Skip to content
3 min read

How to make your online store international in 5 simple steps

Reach international customers with the same success

Your online store is already a winner with customers in your own country, but how do you reach international customers with the same success? Follow this simple guide to becoming the next Amazon!

Once you’ve built a successful online store catering to customers in your local country, a natural next step is to open your business to international customers. Doing so opens up new revenue possibilities and new customer segments that might have previously been unavailable to you.
Preparing your store for international sales can be a daunting task and not one that should be undertaken lightly. That said, if Jeff Bezos could transform an online bookshop into the global e-commerce powerhouse that Amazon is today, what’s to stop you from conquering new markets too?
All you need is a push in the right direction - or, more specifically, five pushes! Here are our five top tips for preparing your store for world domination.

1. How to Make Your Online Store International

Don’t skimp on localization and language translations

One of the most important aspects of opening your online store to international markets is to ensure you get the localization and language translation elements done right.
Crucially, if your existing online store is presented in a language other than English, then a quality English-language version should be your first port of call, assuming Western Europe is a market you wish to target. Naturally, an English-language online store gives you access to customers from the UK and USA markets, but it also gives you a window into other Western and Northern European regions where English is spoken well, such as the Nordic countries. However, to truly engage with customers in other countries, we strongly advise creating dedicated local-language versions. We cannot stress strongly enough that translation is an area that you must not skimp on. Presenting your business in a new market with a sub-par translation can make your online store look cheap and unprofessional. At worst, customers may assume it is a scam website. Earning the trust of your customers is key to generating sales, so a poorly translated online store will simply cost you money in the long run. Pricing is another area that needs careful consideration. If you are selling within the European Union then remember to display your prices in Euros. At the same time, be aware that some markets in Europe still deal in their own currencies, for example, the Nordic countries and Poland. Displaying prices in the correct currency for each of your specific markets boosts your credibility, increasing customer trust and therefore sales.

2. How to Make Your Online Store International

Be conscious of cultural and legal differences

Producing a localized version of your online store means more than simply translating the words from one language to another. There are also cultural differences to consider, as well as differences in how language is used. These can be significant, even between countries that you might assume to be very similar, such as The Netherlands and Belgium, or Denmark and Sweden.
Being conscious of these differences and incorporating them into your localized versions will help your store appear more authentic and trustworthy. For example, this could mean customizing the tone of voice used in your content, by working with local language experts that understand the nuances of each region. Another great opportunity is to capitalize on local holidays and celebrations and build events to cater to them.
Also, ensure that you work within the local laws of the countries you are planning to sell to. It’s not quite as simple as considering “Europe” or “Latin America” as single markets, because the tax laws and import rules may not be the same. A great recent example is the UK leaving the EU single market. In the same way that we recommend working with in-country experts to ensure your localization aspects are covered, working with local e-commerce partners can ensure you avoid pitfalls that can quickly escalate and become costly mistakes.

3. How to Make Your Online Store International

Allow customers to pay using their preferred methods

Providing the correct payment options is another crucial factor in ensuring success when expanding into new, international markets. This means more than simply providing the option to pay by VISA or Mastercard. Offering the payment methods that are most popular in each locality can dramatically increase your chances of converting a potential customer into a sale.
For example, the German market has a strong preference for paying using Debit Cards, which means that if you want to succeed in the EU’s biggest market, you must support this payment method. Similarly, if you want to convert visitors to your Danish site into customers, enabling payments using Dankort is a must.
Supporting emerging e-payment solutions, such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Paypal is also important, but even here there are local variances to consider. For example, there is Mobile Pay in the Nordics, bizum in Spain, iDeal in the Netherlands, and Klarna in Sweden.
Depending on which countries are your focus, it’s worth ensuring these popular payment methods are supported. If you’re unsure, then we again recommend working with local experts to ensure your online store is aligned with customer expectations.

4. How to Make Your Online Store International

Make sure you’re able to fulfill your international orders

Building an online store that caters to an international or worldwide customer base is only one piece of the puzzle. To succeed, you must also be able to fulfill these new orders and provide effective customer services in multiple languages.
For example, you might already offer a brilliant delivery service in your home market, but your shipping service provider may be unable to support your plans for world domination. And while logistics providers such as UPS, GLS and DHL are already international, they might not be the preferred option in all markets. Again, doing the research and working with local experts in your focus regions is crucial. This due diligence also applies to returns policies and customer support. How will you manage an angry Hungarian with a technical question or a customer in Tennessee who needs to return a product? As mentioned earlier, you must also understand local customs and tax rules, especially for EU businesses shipping outside of the European Union.

5. How to Make Your Online Store International

Ensure your e-commerce platform is up to the task

Some of the challenges we’ve mentioned can be handled by building your online store using a quality e-commerce platform that’s geared toward international markets.
For example, in the case of local tax rules, the best e-commerce platforms offer help automatically through partnerships such as Avalara AvaTax in the US.
Similarly, providing localized content and supporting the key payment methods also becomes easier when using a platform that is already geared up for handling these challenges. However, when it comes to selecting a platform, be aware that many of the popular e-commerce solutions on the market are developed in the US, and cater primarily to the US market. As such, many US-developed solutions don’t effectively support smaller markets, and may not be your best choice.
Consider where your markets and opportunities are, and look for an e-commerce solution that matches your ambitions, and that can grow with you as you embark on your international journey.

Don’t be afraid to take the plunge

Be ambitious – go international!

Opening your online store to international customers may appear daunting at first, but with proper preparation and a solid e-commerce foundation, there’s no reason why you can’t go global. Remember that you don’t need to tackle every market at once – starting with one or two new markets is a great way to test the water, and hone your skills.
Opening your online store to international customers may appear daunting at first, but with proper preparation and a solid e-commerce foundation, there’s no reason why you can’t go global. Remember that you don’t need to tackle every market at once – starting with one or two new markets is a great way to test the water, and hone your skills.

Above all, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. After all, you could be the next Jeff Bezos!