Multi-Region eCommerce: Tips for Optimizing Your eCommerce Site When Expanding Overseas

Expanding your ecommerce store to overseas markets has its obvious advantages: you’ll reach a broader customer base, increase sales and revenue, and boost brand awareness across markets. However, cross-border ecommerce has its pitfalls. In this article, we’ll look at a few common challenges of multi-regional commerce and explain how to tackle them or avoid them altogether.

Difference between Multi-Regional and Multilingual Sites

Although the terms multi-regional and multilingual are often used interchangeably, they mean different things.

A multi-regional site targets users in specific countries. For example, a seller that ships to Northern Ireland and England might have slightly different website versions depending on a searcher’s location.

A multilingual website, on the other hand, offers content in more than one language. For example, a UK business might have a separate page in Welsh that targets customers from Wales.

It’s possible for a single website to be both multi-regional and multilingual. One example of such a website is Amazon, which has unique URLs for different countries, while also offering translations into multiple languages to best meet buyer needs.

Cross-Border eCommerce Management Tips

Expanding to new regions is only effective if you understand the needs and wants of your target market. Therefore, before expansion, research the potential market carefully and optimize your website according to the expectations of your regional customers.

Below, we’ll go over things you need to optimize or modify in order to prepare your business for multi-regional commerce.

Website address: separate domains for each country

Obviously, you’ll have the main website address printed on your business cards, promotional materials, and elsewhere. But when users click and go to your primary site, they should be redirected to a more relevant domain through basic IP/geolocation detection that routes traffic to the correct version based on a user’s location. This is the best long-term strategy as it’s far easier and more manageable to have separate stores for each country. Having unique domains will give you greater control over regional websites as well as offer other benefits:

  • Each store can have products, prices, shipping rates, and taxes that are specific to that region.
  • Having a country-level domain for each store with content specifically tailored to that region is much better for search rankings than using a single domain, subdomains, or subfolders.
  • Such a setup gives you more flexibility regarding future growth and development: you can test different product lines in different markets, scale for expansion, or even downsize and get rid of a specific domain with no impact on your current operations.

User registration

Entering into the world of multi-regional commerce means accommodating different forms of logins, such as desktop, mobile, or SMS. If your website supports login through SMS, keep in mind that messaging costs vary in different locations. If enabling this feature becomes cost-prohibitive, see if you can use cheaper services or relocate an authentication provider to cover multiple countries.

Database storage

Some countries have certain rules related to personal data storage. Such requirements might lead to legal issues if users’ personal data is stored outside the country. To avoid legal ramifications, research local legislation and take appropriate steps to protect your business and your users’ data. There are solutions that can be taken to resolve this issue, such as splitting a database between different shards or implementing a decentralized database.

Traffic

Your content, including images and scripts, may be located within your local hosting provider. People from other countries, however, might have networking problems like slow performance while fetching data. Therefore, to ensure a good customer experience, think about CDNs and replicated data storage, so that all users enjoy good performance at optimal speed. However, growth of the infrastructure leads to an increase in money spent on maintenance. Think about decentralized datastores and distributed CDNs if you are going to grow your business overseas.

Products

Different countries have different requirements regarding product assortment, so you might not be able to sell some of your products in certain overseas markets. Other countries, while allowing the sale of particular goods, can impose other limitations concerning their distribution, which might affect shipping costs or available payment options. Therefore, you’ll need to adjust your product catalogs to fit within legislative and other regional parameters.

Another problem is logistics, as your suppliers might not dropship into the destination country you serve. To avoid potential supply chain bottlenecks, companies typically build several geographically diverse warehouses across regions to ensure there won’t be problems with delivery.

Pricing, currencies and taxes

Different regions have their own price sensitivities, which means you can’t use the same prices across distinct markets. For example, a product selling for 50 pounds in the UK might not have the same appeal in emerging markets for multiple reasons, such as local competition or buyers’ inability to pay. Since local providers might offer more competitive prices, it makes sense to research the competition first and tailor your price lists accordingly.

Moreover, different countries have different currencies, and one country might have several circulating currencies. This has a myriad of implications. First, it is visual pricing, a phenomenon in which the price psychologically affects buyer behavior. A second consideration is currency conversion rates, which might lead to a product having a lower competitive cost in one currency. For example, you may price your product in the U.S. at $100. So if you strictly convert it to Canadian dollars, the amount should be 130 CAD. However, if you price it at 125 CAD, you might have better conversions. Having pricing in local currency makes it easier for customers to compare prices across different resellers and avoid unexpected currency conversion fees from their financial institutions.

