The difference between online success and online failure can often be attributed to the checkout process. Perhaps your customer was surprised by shipping costs and abandoned the shopping cart. Maybe the stated delivery time was longer than expected. Or, perhaps your customer simply got confused at some point along the way.
These challenges are compounded when your company begins to expand their market penetration efforts by targeting customers outside of your domestic market. Successful e-commerce conversion requires that you localize the checkout experience and that, in turn, requires so much more than simply adding “province” to the “state” input field on the checkout form. This post includes a few tips, large and small, to keep in mind as you prepare to localize e-commerce websites for new markets.
Learn from Successful Websites
Best practices in global e-commerce aren’t a secret. In fact, they’re on display on websites such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Apple, to name just a few. Invest the time to study these websites — and consult with in-country customers of these websites.
Don’t limit yourself to studying the checkout form; study the entire e-commerce process — from adding a product to the shopping cart all the way through to product fulfillment. Along the way, you’re going to discover different approaches to e-commerce conversion. For example, some companies force users to create accounts before entering the checkout process — such as Amazon — while others do not, such as Apple.
Be on Call
Because there is no official global standard for checkout forms, a first-time customer to your website is going to have to learn the checkout process. Ideally, your process has much in common with other leading e-commerce websites in the user’s market — so the user feels some degree of comfort. But in the event that your customer gets confused along the way, be sure to provide support information in the user’s local language.
Free phone support is a significant investment but one that can go a long way toward ensuring that users can check out successfully. If you make such an investment, be sure to make the local phone number prominent. Notice how Microsoft includes a prominent phone number on its UK website, offering to help users make their purchase.
Dyson also makes a phone number prominent, using a bold-colored icon to make it stand out on its German website.
And don’t assume that all local markets will require equal investments in customer support. You might find that phone support is the ideal solution in one country but email support works better in other countries. Begin small, with a pilot program, and closely measure conversion rates to minimize investment risk. And always keep in mind that customer support is another way of gathering customer intelligence. By supporting your customers, you will learn what’s working and what’s not.
Properly Localize Input Forms
When selling physical goods, it’s vital to understand what address fields you need to support for each country. You can learn the postal addressing standards for most countries here.
But the mailing address is just the beginning. You also need to understand what personal information you need from your customers. In Brazil, for example, users are typically asked to enter their CPF numbers, which is their tax ID number. This is unique to Brazil and is just one example of how challenging checkout form localization can be.
And then there are customer names. In the United States, we generally use the term “last name” on input forms, but many countries use “family name” or “surname” instead. This is a critical text string to get correct when it comes to processing credit cards correctly. Also keep in mind that family names in many cultures can be significantly longer than Western family names — so you may need to adapt your input forms to support longer text strings.
Support Your Customer’s Currency (and Payment Platform)
To reassure potential customers, let them know as early as possible that you support their preferred payment methods. UK retailer Sainsbury’s prominently displays supported payment options early in the checkout process.
A handful of companies also give users the ability to select which currency they wish to use, such as Adobe’s Creative Cloud, shown here.
The more payment methods and currencies you support, the greater the odds of successful conversion.
Manage Delivery Expectations
Shipping goods internationally can be time consuming and expensive. Don’t force users to wait until right before processing their order before they discover that shipping costs will be higher than they expect or that they’ll have to wait two weeks for delivery. Instead, give your users early insights into delivery options and, if possible, study ways to offer customers free shipping. And, if you can offer free shipping, let users know, as Apple does on its UK website.
A third-party fulfillment company can take over this process for you — and is not a bad idea as you begin expanding into new markets.
And Don’t Overlook Details
When studying other companies, pay close attention to the details, no matter how small. For instance, Amazon in the US uses a shopping “cart” while in the UK Amazon (and other retailers) use a shopping “basket.”
Most important, take notice of the checkout practices that are shared across the leading online retailers — practices that you may be wise to replicate since users are probably already comfortable with them.