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7 Ways To Improve International E-Commerce Usability

by Justin Palmer - April 7th, 2008

The following guest post comes courtesy of Linda Bustos from the Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog. After reading the post, be sure to stop by the blog. It’s a great resource for anything pertaining to Ecommerce, usability, or social media.

When you run an ecommerce website, you have the potential to sell products to people around the world — even from your own basement. But many online retailers expect to make international sales without doing all they should to help convert international shoppers. Here are a few ideas to help make the online shopping experience smooth for your international customers.

1. Have an International Shipping page

Sure, you could have it buried in an FAQ section, Help area or some other hard-to-find place — but why not make it easy for users to find International Shipping policies by making it its own link visible from every page on the site?

The footer menu is a common location for shipping information, as is the top right hand corner of your page. Conventions like this have conditioned online shoppers to check these areas for shipping information. If it’s not there, customers might just assume it’s not available. Placing this information in one of the two areas the customer is likely to look is a good idea. Placing it in both areas is even better.

Avoid hiding International Shipping information in the “Help” section. People can’t find it easily by scanning the page they are on, and some associate the word “Help” with technical assistance, not customer service.

2. Include Important Information on Shipping Page

Whenever possible, clearly state your:

- Return policies
- Telephone customer service hours of operation (and time zones)
- Estimated shipping times
- Order tracking availability

A list of all countries you ship to is also recommended. Remind customers that they may have to pay additional duties and taxes depending on where they live.

3. Make Your Shipping Policy Searchable

Make sure your international shipping page can be found using your site’s internal search engine. It’s a good idea to program your search engine to deliver this page for searches for “international,” “intl,” “international orders” and “international customers” too.

4. Show International Shipping Availability on Product Pages

You may carry some products that you can’t ship abroad even if you can ship most products. For example, certain health supplements are legal in some countries and illegal in others. It’s a courtesy to mention this before the customer gets to the checkout.

5. Convert Currencies, Weights and Measures on the Product Page

Most of us can’t convert centimeters to inches in our heads (clothing size charts, for example) or kilograms to pounds, let alone currencies that fluctuate daily. Providing conversion tools can increase conversions!

6. Estimate Shipping Costs on Your Product Pages

E-Commerce usability rockstars offer shipping cost tools right on product pages, which not only helps international customers but also locals. FedEx, UPS and USPS all provide API access for your web developer to make this happen. Offering the tool at the product page level also will reduce your rate of abandoned carts.

7. Send a Post-Sale Email

If you can segment your customer database by location, you can send targeted follow up emails to your international customers. For example, as the Canadian dollar rises more Canadians will shop online at US stores. Motivate your Canadian customers to visit you again by offering free shipping, discounts or other offers. Or, send an email from time to time asking how you can improve the shopping experience for international users. Even if they don’t respond, you send a powerful message that your business cares about foreign shoppers.

Of course, your own usability testing with international customers is the best way to learn about how your own site can be improved. There are even consultancies that offer international usability testing services. But these seven tips will give you a head start.

About the guest blogger:

Linda Bustos is an Emerging Media Analyst for Elastic Path ecommerce software. Linda writes daily about ecommerce marketing on the Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog.

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One Response to “7 Ways To Improve International E-Commerce Usability” by Justin Palmer

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