The Internet has unlocked a wide array of markets and knocked down barriers that previously prevented merchants from marketing their products on a global scale. There are a number of ways to 'globalize' a website and broaden a businesses general appeal to an international audience.
1.) Payment Options - vary from country to country, therefore offering flexible payment options are important. While PayPal might be a good option for consumer-oriented products, this service is not widely used by businesses and is only available to customers in specific countries. In order to attract global customers, businesses must provide a variety of payment options that customers, in different countries, are familiar and comfortable with.
2.) Currency Distinction - provides added convenience to a potential customer, and shows an understanding and respect for global audiences. A currency converter is a good option, especially for large companies who may be dealing with many countries. When listing prices clearly indicate the country currency, such as between US dollars and Canadian dollars. This distinction will prevent misconceptions and prevent customer dissatisfaction.
3.) Contact Information - should be given for a country code, along with the area code, when listing phone numbers. It should not be assumed that customers know the numbers to dial foreign calls. Since the standards of address formats can differ from country to country, ensure that the mailing address listed on the website is properly formatted. In this time of rapidly expanding use of numbers, if your area code changes, don't forget to change the information on your website.
4.) Delivery Options - should make sense for all customers. Ensure that they have full knowledge of shipping information to avoid delay and error. If a shipping option is not available for a specific region be sure that is clearly stated on the website. Provide estimates as to when the product will arrive to various regions, so that customers have appropriate expectations about delivery time frames.
5.) Order Forms - when creating order forms use terminology that is universal; if possible, where relevant, refer to postal codes rather than zip codes. The terminology on the order form should support the fact that the company sells to an international audience.
6.) Payment Policy - clearly state payment policies on any order pages, if purchase orders or wire transfers are not accepted from specific countries be sure that the policy is clearly stated. Prepare an explanation as to why the policies are in place. Customers understand that foreign purchase orders are not legally binding and will not feel alienated if an explanation is offered and clearly stated.
7.) Spelling - can vary, so avoid using terminology on the website that would cause confusion or look like careless spelling mistakes. Be clear and concise as many customers may be viewing your website in their second language. A website that can be viewed in different languages is all the better for communicating with foreign customers.
Ultimately the goal is to make purchasing the product or service easy for a customer. A website that respects cultural differences, as well as the nuances of language and terminology, will go a long way in attracting an international audience.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePage, Inc. http://www.notepage.net a company specializing in alphanumeric paging, SMS and wireless messaging software solutions. Other sites by Sharon can be found at http://www.softwaremarketingresource.com , and http://www.small-business-software.net