The opportunity that international development presents is huge for Shopify merchants. Entering new markets, discovering new customers, and growing your brand beyond its borders can be just the thing that unlocks the true potential of your brand. Not only that, but the cross-border ecommerce market is constantly growing as more customers discover new brands, and more stores enter new markets. However there’s a key element to internationalizing your store that needs to be at the forefront of your strategy - localization.
Why localization is important
Deliver a better international customer experience
First and foremost, the primary reason you should localize is because at the end of the day you always want to provide your customers with the best possible experience. If they have to run your product page through a translation app, or they’re constantly going back and forth converting prices into their local currency, it’s going to be a pretty poor experience even if they really like your products. By localizing key elements of your Shopify store, you can provide them with the same seamless and easy experience your domestic customers have come to expect.
Reduce abandoned carts
Abandoned carts are an issue for every ecommerce merchant; the average global abandoned cart rate is around 69%. While issues such as unexpected shipping costs and account creation are universal issues, by not localizing your store you’ll run into additional and avoidable reasons from your international customers. These customers prefer to browse and shop in their local language and currency - around 1 in 4 will abandon their cart if their preferred currency isn’t offered. If language and currency related issues are causing abandoned carts, then it makes sense that localizing your store will eliminate those issues and reduce international abandoned carts.
Great for international SEO
Search engines like Google put a great deal of emphasis on delivering search results to their users that are useful and relevant, and provide a first class user experience. International SEO can be tricky for many merchants, but localizing your store for your international customers goes a long way in boosting your store’s SEO in other regions. Customers want content in their local language and they want to to pay in their local currency, so if you can deliver that and have a consistent stream of international traffic that is happy with your store’s experience this signals to search engines that your store is valuable for users and therefore boosts your international SEO.
4 key areas you should localize
One of the biggest barriers to new markets for Shopify merchants is language. Not being able to shop in their local language is a major concern for international customers as it increases the risk and confusion around their purchase. Cross-border commerce already carries a perceived element of risk for customers with uncertainty around shipping, import fees etc., and adding not being able to read a product page will make them feel even less confident about making a purchase. According to research by CSA:
- 65% of customers prefer content in their own language, even if it’s poor quality
- 73% want reviews in their own language
- 66% end up using machine translation
40% will not buy if the site is in another language
These statistics show how important localizing your store’s content truly is to potential international customers.
Shopify and especially Shopify Plus make it easy to provide localized content on your store, adding to your international customer experience and giving your customers the confidence they need to make that purchase. To make your localization truly stand out, you should also employ the assistance of a translator or interpreter who specializes in the language of the region you’re expanding into. Machine translation is valuable to a certain degree, but they can’t interpret meaning or tone of voice and therefore can have mistakes or come across robotic. A professional translator can work with your team to ensure the nuance and tone of your content is retained and you don’t lose any brand authenticity.
The importance of currency in the international customer experience is similar to handling currency if you're on vacation in a foreign country. You’re always trying to estimate roughly how much you’re paying if you were to pay in your own currency. Sometimes you bring lots of physical cash, and it turns out that most places only accept credit cards but only certain types which you don’t necessarily have. It can get really frustrating. The same goes for your international customers. Browsing and paying in their local currency makes the experience a lot easier, and reduces a huge amount of friction in their journey.
Shopify merchants can easily provide customers with localized currencies depending on how their store is set up. If it’s a single storefront, you can display prices in a customer’s local currency either using a straight conversion or setting rounding rules so that the price displayed doesn’t have random penny amounts. If you’re on Shopify Plus and using a multi-store approach, you can set different pricing structures for each market giving you much more control.
Paying in your own currency is one thing, but if you really want to provide a first class experience then you should also offer the payment methods that are most commonly used in the country you’re expanding into. The most common payment method in North America is typically credit cards, however this isn’t always the case globally. Over 90% of people living in China’s largest cities use WeChat or Alipay to make payments, whereas 75% of people in Germany use PayPal or Amazon Pay and the next most popular payment method is invoicing.
Luckily for Shopify merchants, at Unite 2021 Shopify announced their new Payments Platform that would allow third-party providers to build payment gateways as apps. This significantly broadens the playing field for merchants on the platform, as you’ll now be able to provide whichever payment methods are the most common in your chosen markets whether that’s apps, cryptocurrencies, or even QR codes.
No matter how much time you spend on your marketing strategy, what works for marketing to your domestic customers isn’t always going to work internationally. This is down to a few key factors including:
Language barrier - Many international customers even if they speak English will prefer to engage with content in their own local language.
Time zones - If you send an email campaign at a good time in your local time zone, it won’t always suit an international customer who is several hours ahead or behind you.
Cultural differences - Not all your content will be culturally appropriate for every audience. Not only that, but different regions will have alternate dates for certain holidays and even have different holidays altogether.
- Platforms used - While a large number of markets will use the same platforms as you have in your strategy, there will be some that have platforms unique to their region e.g. WeChat in China.
It’s important to develop content that will engage your international customers across different platforms. While it may become complicated to run several international variant accounts on each social media platform, you can create engaging localized content through email and your own site.
With email marketing, you can use segmentation to make sure your international customers don’t get marketing messages intended for your domestic customers such as flash sales that are only applicable domestically. You can also use this to send them transactional emails that are written in their local language, and specific localized campaigns that take into account their time zone and any cultural differences i.e. holidays.
Shopify Plus merchants can also create multiple storefronts to suit your different international markets. This way you can create content that’s totally tailored to each of your market audiences. With the help of copywriters who are native speakers of the languages of the markets you want to develop content for, you can develop a range of content that will engage your audiences in a meaningful way. It’ll also be great for your store’s SEO in that market.
Customer service is a huge part of the customer experience. That doesn’t change whether you’re selling to customers in your local country, or someone halfway around the world. Your customers’ expectations around service will remain the same, despite the challenges that international customer service presents. There are a number of ways in which you can localize the customer service experience for your customers, including:
- Localized FAQ pages for key markets that detail shipping information and any key product care information
- Use automated responses and machine learning to combat time zone differences
- Make use of email automation and localized content to send information about order fulfillment and your returns process
The impact of customer service on satisfaction is huge; 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience, and after more than one bad experience, around 80% of consumers say they would rather do business with a competitor. Therefore ensuring our customer experience is excellent right down to when a customer needs to get in touch with your team is essential to a great international experience.
If you want to know more about improving your international customer service strategy, then check out our previous article.
Investing in localization has the potential to unlock new opportunities and customers in markets that are ideally suited to your business’ ambitions. By localizing key areas of your Shopify store, you can ensure the international customer experience is just as great as your domestic one and engage customers around the world.
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