Practical Ecommerce

5 Keys for Building a Global Ecommerce Site

In “Language Translation Tools for Ecommerce Sites,” my post in June, I described translation tools for different types of ecommerce platforms. But building a global site often requires more than just translation. A global site caters to different countries or locales and involves localizing shipping providers, tax calculations, drop ship vendors, payment methods, and more.

In this post, I will review five key factors for building an ecommerce site that reaches a global customer base.

1. Define the Level of Localization

Every retailer will have its own set of requirements to localize the experience for global shoppers. Doing a complete localization can be extremely costly and time consuming, as it requires ensuring every part of the site is locale specific. This includes the product catalog, the content, the buttons and images, search results, payment methods, fraud checks, tax, and shipping.

Amazon's Canada site for French-speaking consumers.

Amazon’s Canada site for French-speaking consumers.

Hence it is important to determine what needs to be localized based on the success criteria for a local market. This can be achieved by reviewing local competitors’ sites. Merchants can also survey their customers in the region and even conduct A/B testing to try localization options, to determine which ones get the best response. Determining the extent of localization will educate the retailer on the investment and effort required to be successful in that region.

2. Make Localization Mandatory

Once the retailer has determined the extent of localization, it is critical to make the localization process mandatory. Say a new product is introduced on the site and, in the rush to sell the product, the retailer publishes content without localizing the product information. If the retailer knows that localized product information is required to be successful, then the retailer is actually hurting its business by not following the process.

This can turn away customers. It can also complicate keeping track of what needs to be localized for different regions, once the changes have already been published.

3. Hire a Local to Review the Site

Most successful global retailers hire individuals who understand the local language and culture, to ensure the site is set up correctly. This is an important validation, as cultural nuances are often lost when a non-native person is responsible. But it is not typically possible to do this for every locale and, hence, global retailers often focus on hiring locals only for larger markets. For the smaller locales, work with the consumers and partners in the region, to verify the site is set up correctly. The retailer can also incentivize shoppers by offerings discounts to encourage them to help with this effort.

4. Localize Customer Service

Building a global ecommerce site requires a customer service capability for multiple languages and locales. This extends to all areas of customer service: orders, returns, knowledge base, FAQs, email communications, live chat, phone, and fax — all available during the appropriate time zone, where applicable.

This form is customized for consumers in Mexico.

This form is customized for consumers in Mexico.

It is also a good practice to have a backup for a single person responsible for a region, to avoid impacting customers in that region in case this person is unavailable.

5. Plan for Periodic Reviews, Monitoring

Building a global ecommerce site takes much work, as retailers must continually monitor the local competition and customer base, to understand the evolution of the local market and make changes to the site to sustain growth and profitability.

Some global retailers offer locale-specific products, but this should only be done if the retailer is confident about their success. Also, local laws can impact a merchant’s business in a region. This, too, requires continual monitoring and periodic reviews.

Please share your suggestions and challenges for building a global ecommerce site in the comments, below.

See “Language Translation: Machines vs. Humans,” the third article in Gagan Mehra’s 4-part series on language translation.