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The Green Sheet Online Edition

April 26, 2010 • Issue 10:04:02

Building a global Web site

By Caroline Hometh

A key component to going global is establishing an effective Web site. Savvy merchants who recognize they have customers from different areas of the world have made their Web sites more user friendly as opposed to merchants who only sell in U.S. dollars and only offer sites in English.

The first step in globalizing your Web site is finding out where your customers are coming from. For example, the use of Internet protocol geo-location technology recognizes where your sales are originating, as well as what currency those buyers probably want to shop in. Once you've made this important determination, the next step is to implement effective globalization marketing tools to appeal to those customers.

Global marketing tools

One such tool is country-specific selection. This tool offers customers the ability to choose what country is appropriate for their buying needs in the form of a map graphic, a country flag or simply a list of countries they can click on. Once the consumer has made a selection, Web site colors, graphics and language are all modified, depending on the customer's country of origin.

Another valuable global marketing tool is a drop-down box for currency choice. Many merchants want a singular brand and don't wish to change all their graphics. They recognize they may have customers in France, for example, who prefer to shop in euros, so they offer a drop down box that provides a list of different currencies for easy purchases.

Having the appropriate language is equally important to a successful global Web site. According to recent statistics, only about one-third of European consumers are willing to buy online in a language other than their own.

Web sites can be set up with automatic language default capabilities, giving customers the ability to opt out, meaning they can choose which language they want to shop in. Some countries, such as Canada, possess two standard languages, English and French. So it is always better to give your customers the choice.

Product differentiators

In addition to offering country-specific tools, consider competitive factors for effective branding. When successfully hosting a global Web site, you must clearly establish differentiators. Researching your products to determine how well they will be received in various countries is critical to successful international sales.

For example, a merchant may have a jacket that sells well in Norway, but since it is easily available in Great Britain, the merchant won't enjoy a high level of sales in that country. You need to know your international competition. You need to ascertain the value of your products to customers in certain regions by researching availability versus unavailability, price point, shipping costs et cetera.

As with every other aspect of selling, do your due diligence. Check consumer behavior patterns and compare them to your products. Do you offer relevance to the country of the consumer?

Marketing and branding

Universal to all online transactions are consumer buying concerns. How do you alleviate those concerns when it comes to your global Web site? The answer lies in effective marketing and branding. For instance, there may be a lack of trust in you as the supplier because you are unknown in a certain region. The solution: establish your brand through blogs, consumer review sites, press coverage and advertising. Get your name out there.

Other consumer concerns involve more complex processes such as timely delivery, transportation costs, taxes and surcharges. Problems with guarantees, maintenance and after-sales service, as well as return and refund issues, can negate a positive customer experience.

Even compliance with local technical and environmental standards can jeopardize your global Web site offering. You must have a solid infrastructure. If not, offering the most advanced globalization technologies won't mean a thing if you can't deliver basic customer service. end of article

Carrie (Bardeen) Hometh is a respected industry professional in the international marketplace with over two decades of global experience and expertise. She currently serves as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Payvision, a leading international payment solutions provider that offers a comprehensive suite of products and services that include global acquiring, multicurrency processing and alternative payment solutions. She can be contacted at c.hometh@payvision.com.

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