Finally, there’s taxation, which can significantly affect your product’s final price. In some countries, you may need to display prices inclusive of tax, while in others you don’t. Some countries may have both federal and state taxes. All of those things should be reflected in the checkout process to ensure that the right tax calculation is applied according to the region (or user’s billing address).

Making Sense of Dynamic Pricing in B2B eCommerce

Stock management

Multiple regions and warehouses demand more granular stock management. If a given quantity of items is not available in a specific region, find a mechanism that solves the problem — ship from another warehouse in an adjacent region, reject an order, or come up with another solution. In any case, having the right stock count on the storefront is critical to ensuring orders can be fulfilled in a timely manner, so it’s important to provide real-time inventory information to your customers.

Shipping

Since shipping costs significantly affect your bottom line, it’s important to optimize those costs as much as possible. To do this, your ecommerce platform needs to control shipping costs and show relevant shipping information based on a user’s location (such as lower shipping costs for local customers and higher ones for overseas buyers).

Also, shipping fees may or may not be included in a product’s price, which also should be accounted for by your ecommerce solution.

Since buyers prefer having a choice, enabling different shipping provider options will increase their trust in your store. So research the local market for various providers, shipping costs, and delivery times, and diversify by partnering with more than one logistics and fulfillment provider if possible.

Website content

Different regions have vastly different preferences regarding content. Therefore, to maximize conversions, you need to reflect the content preferences of a specific region. This affects how you display different types of information, including contact details, addresses, and so on.

Not only that, but you will be required to provide any necessary legal documents with content relative to the specific market and governing authorities.

Also, for SEO purposes, your website content should target a particular country. This is because users from Canada aren’t interested in the USA-related content and vice versa. If you have multiple domains/subdomains, check what content is published where, because if the same article is published on multiple domains, search engines might assign penalties, index this content with low priority, or drop it from the search index entirely.

Localization

Localization is a huge part of any multi-regional transformation. It refers to the process of adapting your website's content translation to a specific region. Obviously, individual regions speak distinct native languages, and there are often multiple languages people speak within just one country.

Moreover, some languages have words that are significantly longer than English words, which might affect how such content is displayed on users’ devices. For example, a German translation can totally mess up the UI of your neat English website since some words might not fit in the given design.

Also, some languages have right-to-left fonts, such as Arabic or Hebrew, which also affects the website design and content representation.

Then there are dates and numbers to take care of, as different regions have different date and time formats. In the U.S., for example, the preferred format is "mm/dd/yyyy", while in Europe, it’s "dd.mm.yyyy". Also, different number formatting (1000 versus 1,000) can help customers navigate the site and simply enrich their experience. So it’s important to account for all those complexities when localizing your content for a specific market.

Trust

Trust is perhaps one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, and also an aggregate parameter that encompasses all of the above. If users trust your site, they will buy from you and tell their friends to buy from you, which leads to an increase in sales and average order value.

Going multi-regional is not simple, so it’s important to investigate the details first, research the market and competition, and even hire additional professionals, if needed, who can help you evaluate the pros and cons before delving into unfamiliar territory on your own.

Virto Commerce eCommerce Platform

The Virto Commerce architecture allows companies to expand their regional presence quickly and inexpensively. The platform supports stores in different regions, multiple languages, and a myriad of currencies while maintaining a single ecosystem of applications with one procedure for order processing and customer service.

A huge advantage of Virto Commerce architecture is its ability to scale and extend to different regions without the need for multiple platforms, which is an enormous advantage for both IT infrastructure and labor. You can manage the core platform with the same IT team while employing additional regional personnel to support local customers. With other platforms, you need to duplicate the platform and resources for each region, which is costly and time-consuming. Virto Commerce avoids this cost duplication from the outset.

Below are some of the modules in Virto Commerce that help support multi-regional transition.

  • Catalog Modules

    The Virto Commerce back end has a set of native or extended modules, including a catalog module to support master catalogs. These replace the physical catalogs that store master data of product items. Master catalogs can be assigned to just one or multiple regions. In situations where the master catalog structure and its contents don’t meet the region’s requirements, the Virto Commerce catalog module supports a virtual catalog model. Virtual catalogs can be created for each specific region and contain subsets of items from the master catalog.

  • Pricelist Modules

    The pricelist module is responsible for managing specific webstores, regions, catalogs, customer groups, and customer prices. In addition, the pricelist module supports multi-currency options as well. This way, it’s possible to upload and manage pricelists in several currencies for different regions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Virto platform, you can schedule a demo now and see how Virto Commerce can help expand your business to overseas markets.

Book a quick demo

Yuri Taranov
Frontend Architect