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International Ecommerce

In 2011, four of our clients made the decision to expand their ecommerce websites beyond their domestic bases.  As we discussed in an earlier post, you can approach international ecommerce in several different ways.

Below we’ll walk through the individual methods that we implemented for Chrome, Diptyque, Kidrobot, and Michael C. Fina.

Chrome:

After launching a US ecommerce site about two years ago, this past summer Chrome decided to have us build out a Canada-specific version of the existing site.

When browsing the main www.chromebagsstore.com domain, there is little hint that another site exists. However, if you scroll to the footer, you’ll see a link for Chrome Canada.

Once on the Canadian site, www.chromeindustries.ca (note the country code domain extension), you can easily switch back by selecting the US option in the flag drop-down located in the top header. Design and aesthetic elements all remain consistent across the two sites; however, pricing is shown in Canadian dollars, and checkout is tailored to include Provinces rather than States.

Diptyque:

Like Chrome, Diptyque hosts independent domains for its three US, UK, and France websites. Site architecture and design remain the same for all three countries, but content is translated and customized per nationality.

Looking at the shopping bag page below, you’ll see that the currency has been switched for the French site, and order totals are clearly displayed in Euros.

Kidrobot:

Kidrobot, which has an international brick and mortar presence, recently partnered with international shipping solutions company, fiftyone, to offer shipping globally through its single www.kidrobot.com domain.

The first step of checkout prompts users to select U.S. Checkout or International checkout. Country options are exposed if the International Checkout button is clicked, and users are then directed to a standard checkout process within the same domain that is generated by Fiftyone via iframe. The Terms & Conditions and the Privacy Policy are visibly stated above the first step, and merchandise subtotal, Duty & VAT, and shipping chargers are all clearly calculated in the country-specific currency

Michael C. Fina:

Michael C. Fina also recently integrated with the third party solution, International Checkout, to cater to its international clientele through the existing website. After adding a product to the shopping bag, both standard checkout and international checkout buttons are displayed.

Moving forward with the International Checkout option will transfer you to another iframe page controlled by the third party. To avoid any customer confusion, the page is introduced with an explanation of the service and a link for contact information. Security badges are also displayed on the checkout page for added reassurance.

As you can see by the varied approaches of just four different websites, there is no golden rule when it comes to offering international ecommerce options.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the global ecommerce landscape continues to innovate next year and promise to keep you updated.

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The online space has introduced countless new opportunities for retailers to reach both domestic and foreign audiences.

Many are now fully embracing the potential to target foreign markets by offering international shipping or developing a country-specific website.

While this opportunity should not be overlooked, setting up international ecommerce capabilities is no small feat.

In this post, we’d like to review the basic solutions, questions to consider, and the pros and cons of taking the global leap.

Options for fulfilling internationally:

• Third party integration: Our clients Kidrobot and Michael C. Fina have partnered with the companies Fiftyone and International Checkout to offer a seamless checkout process that includes the option to ship internationally. Taking advantage of the expertise and existing systems in place of these solutions can save a lot of headaches in the long run.

• Single website & distribution center offering international fulfillment: If your existing resources are able to accommodate international shipping without the aid of a third party, this is an option.

• Different multi-language, multi-country websites: For example, Diptyque manages three separate websites for the US, UK, and France. Product prices, site languages, tax, and shipping fees are all customized based on shipping country.

If you’re still not sold on the idea of offering international ecommerce options…

• Internet adoption in Europe is only at 50%, and in Asia at 17%. The average Internet penetration rate globally is only at 26.6% (IWS). As global Internet use increases, so does the opportunity to reach a larger audience.

• Traditional word of mouth marketing isn’t obsolete. Giving foreign users the chance to purchase will expand brand awareness and foster international influencers.

 • Use an ecommerce initiative to test out new markets. A positive response in a new country may allow you to Identify foreign markets that have potential for additional (ex, brick and mortar) business development.

• Be first to market. If you’re thinking about expanding internationally, chances are so are your competitors.

But before you take the plunge be sure to evaluate…

• Does a customer base exist? Implementing international ecommerce is a serious investment that may not be profitable for all business models.

• International trade and taxation liabilities can be very complex. Make sure you fully understand these aspects before entering into a new market.

• Translating currencies and making all customs, fees, and taxes transparent to consumers is not easy and may be an additional liability.

• Shipping rates tend to be much higher for international fulfillment. Are your customers willing to pay higher rates, or are you able to subsidize or offer free shipping while still staying profitable?

• International shipping carriers are not always reliable. Choose carefully and do your research.

• Whether customers are domestic or international, the return policy is always a key decision factor when placing an order online. Will international customers be able to easily return products? 

If you would like to create a new site targeting a specific country:

Your first question may be as simple as, how should we host and handle the domain structure of the international version of our website?

Below are three primary methods:

• Use a country code top-level domain (ccTLD). For example, http://www.diptyqueparis.fr/ and http://www.chromeindustries.ca/

• Use a country-specific sub-domain. For example, http://us.havaianas.com/

• Use a folder within an established domain. For example, http://www.example.com/fr/

There is no universal “right solution” in this case. Each option has different factors to consider relating to cost, search engine optimization (SEO), brand reach, among others.

The key benefit of using a ccTLD is better geo targeting. Additionally, depending on the targeted country, international users may be more likely to click through to a site including their country’s specific domain extension. On the other hand, setting up a new ccTLD loses domain authority and all the credibility of the back links associated to the established domain.

Sub-domains are also criticized for losing domain authority; however it is questionable how much. Both ccTLD’s and sub-domains require additional costs in DNS setup and more organizational maintenance.

Creating folders entails less maintenance and cost and maintains existing domain authority, but it is more difficult to be optimized when geo targeting.

Tools For Success in International Shipping:

• Consider lowering shipping costs to encourage conversion and gain loyal international customers.

• Transparency: make it very clear to consumers what they can expect for shipping costs, taxes, tariffs, and other fees.

• Take advantage of specialists: third-party providers of international shipping management can take care of many of the complexities involved in fulfilling globally.

 

Look out for our next client spotlight post, where we’ll go into more detail on the specific international shipping and ecommerce implementations we carried out for our clients Kidrobot, Michael C. Fina, Diptyque, and Chrome.