We live in an international market. The internet has opened up the gateways between countries, making it easier than ever to appeal to a global audience. But global opportunities also lead to slipups in how your website is presented, and those slipups lead to lost conversions and profits.
The trick is to optimize your website for those global audiences, and make it easier for them to seek out the products in a way that works for them. How do you do that? It simply takes a bit of forethought and an understanding of how users across the world approach your website.
Handing the major hurdles.
There are lots of questions to answer when going global. In an interview with YFS Magazine, global entrepreneur Tej Kohli talked about the different hurdles he came across when expanding from country to country, including learning about behavioral and cultural norms, legal and tax differences and much more. "These nitty gritty details are easy to overlook," Kohli said in the interview, "but they can make or break a company that wishes to expand globally."
When it comes to landing page optimization, here are the two major conversion hurdles to overcome:
Having been involved in a number of international companies and partnerships, I have found time zones to be the biggest conversion hurdle. Time differences are confusing and distracting, even if the company provides 24/7 customer support.
Here are a few possible solutions:
- On the contact page, always provide the current time in your office, and specify where you are located. There are a number of free widgets that can help you.
Optimize your site for international phone calls. There is a call tracking software called Ringostat provides a handy call distribution report showing you what time of the day you get most calls and when those calls tend to be missed (due to non-response or too long waiting time). This report allows you to better optimize your customer support team schedule and eliminate customer frustration. Here's some more information and screenshots.
Currency and numbers
Currency confusion may happen on the actual product page as well as on the payment page. Currency is often inconsistent and confusing. For example, did you know that Russians and some other European countries use a period (.) where Americans use a comma (,) as the group separator? Here's a long discussion giving some insight into how different countries handle currency symbols and numbers.
For ecommerce sites, properly handling international currency and numbers is very important.
- Make sure on-page prices match the site locality. Provide an easy way to change the currency, should the user want to do so.
- Follow international rules for expressing monetary units. Here's the list of rules for Europe.
- Refer to the complete list of currency formats to use to avoid confusion.
Bringing a user to the localized site.
There are two major ways to send a user to the localized version of the site.
1. Automated (forced) geo-location option
Lately, more companies have been eliminating the issue of region by implementing a protocol that registers the user's country. They are then auto-directed to the correct website for that region, set in the local language.
Only one problem with that -- users don't always want that country's website. I have found myself redirected to U.S. versions of sites when my plan was to purchase for a friend or relative in another region, such as the U.K., Austria, Bangladesh or Australia. Taking away a user's choice is usually not appreciated.
2. A landing page with regional choices
A better (yet probably not ideal) way to approach the location issue is to give user's the ability to go to the website of their choice. A landing page with the different links is a quick way to solve the issue. You have a primary page that redirects from all URL versions. From there, the user can make their selection and be taken to the website of their choice.
Keep in mind that this should be based on location, not on language. Someone who is going to a website outside of their region may still need language options that can be customized. A good example of this type of landing page is UPS.
While this method empowers users to make a choice, it can create an unnecessary block or click between the user and the actual destination page.
MotionPoint suggests an option in-between. Analyze the user (based on the browser, IP, etc.) and then suggest a localized version of the site empowering the user to make the final choice without forcing them to search for one.
While this solution sounds perfect, I am not sure how it may affect the speed of the site considering a lot of resources would be spent on analyzing every single visitor. I would still recommend giving it a try.
Make it easy to connect to a user's language.
Within a couple of seconds on a site, a user will be searching for a way to translate it into their language of choice if needed. When you post that option on the bottom of your page, it takes much longer for the user to find it. That leads to aggravation and may potentially cause them to leave the site to go elsewhere.
Put the language selection option right in the top header where they will see it at a glance. Make it easy for them to select their language, and auto-refresh the site in that language for them without having to submit.
Using visual symbols -- like national flags -- to mark the area where a user can change the language is a great idea. Make this option sitewide. Another good option is to list the name of each language as a word.
Make sure you have done thorough international usability testing before going global. Use this list of recommendations to get started. There are not many usability testing companies providing global services. I was able to find this site that seems to have representatives all over the world.
Find the best tools.
Global search engine rank tracking
While Google is the major global search engine, it is still not the most popular one in some countries, like Russia, where Yandex enjoys a 58 percent market share. Google doesn't even exist in some countries, like China and South Korea (2015 stats courtesy of returnonnow.com). Georanker is a good solution to monitor your worldwide search rankings. It supports major international search engines (including Yandex and Baidu) as well as all Google localized versions
Global lead generation analysis
The aforementioned Ringostat offers you handy multi-channel reports, not only comparing various international channels but also allowing you to create in-depth conversion reports. This allows you to analyze user behavior based on the destination country.
Global backlink analysis
Majestic analyzes your backlinks based on the country and provides you with the handy map visualization showing your international backlink flow.
Global performance analysis
International load time can sometimes present a huge usability challenge which is very hard to troubleshoot. Pingdom lets you compare how fast and usable your site is in different parts of the world.
Going global is a huge challenge for any business, but it is well worth the effort and the risk considering the huge opportunities it presents. With enough research and preparation time -- and the right tools -- it's pretty doable too!