into buyers, as customers do not want any unexpected costs popping up after they’ve made their purchase.

Local Payment Options

The next step in creating an export-friendly e-commerce site is to have prices listed in the local currency. If you already have international customers, go back through your order history and identify the countries from which you have received the most orders. These may be some of the first currencies you will want to use to display your prices. You may choose to display multiple currency prices next to your product, allowing the consumer to choose their default currency.

Ensuring that your customers are comfortable with the method of payment is paramount to gaining their confidence and closing the sale. Credit cards, debit, and Paypal are common payment methods in North America, but other payment methods may be popular in other parts of the world. In Japan for example, the Konbini payment service (payments made at local convenience stores), is popular, and wire transfers are standard practice in Germany.

Language

If you want to gain market share in a non-English speaking country, it is important that your e-commerce site is available in the native language of that country. Many consumers prefer doing business in their primary language and not having this option available could deter potential customers.

If you decide to translate your site, don’t take any shortcuts. Invest in a reputable translation service and look at work they have done on other sites.

It is important to consider the value of offering this customized service prior to undertaking the conversion, as offering a multilingual e-commerce service can involve a large investment. If you translate your site, keep in mind that customers will be expecting customer service in their language, which can involve an additional investment in human resources for your company.

Localization

Creating a localized version of your e-commerce site by adopting a geographically specific domain (i.e. .au, .fr, .uk, etc.) can increase sales considerably. A local URL shows that you are invested in their market and can deliver on your product or service. This is the first step in creating a customized site for your target market and establishing a strong presence there.

A local website should not just be a translated copy of your domestic site but should incorporate local content, terminology, country flags and country-specific marketing references. You should make the site local in every way.
Before creating a local, online presence in other markets, review your sales figures. If a significant percentage of your sales come from a non-domestic market, then localizing your business is a must.

E-commerce allows small businesses to enter international markets at their own pace. If you’re selling online, e-exporting could be the next step in growing your business.

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