How To Improve International Website Conversion
Conversion Optimisation

How To Improve International Website Conversion

12th November 2014

Build relationships with international customers

It can often be a source of confusion for businesses expanding into new markets: Our website looks great, it’s got all the content in the local language, its ranking for relevant search terms on the local search engines – but it’s not converting. And if it’s not converting, we’re not making money!

So why isn’t it working? Well, chances are the problem is that these visitors landing there don’t trust you – and that they don’t feel confident that you a) understand them b) can service their needs properly c) will provide a smooth, easy purchase process – the list could go on.

While cultures and people differ around the world, the fundamentals of human nature are the same. Trust is an essential part of any relationship, as is the feeling of being valued and important. So when you’re adapting a website for a new market, you need to think about what you can include on that page to make the users believe they can trust your brand, and that you value them as a customer. Equally they want to feel confident that they will have a smooth, stress-free experience on your website while they complete their purchase, download, enquiry or any other action you intend them to.

While by no means an exhaustive list, here are some of the things you should be thinking about to reduce those bounce rates, give every one of your website visitors a good experience and improve international website conversions.

Currency and Payment Options

Currency is a pretty obvious one. It’s no good thinking that Dollars and Euros will be enough; if people are parting with hard-earned cash they want to know exactly how much they’ll be spending and don’t want to worry about harsh exchange rates or conversion charges.

While most businesses do understand the importance of local currency pricing, less are considerate of local payment options. Visa, Mastercard and Paypal might be the norm in some markets, but in others they are less popular, or even non-existent. In China, for example, don’t even think about Paypal; it’s local sites like AliPay or Union Pay that will be expected and if they aren’t available, you can expect those customers to go elsewhere to make their purchase. And even in European countries where Visa or Paypal is used, it pays to also include local options like postepay in Italy or Sofort in Germany. Even if users don’t actually pay by these methods, it will give them confidence that you’re in tune with the local market.

payment options


There are numerous occasions when I’ve spoken to colleagues from countries in Europe and had blank looks when I’ve told them that a baby weighed 7lb 10oz or that I’m 5ft6. Equally, I’ve been thoroughly confused in the US when I’ve tried on some size 12 jeans and they’ve immediately fallen down. Different countries use different forms of measurement and it will instantly put a customer off if they don’t understand the quantities or sizes they will be getting. Uncertainty will lead them to go elsewhere and not risk ordering something in error.

Images and Features

We’ve all heard that an image is worth a thousand words, so the images you use will have a major impact on how visitors view your brand and engage with your site. Are you reflecting how local users will use your product? Are you providing context that they can relate to and will understand?

Ikea for example are using the approach of Christmas as a way to appeal to users – with images of baubles and Christmas trees, or families baking for Christmas appearing predominantly on the home pages of their German, Swedish and many other sites. While many of the products they are promoting are not just relevant for Christmas, they are tapping in to this popular time of year with their tag lines and images.

Ikea Sweden


However, the same type of image does not appear on their Turkish site, or the page for Egypt as these are countries which do not celebrate this festival.

Ikea Turkey


Local Contact Details

Nothing can be more irritating than wanting to contact customer service for a brand, and only finding a contact number from another country, in another time zone, with representatives who are unlikely to speak your language. Not only does that give the user a sense that they are not important to the brand, it will also give them no confidence that, should they have any issues, they’ll be easily resolved.

Making sure local contact details are clearly displayed on your website, along with the address of a local office, if there is one, will dispel these concerns and increase the likelihood of the purchase being made. After all, buying online is intended to be an easy and convenient way of purchasing, not a complex and unclear process.

Dialects and Colloquialisms

Languages like English, French and Spanish are spoken widely around the world, and while an American will mostly understand British English or a Peruvian will be able to read Spanish from Spain, there are significant differences between the languages spoken in each market.

And its being aware of these and reflecting them in your content, that will be another step to building that all important trust. While I would understand a website that was selling Fall Vacations, I’d be unlikely to delve into the site and book my trip through it. Instead, I’d look for a supplier offering Autumn Holidays, as I’d feel more confident that they’d be able to handle my needs as someone living and travelling from Britain.

It isn’t just about confidence in the product, it’s also about relevance and feeling like the brand is really interested in you as a customer, rather than just hoping to pick you up on the periphery of their main target website.

While it does add extra cost and effort to localise language content for each country, rather than language, it is money and time worth spending if you are serious about making a mark in those markets.

Legal Guidelines and Policies

Although many of us will confess to not regularly reading privacy policies or endless pages of terms and conditions, there are people who do and who will expect to see relevant information within them. Make sure you address local regulations and legislation, making the policies relevant and appropriate to that market.

Stand Out – For The Right Reasons!

You’re likely going to have multiple competitors in any market you target, both international and local businesses. To really succeed, you need to stand out from the crowd – but because you have an engaging, relevant and exciting offering that appeals to the local audience, rather than as an example of what not to do.


Written By
Gemma Birch has been working in international search since 2007 and leads WebCertain’s marketing team. She is responsible for managing WebCertain’s online marketing activities around the world as well as organising and programming the International Search Summit.
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