Six ways to speak the international language of eCommerce

July 10, 2013 Written by NetSphere Category: eCommerce
Six ways to speak the international language of eCommerce
As the global population continues to grow, opportunities for businesses in the eCommerce sector will also expand. To put that international growth into perspective, each and every day the planet grows by 220,000 people. Of the 7 billion, which is ticking upward by the second, 2 billion are in the middle class – the consumer class.
Those new consumers are from every corner of the globe, but no matter how remote their location, to stay competitive, eCommerce sites must reach out to them. From Malta to Uruguay to Iceland and beyond, there’s a lot to be done to bring them into the fold.
The six main areas to be concerned with include:
1. Language – Although a picture can speak a thousand words, there are some things that just need to be relayed in an overseas shopper’s language. For sites that are based on IBM’s WebSphere Commerce platform, 13 languages are already supported. (German, Polish, Russian, Romanian, traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and English.) Additional languages or dialects can be defined to tailor the way content is presented to shoppers from different cultures or demographics.
2. Currency – It’s possible for an online store to deliver all of its prices in the currency of its home country, but it’s not necessarily convenient for a shopper to have to do the conversions on their own. Therefore, it’s best to include a currency converter in the shopping cart. Again, WebSphere Commerce sites don’t need to do any additional work to feature multiple currencies, since it already supports the Argentine peso, Austrian schilling, Canadian dollar, European euro, Japanese yen, Italian lira, Deutsche mark, British pound, Russian ruble and the U.S. dollar.
Also, remember that some countries may have more that one official language but only one currency. Canada has a single currency, the Canadian dollar, but two official languages, English and French.
3. Shipping – There can be many “gotcha’s” with international shipping, so be aware of (a) the country-specific regulations and requirements; governments do prohibit the import of specific commodities, based on what they are used for, who  they are going to, and the quantity and value of the merchandize; (b) what the shipment charges and applicable duties/taxes are, based on the country being shipped to. Knowing the total, accurate shipping costs is imperative to set the proper expectation for the buyer, otherwise you may end up paying the round trip shipping cost for a refused or abandoned shipment; (c) tracking of shipments can be very expensive for international orders, at least $50 or more. Therefore, it is more cost-effective when used for higher ticket items.
4. International Taxes – For those companies looking to expand their business to the global marketplace, dealing with taxes on an international basis is beyond the capabilities of most companies. Your best approach may be to partner with an international tax solution provider and let them manage this taxing issue and prevent fraudulent orders from coming across the borders. Bongo International is one such provider that has already developed plug-ins for many well known eCommerce solutions, such as Channel Advisor, Miva Merchant and Volusion, to name a few.
5. Payment Providers – Under most circumstances, credit cards from American Express, Visa, MasterCard and Discover have been issued by banks in other countries and are likely to be accepted as payment by U.S. companies. However, be cognizant of the fact that there may be other, more popular payment methods, such as country-specific cards like Carte Bleue in France. To learn more about other companies that process payments for international customers, type “international online payment” into your favorite search engine.
6. Regulatory Issues – Another thorny area of international eCommerce revolves around knowing the import regulations linked to a specific country. There is an in-depth case study on Bass Pro Inc., a WebSphere Commerce customer, that documents how the company went through the process of preparing its business processes and back-office systems for managing international transactions.
If these six items are addressed, the journey abroad should be smooth sailing. For webstore owners who rely on IBM’s WebSphere Commerce platform, half the battle has already been taken care of. For them, going global won’t be as tough of a task as it might be for others since the IBM solution already features multiple languages and currencies.
And just as any trip abroad is better spent with a travel companion, there’s no need to traverse the international eCommerce waters alone. So get in touch with the experts at NetSphere Strategies. We have experience co-piloting businesses toward online global success.
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Abbe Miller is the marketing manager at NetSphere Strategies, located just outside Chicago. NetSphere Strategies is a boutique eCommerce company positioned to help businesses transform their online presence by providing a full complement of services that starts with our strategic consulting and creative design teams, then continues with building innovative solutions and providing ongoing post-project support.