The international e-commerce marketplace is growing by 20 percent every year as around a billion people across the globe log on to buy everything from everyday purchases like clothes and groceries to luxury items including jewelry and travel packages. Read on to discover the ways your business can look beyond your local area and become successful in this booming online arena.

Find Gaps in the Global Marketplace


Image via Flickr by Kip-koech

The best formula for business success is always to identify a gap in the marketplace and develop a way to fill it that plays to your strength. Taking a global outlook helps you identify more gaps beyond your backyard.

“Mobile phone companies, for example, looked at the fixed-line infrastructure in the developing world and jumped in, disintermediating traditional telecommunications companies in the process,” global entrepreneur Tej Kohli explained in The Guardian. “Take-up of mobile phones across Africa and East Asia has been phenomenal as a result.”

Kohli speaks from experience, as this strategy helped him develop his first company, Grafix Softech. He created the firm in 1998 when he identified a lack of support for business-to-consumer e-commerce payments. His tech business filled this gap, and grew from a single office in India to a multinational corporation headquartered in Costa Rica’s booming information technology district. He identified further gaps and expanded Grafix Softech to offer internet marketing solutions and search engine optimization services to capitalize on the interest in online advertising.

Research International Markets

Identifying the gaps in the global marketplace is a good starting point, but making a play for international dollars requires much more research. There might be a need for your goods and services abroad, but that won’t do you any good if there aren’t enough international shoppers who can afford what you’re selling, or if these countries’ residents aren’t shopping online.

Thorough research should give you a clear picture of the geographical, political, legal, cultural, economic, and technological makeup of your intended marketplaces. If your company is large enough, you might consider employing experts on the ground with insider knowledge of your target markets. They can help you decide whether it’s feasible to make a push into their countries. If you decide to proceed with your expansion efforts, these local employees will be instrumental in the process.

Be Smart about Currencies

A 2013 study by American global payments provider E4X found that if you’re only offering prices in US dollars, you’re likely losing international sales. The survey found 86 percent of UK shoppers would leave a site with USD pricing and buy the same product on a site showing their local currency. Fifty-seven percent of German shoppers say they probably wouldn’t return to an e-commerce site which only displayed US dollars.

Unfamiliar currencies tend to confuse consumers. When shoppers see a foreign currency they begin worrying about how much their goods will cost, how much shipping they’ll pay, and whether you’ll offer shipping to their country at all.

It’s relatively easy to track a customer’s location and convert a website’s prices into his local currency. Despite this, between 15 to 20 percent of US e-tailers only show American dollars to potential customers. Are you guilty of this global e-commerce sin?

Be Flexible about Pricing

Depending on the product you sell, it may not be enough to simply convert all your goods into relevant local currencies. A successful global store is aware of the markets they’re selling in, and how they should price to appear competitive.

For example, a new PlayStation 4 Battlefield 4 game costs around £50 in the United Kingdom. Converting this into US dollars, you might expect the same game to cost around $82 in North America. However, Battlefield 4 sells in the United States for around $60. A price-conscious American gamer would never buy from your site if you priced this title at $82.

Do your research and work out what prices are reasonable in key global markets.

Simple conversions can also result in awkward looking figures which can confuse customers. Use clean, round prices to entice shoppers to spend at your e-commerce store.

Consider Global Payments

People around the world are paying their bills, shopping for goods and services, and checking their bank balances online, but that doesn’t mean that they’re completely comfortable with the situation. A 2013 study found that just 36 percent of consumers trust online retailers to secure their personal details. That means e-stores must work hard to make customers feel comfortable shopping with them.

Considering local payment customs is one of the best ways global retailers can achieve this. For example, wire transfers are the most popular payment method in Germany. In Japan, nearly 40 percent of online transactions use the Konbini payment method. Becoming familiar with these systems and offering them to international shoppers can give them invaluable peace of mind.

Remove Shipping Limits

Shipping may be one of the most important considerations for global e-commerce stores. It’s vital to offer international shipping that’s simple, affordable, and hassle-free. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing valuable international sales. Studies show that shipping and handlings concerns see 38 percent of online shoppers abandoning their virtual shopping carts. That amounts to a significant loss of revenue for any global e-tailer.

Create Different Sites for Key Markets

Catering to a range of global customers from one website can be challenging, so some of the world’s most successful e-tailers establish separate sites which serve their key markets. This allows for greater customization, such as offering particular products appealing to this location and customer service that’s specific to the chosen market. Your efforts are likely to pay off, as studies show localized versions of e-commerce websites increase online conversions by an impressive 70 percent.

“It’s no secret amongst merchants that users like to click on domains that have their own country extension,” blogged Matthew Bertulli at Demac Media. Companies can capitalize on this by investing in country-specific domains, and developing sites around them, for their greatest international markets. Make sure you create content that suits your overall marketing strategy, while considering language differences and cultural sensitivities, when developing each international site.

With the right e-commerce strategies, you can put the world’s purchasing dollars at your fingertips.