International eCommerce Playbook

Our international eCommerce playbook includes crucial steps and necessary measures to make a move in global eCommerce markets and realise the international potential of your online store.


According to Growcode, the UK is the third largest eCommerce market in the world and the largest in Europe.

Sure, it would be great to gain a foothold or command a good market share in this lucrative market, but what if you want more?  What if your goods and services have a universal or international appeal?  If your ambitions have no ceilings and you seek relentless, exponential online growth and international expansion, then it’s time to think global and seek out International eCommerce opportunities.

You might find some international success with your UK-centric online store as it stands, but to make serious inroads, there are some simple strategies you can employ.

Identify Opportunities

It’s not unheard of for international prospects and new target markets to really take off. At Built for Growth, we have clients who see International markets not as secondary or tertiary targets, but as their primary revenue driver.  Identifying focus countries for your business is therefore invaluable.

We’d all like to ‘break America’ or conquer a mass market like China, but a viable reality will lie in your data and product set.  It’s important to assess your prospects.  We can look at potential demand, traffic levels and conversion opportunities you see in your data.  Additionally, there will be external influences that will have a significant impact on your chances.  For the better and worse!

Potential Demand

This can be assessed at a high-level using industry knowledge aided by useful tools such as Google Trends.   For example, it seems unlikely that a Field Hockey business will find success in a country where the sport is not played.  Could they find success in a country where Hockey is a popular sport? Of course!

The current or anticipated demand for your products is a key early indicator on how viable or desirable a new target market will become.


Perhaps there are indicators in your Google Analytics account to indicate interest from a new market? It’s also possible that you can anticipate future interest ahead of the crowd.  If you can make informed decisions that trends or product sets are likely to succeed on the global stage then it’s worth investing in SEO and Digital Marketing to proactively tap into the existing or future demand.

Want to make the most out of Google Analytics? Check out our blog on Analytics Hacks when you’re done!

Identify Opportunities - International eCommerce Playbook

Conversion Led Opportunities

If your online shop is open for global orders, you may well find yourself in a fortunate position in already having reasonable conversion in new territories.  You might find they only make up 1% of your traffic, but 2% of your revenue due to an encouraging conversion rate for example.  Strong, or promising conversion without considered effort is a clear and obvious opportunity.  Maximise this opportunity with a dedicated conversion rate optimisation project for that country.  It’s important the customer experience is reviewed regularly as part of your international expansion strategy.

If your conversion rate is in good shape in a new target country, it’s time to leverage digital marketing and good SEO practices to increase your traffic (and revenues by proxy).

External Influences

There are certain reasons why sadly the door may remain shut.  If you sell oversize or bulky items, then shipping costs may represent an insurmountable barrier.  Trade embargos, cultural factors, import restrictions and even legislation on certain product groups can all constrict our best laid ambition.  Your global ecommerce playbook won’t always have answers for this.

In the same breath, it’s equally possible for external influences to work in your favour.  A continued upward trend in appetite for luxury goods and brands in China being a clear example.  So much so that Vogue Business predict that Chinese shoppers will make up 46% of luxury goods purchases by 2025.

Keep an eye on the global landscape and be agile and reactive to trends and changes as much as possible.  Opportunities will swell and contract on a regular basis.  What’s important is that you are user focused, proactive and forward thinking.

Next Steps

Ideally you will identify up to 5 viable, exciting targets to move towards.  Now it’s time to focus on customer experience and optimise.  Perhaps working through these countries one at a time in a staggered, focused approach.  Here are some important areas to consider when seeking international expansion:

Now you’re talking my language

Where possible you’ll see the greatest benefit in at least some effort in on-site translation.  If your core banners, navigation and content pages can be translated, it will greatly increase user experience, confidence and conversion.

A higher plateau of site translation comes when you decide to work through some or all of your products.  If your product titles and descriptions are translated.  This will increase conversion and allows you to run Google Shopping ads in your target countries in their native language.  A powerful step in the right direction.

With translation comes a cost, or required skill.  If this is not viable for now, then you can always work towards English speaking locations in the first instance (USA / Australia / Canada / Ireland and many more!).

Speak Directly to Your Target Audience

On site messaging needs to speak directly to your target audience to sell your brand, promote trust and instil customer confidence.  Messaging in English is a start, in the native language is better.  The holy grail would be both – a scenario where browser language dictates the language the customer sees on site, yet the customers location would dictate the delivery messages, country specific offers and so on.  At Built for Growth this is something we would really prioritise for our clients on the IRP Platform.

