E-commerce websites (and their owners) face some unique challenges that their brick-and-mortar cousins usually don't need to consider. You serve a potentially international customer base, but need to come across as a “local” to make your sales. Here are some strategies to help you pull this off.
I got these ideas from Maria Sparagis's excellent article for Search Engine Journal. I don't have room to discuss all of the techniques she covered there, so by all means, check out her piece if you need some more tips. The basic idea is to make it as easy as possible for your potential customer to spend their money with you. That means setting your site up so that they can do things the way they prefer to do them, rather than forcing them to do them the way YOU want them to them.
Let's start with one of the most obvious points: currency. You want them to spend money on your site, right? Well, if they're used to spending pesos, when they look under your payment options, why are they only finding euros? You may think this is not a problem in these days of credit card transactions, but as Sparaganis notes, “a customer's credit card issuer could reject transactions simply because it's a different currency and not part of the consumer's regular buying pattern.” So what can you do about this? Sparaganis recommends checking with your acquiring merchant account bank and setting up a currency account. “Most banks have over 10 currencies available, and there's a minimal account maintenance fee involved to open it,” she explains. Check your traffic; if you're getting a lot of visitors from a particular country, enabling them to buy from you in their own currency could turn more of those visits into conversions.
A somewhat related issue concerns not just what currency customers use to pay you, but in what form they pay it to you. Here in the United States, we're pretty comfortable with using Master Card and Visa. If your site gets many visitors from Germany, however, you need to be able to accept debit cards; you could be losing half of your sales otherwise. France and China also have their own preferred payment methods that uncommon or non-existent in the United States. So please, do your research before you plan any kind of advertising campaign or expansion into a new country, and make sure your website is ready to accept the most common payment methods from your new customers.
Now, let's talk language. Your original website may use English, but everyone prefers their native language. As Sparaganis points out, “Translating your website is an inexpensive way to speak your customer’s language!” When you're dealing with a large country that boasts lots of different regions, that might mean translating your site into more than one language. In Florida, for example, the further south you go, the more you run into native Spanish speakers – and I understand you can find something similar going on in California and Texas. By offering a Spanish translation of your website, you can reach this other market.
When you do translate your website, however, you need to “translate” more than just the language. Sparaganis recommends that “the 'spokespeople' or visuals should adapt to the market.” So your site's Spanish translation would benefit from images of people with which your new market can identify, “as this will help consumers relate more to the product or service offered,” Sparaganis explains.
These are just three of a number of practices you can use to help maximize sales and income for your e-commerce website. They stood out for me because they reflect one of the most important techniques you can use to help you close a deal: understanding your customer. Once you can see things their way, you can show them your product or service in a way that makes it easy for them to see the benefits – and make the purchase. Good luck!
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