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6 Unique Challenges for International Ecommerce


For our latest blog, we wanted to give you some tips on how to handle online ecommerce, specifically when it comes to building a site for international or global retail.

Here are some of the main areas to consider:

  1. Keep the project on track

When starting a project, the client’s expectations form the basis of the scope. The scope is what we’re aiming to achieve with the time and resources we have. But beware of scope creep. Clients will have new ideas and targets, and that’s fine, but sometimes have to make it clear that what a client wants may not exactly be what they need. A difficult conversation, but one that needs to take place.

  1. Speak a lot of different languages

With a multinational audience, the nuances of website copy can be lost in translation. Typically you’ll build the site in the language the supplier or customers speak. Google Translate is an option for the rest. But keep the copy as accessible as possible. You could, for example, Americanise the English on the American version. This is also beneficial for SEO, since you’ll have more unique pages.

  1. Deal in the currency market

When will you update exchange rates and how frequently? You want to make sure the exchange is as accurate as possible. What you don’t want is someone adding an item to their basket, only to return to it later to find that it’s gone up in price.

We’d suggest a once a day exchange rate and a rule that once an item is added to the basket, that’s the price, end of. To cater for big (and very rare) swings in exchange, you might want to apply a small uplift to the ER to cover you for shifts up and down.

  1. What even is VAT?

VAT is going to be a problem because only the UK and Europe have VAT. No-one else does.

Normally VAT wouldn’t apply to where the item is purchased, but where it is shipped to. So only show the VAT if the item’s going to the UK or Europe we would suggest showing the VAT. If not – don’t, you may want to give these visitors the option to see the price with and without VAT.

Our website applies VAT based on the shipping destination. At present, our client is trading out of the UK. Therefore, VAT applies to customers in the UK and the European Union. This could be subject to change following Brexit. Meanwhile, international customers can choose to view the price of products with VAT added.

  1. They bought it – now you’ve got to get it to them

Did you know 28% of abandoned shopping carts are due to unexpected shipping costs? Therefore it’s very important to get the costs right. This is calculated with the weight of the product, and the shipping destination. That means the product feed needs to have the weight of the item. In cases where it’s too light, set it to zero.

Then it’s a matter of, at the basket, working out the total weight of all the items, the destination and then what shipping options are available. Remember that you cannot by law, ship to some countries.

  1. Stock outs are not an option

Customers expect total accuracy when it comes to availability, so your stock needs to be updated in real time. Just one out of stock item can cause a shopper to abandon a huge basket. So make sure you offer alternatives and do not show out of stock items as available.

So in summary:

  • Keep it tight
  • Be multilingual
  • Become a currency trader
  • Understand VAT (sorry)
  • Never fail to deliver
  • Keep your stock up to date

Hopefully you’ve got a better idea of exactly what it takes to build a multinational ecommerce site. To find out more visit GML Web.