Targeted messaging will be most beneficial in a few areas:

  • Display Key USPs for your target country – Whether this is shipping times, free shipping thresholds. Laser targeted information will be gratefully received by your target customer.
  • Update your Delivery Page – Steer away from a one size fits all delivery page. Where possible have a tailored delivery page for each of your target countries.  If an international customer can see the following information for them specifically, they will be very satisfied and hopefully more likely to convert.
  • Cost
  • Delivery Time
  • Courier Used


There are three areas to cover here:

  • Competitiveness – It’s all well and good being keenly priced in your home market, but how do you fair against your competitors in your new target markets?
  • Pricing Display – It goes without saying that Americans will prefer to see pricing in USD, Europeans will prefer EUR and so on.  It’s important to ensure you are catering to your international customers in this regard too.  We often use vanity prices such as £19.99 or £95.  Where possible, carry that through to your international customers.   Conversion rate led prices can look strange and unappealing.  $23.95 would be must more appealing than $24.67 for example!
  • Transact in their currency – Ideally get a merchant account setup for each currency.  A USD and EUR account in addition to your GBP.  If a customer believes they’re paying $300, we want that exact amount to come out of their account.  Anything other than that will leave a sour taste and detract from repeat purchases and customer loyalty.

Shipping Costs

A high shipping cost will be a conversion killer.  Work hard with your shipping providers on providing the most cost effective, yet quality shipping service possible for your customers.  A prohibitively high shipping cost to France will all but close the door to success in France.  Do whatever is reasonable to keep this low, and ensure your ‘free shipping threshold’ is attainable yet sustainable to increase your chances. 

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Some dates are almost universally huge worldwide.  Black Friday, Christmas and Valentines are obvious examples.  However, if you want to gain a foothold in new markets, it’s important to respect and cater to cultural differences.  For each of your target markets it’s important that you have bespoke promotions and highlights to tap into the key trading dates of these individual audiences.  Here are some examples:

  • Singles Day (11th November): Created by four, single students at Nanjing University in China, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma helped scale this holiday to eventually become the largest offline and online shopping day worldwide.  On Alibaba alone, online shoppers spent a whopping $30.7 billion on Singles Day 2018.
  • Click Frenzy: A largely Australian event designed to stimulate retail four times a year (typically in otherwise quieter periods).

Outside of massive trading dates there are major dates that serve as opportunities for promotions and marketing collateral.  From Bastille day in France, to Independence Day in the US, a global approach to your marketing calendar represents an important step towards sustainable global growth.  International customers will expect an excellent user experience that is tailored to them.  If you are unable to provide this, they will sadly look elsewhere.

Alternative Payment Methods

From Visa and Mastercard to Amazon Pay, Klarna and Paypal, it’s important to cater to your customers with flexible payment options.  This is important when you seek to compete in the Global Arena also.

WeChat Pay and Alipay will open doors in certain Asian markets.  Sofort and Giropay would be welcome additions to bolster efforts in Germany and other European markets.  Another consideration to show your international customers that you are open for business and ready to serve their needs.

Trust Us!

You might be a known brand in your home market.  Don’t assume you are in Argentina, USA or France.  You will be starting from square one with customers who initially do not know or trust your brand.  We have to win that trust and instil confidence as quickly as possible.   We’ve already referenced the need to tailored messaging such as ‘DHL Tracked Shipping to USA’ perhaps.  Don’t forget about Reviews!

You can shout as loud as you want about your perceived USPs and benefits, but customers will appreciate a transparent, indepedent rating on your site.  Trustpilot,, Feefo – they all help!  A strong 5* score and a few immersive widgets and review displays will provide reassurance and is invaluable for turning a new customer today into a loyal customer tomorrow.

Global Sales Map - International eCommerce Playbook


We hope our international ecommerce playbook has served as a useful introduction to help bring your online shop to a global audience.  This really is what makes the Internet such a powerful weapon for businesses all over the world.
At Built for Growth Digital we have a track record of 20 years experience in international eCommerce and we hold the knowledge and tools required to bring your business international success.

If you want to know how to enter new markets online, trust the experts and get in touch for a consultation.  2020 is shaping up to be a milestone year in eCommerce.  We’d love to help you share in this success.

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