Going global – how can businesses take ecommerce across borders – Mark Kirby, CEO of CartAssist

American Eagle is the latest U.S. retail giant to launch an ecommerce presence in the UK. Making the decision to take these steps across the pond makes complete business sense for U.S. retailers as the UK is ahead of the U.S. for online purchases, with the average Brit expected to spend £1,174 this year online compared to £1,120 in the U.S.

Despite the shared love of shopping online, there are distinct differences between U.S., UK and even European consumers.  Due to cultural and geographical variances, research has found that 35 per cent of online shoppers in the UK buy online and collect from store, compared with just 13 per cent in the U.S. To ensure there is a linked-up, globalised approach to conversion goals – not just from U.S. to UK – the changes in user experience and customer journey needs to be considered.

Building trust in the brand

To be a successful foreign online retailer, gaining the trust of new customers is crucial in driving brand awareness and keeping customers coming back for more to build brand retention and loyalty. Particularly for fashion and clothing brands, having a physical presence in major urban locations gives customers the opportunity to touch and try products to build confidence in an unfamiliar brand. The problem is not all U.S retailers can afford to roll out physical stores overseas before knowing if they will be successful. It therefore falls upon ecommerce to be on-point and match the range of online retail services that the UK has to offer.

However, there are many pitfalls American retailers can face when launching localised ecommerce websites abroad, from technical considerations to cultural differences. Often retailers are quick to invest time and money in the website design, look and SEO of the website that they tend to lose sight of the end customer. The UX, design, language and photography could be outstanding, but if the online journey does not address the needs of the shopper how can brands expect the launch to be a success?

Simplifying the customer experience

Coming over from the U.S., building positive relationships with new customers on foreign shores can be challenging. If shoppers are unable to find the information they need when they need it, retailers tend to find that the user journey is interrupted, inevitably leading to basket abandonment. While pieces of information, such as a local customer helpline number or the location of a physical retail outlet, might seem small in the grand scheme of things it could be the key to keeping the customer on-site; instilling confidence in the customer to return.

Today, shoppers want more on-demand and convenient services. If we consider how quickly customer queries are resolved in-store by retail staff, this customer experience needs be translated online. Purchasing an item of clothing online should be as easy and practical as if you were buying from your local store. However, trying to locate the answer to a simple garment sizing question can be complex, requiring the shopper to search though small print, find the separate FAQ section and drill through static questions to find out the answer is nowhere to be found. By this point the window of opportunity is narrowed. Considering the high number of returns retailers receive due to sizing difficulties, it is particularly important that foreign retailers ensure new customers can easily locate information at the point-of-purchase. What is more, fitting guides need to be adapted for localised ecommerce to suit the cultural needs of the new consumer market.

To remove any fears from the transaction process, retailers should also be transparent with their returns policies, clearly explaining what customers can do if something goes wrong. With the UK setting the bar high for customer service with advanced and convenient delivery, returns and click and collect services, American retailers need to ensure UK retail standards are met in order to appeal to the typical British shopper. This is especially important now, following the UK’s enforcement of new consumer protection measure measures, including longer refund rights, under the Consumer Rights Act.

Localising the website design

Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw, once said: “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” Underestimating the cultural differences between the two locations can be hugely problematic. With Brits known to be more cynical as buyers it is important that U.S. retailers consider the type of language, tone of voice and style deployed on the localised website to attract a British audience. For example, whilst American websites tend to use dark colour palettes, UK websites usually adopt clean colours and fonts as its audience are attracted to a little more brightness.

Ultimately, for retailers moving to new shores, trust and convenience are the two key areas that should be kept front of mind in localising ecommerce. The site needs to feel local and personal to appeal to new customers. It’s about taking the time to identify and understand the economy of the shopper to ensure your ecommerce offering meets the demands of the UK customer.

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