US retailers gearing up for the holidays could be overlooking a key source of sales: international shoppers.
To win in the global e-commerce race, companies can’t rely on the same approach they use domestically.
Featured products, marketing content and promotions targeting U.S. consumers may not resonate in all markets.
For example, as US retailers promote their discounts on that latest style winter coat, super-fast sled or snow tires, they’ll need to remember that it’s summer in Australia.
A common pitfall for companies looking to grow international sales is not localizing their e-commerce experience.
Is your company one of those missing out?
Ask yourself these questions:
When consumers log onto your site, do they see content in their language?
Do they receive total landed cost in their own currency?
Do they have affordable shipping options that can be relied on to deliver their order in time for the holidays?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you’re probably missing out on your share of the $2 trillion international e-commerce business.
If your website isn’t set up to offer a localized e-commerce experience, don’t take down your global e-commerce sales stocking just yet.
With a little help, there’s still (just enough) time left to set your business up for international e-commerce success during the 2016 holiday season.
Here are five steps to take before October. 1 to make it happen:
Build a holiday planning schedule Holidays are not homogeneous around the world. Build a calendar of the major holidays in your target international markets, and plan around each.
For example, Chinese New Year, next celebrated in January 2017, is the country’s most important holiday – it’s the equivalent of Christmas in the US in terms of spending.
In 2016, Chinese consumers were expected to spend roughly $13.5 billion overseas during the approximately two-week long holiday.
That’s approximately 90 billion Chinese Yuan by the way.
China is the second-largest consumer market in the world. According to eMarketer, more than 15 percent of the population in China will make purchases from abroad in 2016, with purchases worth a total of $85.76 billion.
It’s by no means the only source of global e-commerce sales.
According to a 2015 UPS study, Brazilian consumers are the most advanced and social in their online shopping habits.
More than half (56 percent) of their purchases are made online – the highest of any market.
Other big global holidays for the planning calendar are Diwali, Eid al-Fitr, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, to name a few.
Prioritize products and promotions Once you’ve mapped out the international holidays you will target, determine which products will sell best in your target markets.
In India for example, Diwali is celebrated in October, which falls within the country’s rainy season.
This could be good timing for an outdoor equipment or clothing retailer to prioritize its top performing products.
Promoting the right items to the right group of consumers can lead to increased revenue and repeat business.
Build localized content From advertising campaigns and promotions to content design, mobile apps and social media sites, information should be localized for the consumer you are trying to reach.
Providing currency conversions, international payment options and landed costs at checkout, including duties and taxes, are key to a consumer’s online shopping experience.
The 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study found consumers want total cost of the order, including duties and fees (75 percent) and all prices in their home currency (73 percent), as top considerations when making international purchases.
There are industry tools out there, like UPS i-parcel, which make enabling a localized consumer experience less daunting.
Consumers around the world will feel at home when currencies throughout the site are automatically converted, duty and tax is displayed in the cart and preferred local payment options are available.
Businesses can quickly expand their global footprint because solutions like UPS i-parcel remove the cost and complexity of localization combined with an end-to-end solution.
Integrate and implement your plan By October, make sure your content strategy is integrated with your search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) strategies.
The State of Retailing Online, an annual study by Shop.org and Forrester Research, Inc., found that 85 percent of retailers cited search marketing (including paid and SEO) as the most effective customer acquisition tactic.
Some third parties also provide solutions for localizing promotions and turning campaigns on and off in specific markets.
Don’t overlook shipping – or returns Without smart international shipping options, you’re not ready to start taking and fulfilling international holiday orders.
According to the 2016 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, 50 percent of shoppers who had abandoned a shopping cart did so because shipping costs made the total more than expected.
To drive online shoppers to make a purchase, it’s important to offer multiple shipping options that allow the right speed without prohibitive costs.
As you’re setting up international shipping options, it’s critical to think about returns.
Studies have shown that providing a positive returns experience can drive repeat shoppers.
In fact, 60 percent say free return shipping is key to a positive returns experience, according to the UPS study.
Here’s a merry and bright thought for the holidays: In as little as four weeks with only a few simple lines of code, your company could go from being a domestic e-commerce business to a global e-commerce business.
Are you ready to click with international shoppers this holiday season?
Will Gensburg is the Vice President and Managing Director of UPS i-parcel.
Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.