How to choose the right platform for international eCommerce

When it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform, there are several basic features you should always look for; this includes user friendly-architecture, robust support, well documented API’s, a substantial range of apps/modules you can integrate (first and third party) and options to scale natively.

Related: How to create a eCommerce website (online store)

As your business starts growing, and you begin to look at building a more global customer base (beyond your domestic market) the basic list of things to look for goes beyond the list above, there with this in mind there are several more basic features you should look for when choosing international eCommerce solutions.

Language functionality

The globe is a culturally vast place with over 4500 languages spoken regularly within population groups of decent size (1000+ speakers). You cannot possibly hope to provide your eCommerce store in 4,5000 different languages, but you should aim to provide translation for 99% of the worlds most popular languages (based on a users IP location) to maximise international sales (by making sure your prospective customers/ customers understand your offering, website and communications in their native language).

If your provider doesn’t automatically provide this level of language functionality on the platform or if you have a self-hosted CMS lacking this functionality, i.e. Magento, WordPress,…You should make sure you can integrate your platform with third-party translation API’s (like Google) by default to provide this level of translation seamesllely.

In addition, when dealing with communications outside your platform, you should also look to adapt your marketing automation software or mailing provider so that transactional and marketing communications are in native languages for customers, i.e. purchases, signup, cart abandonment (this will generate a significant boost in conversion).

Different currencies

Having customers paying from many different countries across the world means you’ll need to be able to change currencies instantly on the site depending on the origin of the users IP address.

You’ll also need to make sure that your payment provider can facilitate international transactions in the desired currencies and that your payment solution integrates with your chosen eCommerce solution (integration between the two is often overlooked and can lead to compromises, later on, its far better to have solutions that work together out of the box).

Tax by country/region

Depending on where your company is based and how/where you process business and sales taxes will change how important this feature is to your business. However, generally speaking you’ll need to pay a local sales tax within the region where a customer who has purchased a product from you resides (and has paid from). In Europe, this is generally in the form of Value added tax which varies in amount from country to country.

When considering tax and eCommerce, you need to make sure your platform can adapt to different tax amounts based on the country where the customer resides (if it can do this automatically even better). Given the advent of VPN’s you should provide an option for the customer to manually select their region, so the correct sales tax is available for them.

Customer service and on-site sales

Many full-service eCommerce platforms and solutions now come with built-in customer service and on-site sales assistants who can be contacted via a message box on your store (this is usually available as an addition to any base subscription).

This is one of those features that is becoming an absolute essential in eCommerce as it shows a strong correlation with an increase in conversion and a decrease in cart abandonment.

However, when it comes to international eCommerce your prospective customers/customers will often speak different languages, if customer service or on-site sales can only be in English your scope to use this feature will be limited on foreign audiences who don’t speak English. Its often overlooked but the ability to talk to customers and prospects ion their native languages can make a significant difference to sales and in reducing customer service complaint, refunds and even fraud.

Related: 5 ways to make your eCommerce customers happier

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