Tips for operating international online shops


Embarking on international internet retailing is entirely possible; however there are a few key considerations you should be aware of before starting your journey.

Modify your T&Cs

Different countries have different consumer protection rules: even those who restrict their online shop to the EU do not use a common framework of regulations; there are different rules for each country. Online retailers should check how these rules are implemented in the individual countries because anyone selling in country A must also comply with the consumer protection rules in country A. It’s important to have a wide range of T&Cs, including rights of return and data protection declarations that meet the current requirements.

Offer country-specific payment mixes

Another basic rule for international retailers is to offer country-specific payment mixes. The majority of online retailers do not think about payment issues for international customers and so fail to exploit large potential revenues. The right payment mix should be created for each country as payment preferences do not change quickly; however it’s important to keep an eye on payment trends and respond to changes.

Business analysis

It’s important to analyse your business activities very precisely and do not be afraid to admit mistakes and make changes. It makes sense to focus only on really successful countries and not waste time with others.

Customer service

For an international strategy, the first step is to offer English language customer service; only with the right customer service can you ensure international customers remain loyal over the long-term.

Legal situation

Those active internationally with their online shop should also keep an eye on the political situation in these countries. Notwithstanding extreme political crises, there are also consistent changes in day-to-day business, whether it’s new food labelling regulations, a new EU regulation on light bulb labelling or minimum pricing for e-books in Austria.

Adapt language and settings

It’s important when building international websites to optimise the language and other national settings, such as how you display the date or address. There should be no room for confusion, especially at the checkout.

Search engine optimisation

If you want to stand on your own two feet you will need an online shop with a high recognition factor. Another step towards a successful international online shop is search engine optimisation (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM).

Mobile friendly

With the number of buyers with smartphones and tablets increasing every year, online retailers should offer a mobile version of their shopping site. In most cases the basic functions of current shop systems can be used perfectly well on mobiles, but it is also important that firstly the operating logic works on a small screen and secondly the checkout process works with minimal effort.

Analyse customer feedback

You should always be interested in what customers think about your shop – customer feedback is very easy to obtain after ordering, e.g. by email. If you are frequently receiving negative feedback, your shop may require optimisation.

Think global, look local

Make decisions on a global basis, e.g. when selecting new products, integrating new payment methods or for the shopping options. In fact, tweak the international elements so they look like a local shop.