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5 Tips for Your International eCommerce Website

five tips for your international ecommerce website

Having an international website to sell your goods and services abroad can multiply your market manyfold. But if your web presence is not customized to local tastes and standards, you run the risk of alienating the very customers you are trying to reach and even damaging your brand image. In this post we will talk about five tips that ensure you understand what you need when you set your international eCommerce website up.

Tip 1: Translate your eCommerce Website

This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often companies assume their English language website will suffice. Most people in — fill in the country here — speak English anyway, the thinking goes, so it won’t be an issue, right? Well, the facts according to an article by Harvard Business Review paint a different picture:  

  • 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language.
  • 72.4% of consumers would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.
  • For 56.2% of consumers, the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.
  • Nearly one in five Europeans (19%) never browse in a language other than their own.
  • 42% never purchase products and services in other languages.

It’s safe to say not providing content in your target’s native language can be a costly mistake. And those foreign language markets are huge. According to a 2016 estimate by Internet World Stats, while 948 million internet users speak English, Chinese speakers are not far behind with 751 million, followed by Spanish with 277 million users.  

Tip 2: Make the UI Suitable for Your Target Country

One User Interface (UI) does not fit all. For example, did you know that in Spain it is very common to have two first names or even two last names? Or that, when writing your name in Japanese, there are actually two different types of scripts and some names require you use them both? Making sure that your customer information fields account for these options is crucial if you don’t want your customers leaving your website in frustration when they can’t enter account or billing information.

Tip 3: Watch Sizes and Measurements

This is an issue that can easily slip through the cracks: All sizes and measurements need to be properly converted. To illustrate my point, just take a look at your shoes. My size is women’s 6.5 US. That translates to size 4 in the UK and size 37 in Europe. But in Japan I am size 23.5 — confused? Well, your customer should not be. Don’t leave any ambiguity about what sizes you are talking, otherwise you might end up with very unhappy customers.

Tip 4: Laws and Regulations

Did you know some countries have laws about displaying your prices with sales tax included? And if you are selling in the EU, your site needs to reflect the most recent VAT requirements. Your Site Policy page is another item you want to review closely. While it may be tempting to just translate your English page, countries like Germany, for example, have specific requirements for an imprint (Impressum) page. If you don’t adhere to those regulations, you run the danger of legal repercussions and it might cast doubt on the legitimacy of your website.

Tip 5: Adapt to Local Taste and Style

Checking your text and imagery for culturally relevant changes depending on your target location is only a first step. The design of your clean cut website itself may not resonate as well with your foreign audience as it does at home. The difference in taste and style is apparent when we look at the Japanese eCommerce website, Rakuten. Here is a screenshot of the US version:


Look and feel seem very close to the type of page you see for many US eCommerce companies.

Here is the Japanese version:


With all the things going on and all the color, the Japanese website may feel old-school in the eyes of Americans. But we can be certain that Rakuten, as a huge Japanese company, has done its due diligence and knows how to best reach its customers at home, just illustrating how big the cultural differences in taste can be.

There are a lot of adjustments you should consider for your eCommerce website in order to better reach your target markets abroad. I hope this blog post got you thinking in the right direction. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions here or get a quote for your next project.

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