International Ecommerce: How to Prepare Your Store for International Sales
International ecommerce is expanding.
Cross-border online sales represented 15% of total online sales in 2016, and this figure is expected to grow to 22% of total online sales by 2022.
For context, consider that retail ecommerce sales reached $3.535 billion in 2019. Some quick math shows that 15% to 22% of ecommerce sales works out to hundreds of millions of dollars. In other words, there’s a lot of opportunity for your store to make more revenue with cross-border online sales.
Also, it should be pointed out that international ecommerce isn’t just growing — it’s already quite popular. A recent survey found that 57% of global consumers (and 45.5% of American consumers) have made a cross-border order in the last six months.
In this guide, we’ll go over your best options for translation apps, currency conversion apps and international shipping services to help you prepare for cross-border sales.
Best Translation Apps
It should be no surprise that translation is an incredibly important aspect of international ecommerce. If someone can’t read the language on your site, it’s going to be difficult for them to purchase one of your products.
Thankfully, there are many options available for translating your site into different languages, such as:
Weglot gives you everything you need to manage translations. It can translate the content on your site into over 100 different languages, and you can go in and manually make edits to the translations wherever you see fit. When a foreign visitor lands on your site, the content will automatically be translated into their native language based on their browser settings.
This app is available on Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento and many other popular ecommerce platforms (you can also add it to your site even if you’re not using a CMS). Also, Weglot integrates with other popular apps, including Sufio, Klaviyo and Shogun.
The cost of Weglot depends on the amount of content that you want to translate and how many languages you want your content to be translated into. Prices range from €9.90 per month for one translated language and 10,000 words of content to €199 per month for 10 translated languages and 1,000,000 words of content (for more than 10 languages or 1,000,000 words, you’ll need to contact Weglot for a custom quote). Also, you can try Weglot out for free with one translated language and 2,000 words of content.
If the cost of Weglot is too much for your budget, you should consider GTranslate. There’s a free version of this app that doesn’t have a word count limit.
Of course, the old adage “you get what you pay for” somewhat applies here. The free version of GTranslate works by using Google Translate machine translation, which is known to produce context and grammatical errors. Another downside is you can’t edit translations with the free version. But still, it’s much better than nothing.
There are also paid versions of GTranslate that offer more accurate translations and additional features, such as the ability to edit translations, search engine indexing and URL translation.
Best Currency Conversion Apps
In addition to translating the language on your site, you’ll need to address currency conversions in order to maximize cross-border sales.
Here are some solid currency conversion apps:
Bold Multi-Currency, which is available on both Shopify and BigCommerce (there’s also an API you can use to integrate it with other platforms), allows you to display your prices in over 150 different currencies. It has a currency padding feature that ensures you don’t lose any money due to exchange rates, and you can customize the look of the app so that it matches your established brand.
Cost isn’t a concern, either — Bold Multi-Currency is completely free.
Auto Currency Switcher
With over 3,000 reviews and an average rating of 4.8/5, Auto Currency Converter is one of the most well-received apps on the Shopify marketplace.
The free version of Auto Currency Converter offers over 200 currency options, a currency selector dropdown menu and user experience customization. For $9.95 per month, you can take advantage of the extra features that come with the premium version of this app, including IP-based country detection, country flag icons and converted price rounding for a cleaner display.
Best International Fulfillment Services
Once a foreign buyer places an order on your site, you’ll then need to ship it to them.
This process is more complicated than it is for domestic sales, as you must deal with import/export regulations, customs, duties, etc.
In fact, it can be so complicated that you might want to just have someone else deal with it for you. There are many order fulfillment services that have extensive experience with international sales, and they can take care of everything that’s involved with shipping your products to foreign buyers. That way, you’ll have more time and energy to dedicate to other tasks.
Fulfillment by Amazon
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a popular order fulfillment option for companies that list products on Amazon, as it automatically makes those products Prime-eligible. That means Prime members (and there are over 100 million Amazon Prime members in the U.S. alone) can order your items with free two-day shipping, and this often leads to a huge increase in sales.
Another reason to use FBA is that its sprawling infrastructure of over 175 fulfillment centers, 150 million square feet of warehouse space and 250,000 full-time fulfillment workers makes it easier for the service to accommodate cross-border sales. Amazon allows you to export products to over 100 countries, and it will handle import duty and customs clearance and manage shipping your product to the customer’s location.
Note that some items, such as weapons, plant products and certain animal products generally cannot be exported. Amazon has additional restrictions on exporting other products, including items that are particularly large or heavy and items with lithium ion batteries. But Amazon will help you identify which of your products are eligible for export, so you’ll know quickly if there’s an issue.
On Amazon, the buyer is responsible for paying customs duties. FBA users are not charged any extra fees for international orders. Also, FBA users can exclude products from being available for international sales, and they can exclude specific countries from being able to buy their products as well.
For cross-border sales that are made through your site instead of a third-party platform like Amazon, Shipwire is an excellent option for fulfillment. In addition to its facilities in the United States, Shipwire has warehouses in over 40 other countries to help your international shipments go smoothly.
Shipwire allows you to choose whether you want to use the delivery duty paid (DDP) method and take on the cost of duties yourself or pass that cost on to the customer. The company also has tools for processing international shipping documentation and identifying the best international carriers and ship-from locations for your bottom line.
Once you have your translation app, currency conversion app and international fulfillment solution in place, you’ll be able to increase the amount of purchases made by foreign buyers and reap the rewards of cross-border ecommerce.
Adam Ritchie is a writer based in Silver Spring, Maryland. He writes about ecommerce trends and best practices for Shogun. His previous clients include Groupon, Clutch and New Theory.