3 Things to Consider When Going Global

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With no signs of slowing down, e-commerce is set to continue its growth on the global stage. According to the British Centre of Retail Research, the European market alone was expected to grow by more than 67% reaching €182 billion in e-commerce transactions in 2015. So while brick and mortar retailers may struggle to attract those kinds of figures – businesses with an online presence can expect higher and faster growth.

Online businesses have several advantages over traditional retailers – setting up an online shop is now easier than ever and the internet is borderless, which means online businesses can set up shop and cater to an international audience immediately. Although going international can seem like cake walk, there are a few things every online shop should keep in mind.

In this post we’ve highlighted three key tips on how you can overcome the most common obstacles with your international expansion.

1. Translations

The first thing every online business will do during their expansion is translate everything into the target country’s language. While this may sound logical, translating your entire e-commerce website word for word just won’t cut it.

Textbook translations are easy to come by, but they don’t account for cultural differences and social norms in the target country. For instance, if you’re entering the German-speaking market you may think translating ‘You’ into ‘Du’ is enough.

However, depending on your product and the demographic you’re targeting, this sort of generalization could hold you back. If you’re catering to a young demographic, addressing people with the informal ‘Du’ would work for you. But let’s say you’re selling B2B products and security is huge concern, then addressing your audience with the formal “Sie” would be the way to go.

2. Payment methods

In the past three years, we’ve recognised that credit & debit card payments, when coupled together with a digital wallet like PayPal, lets you cover the majority of online transactions in Europe. With that combination of payment methods, you’re able to cover over 90% of online purchases in the vast majority of European countries – which makes it a key factor to increasing conversions on your e-commerce website.

While credit and debit cards are the most commonly known payment methods online, there are still some countries where it doesn’t rank as number one. Let’s take Germany as an example, where customers are reluctant to use credit cards and may prefer paying with SEPA direct debit.

So what this means is you may be leaving a lot of money on the table through lost revenue by not offering your customers their preferred payment methods.

3. Regulations

Another thing to consider are the country’s regulations regarding online transactions. For instance, Europe has special laws for different product categories and especially for the distribution of digital products in the EU.

Before 2015, VAT was charged at the rate of the vendor’s home country for digital products, which made things relatively easy for online business as they only had to worry about one tax rate.

However since the introduction of the new EU VAT rules in January 2015, VAT has to be charged at the rate of the buyer’s country, which in theory could mean online businesses are faced with up to 28 different tax rates when selling in the EU. The easiest way to deal with it is to automate your invoicing through a third party provider.

Even shipping across borders comes with added bureaucracy. With non-EU deliveries naturally incurring custom costs for imported goods, it’s important to know how much it will cost you to import into foreign markets. You’ll also want to communicate these charges transparently to your customers to avoid any unnecessary chargebacks.

Conclusion

As with any good go-to market strategy, good planning before the execution phase is crucial to ensuring your international expansion is a success.

You’ll want to find out what the market size is, what opportunities exists, who your local competitors are and define your customers’ needs in the target market. Another way to gain more knowledge of the market you’re targeting is to enlist the help of a partner who’s an expert on doing business in the country. Doing so could help gain a greater foothold when expanding to new markets.

About PAYMILL:

Paymill’s developer friendly REST API lets merchants accept online payments directly in your website and mobile application while benefiting from multiple payment methods. Available across Europe, online businesses are able to accept online payments globally, enabling them to scale internationally from the get-go. The API gives full control of the checkout and can be used as a payment gateway. Thus you can deliver a user experience optimized for higher conversions. And with heavy-duty security measures already built-in – you can rest easy knowing your data secured.

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