Episode 2: Optimising Your International Ecommerce Approach w/ Sufio & UWP

Episode 2: Optimising Your International Ecommerce Approach w/ Sufio & UWP
Are you missing out on profits by not diving into international waters? Are you stressed about dealing with tax laws? Find out how you get peace of mind when it comes to selling internationally and your finances.

You'll learn:

  • Why your store should take the plunge into global ecommerce
  • What you should consider when optimizing your store for global sales
  • How to get started in new markets
  • Make it easier to fight fraudulent orders with automation
  • Reducing buyer anxiety and boosting conversion rates with alternative local-optimized payment options


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Miz Trujillo 0:00

Hello and welcome to Make Merchants Money, the podcast by Underwaterpistol, where we discuss everything Shopify and ecommerce related. I am your host, Miz Trujillo and today we're looking at the subject of Going Global and Optimizing Your International Ecommerce Approach. We're joined on the show by two guests, first of all we have a Jan on the show, he is Content and Marketing Manager at Sufio. Sufio is a Shopify and BigCommerce app which provides beautiful invoice automation for way over 3000 stores in over 75 countries. Thanks so much for being on the show us today Jan.


Jan Malicher 0:36

Thank you so much and very thankful to be joining you guys here on the show today.


Miz Trujillo 0:42

It's a pleasure having you. Also with us today on the show is Ben, he is Head of Content here at Underwaterpistol. Thanks for being on the show Ben.


Ben Froedge 0:49

Nice to be here.


Miz Trujillo 0:51

Great. So to get things rolling, from personal experience I know how stressful and time consuming invoicing can be especially if you're trying to deal with international customers too. So Jan, it would be great to hear a little bit more about Sufio and the services you offer, but also about how these can benefit ecommerce entrepreneurs in an international market.


Jan Malicher 1:13

Okay, so basically Sufio, as you've already mentioned, is an invoicing tool available on the Shopify app store as well as BigCommerce app store. And what we specialize in is in creating these automated invoices for your store. And not only are these invoices compliant, but they're also meant to be part of the stores branding and sort of marketing aspect. And this is achieved through the design of the invoices. So we've worked a long amount of time with multiple designers to create beautiful looking invoices that are compliant in multiple regions of the world. So obviously, tax and taxing and invoicing can sometimes be quite a complicated subject for people and it's important to get your taxes correct.


Miz Trujillo 2:16

Absolutely. The tax situation is a huge concern for people, especially when we're looking at expanding to an international market and it's definitely something I want to touch on in our conversation today. But maybe before we start looking at that, if we look at the positives of this idea of Going Global, for example, a Mackenzie study estimated that 1.8 billion people will enter the consuming class by 2025, that's an annual spending of $30 trillion, Ben, what would you say about those stats? And what would you maybe say to people who need persuading that an international ecommerce marketing approach is the way to go?


Ben Froedge 2:53

The stats, I really feel like kind of speak for themselves. There is a massive, massive growing market as countries that maybe didn't have as much web infrastructure before or as much disposable income before are really opening up and especially with the tools that ShopifyPlus are offering for merchants, to stick only with your domestic markets, you know, you may be the big fish in a small pond, but you're really going to miss out on a lot of revenue, and a lot of future expansion in the coming years.


Miz Trujillo 3:28

Definitely, there's so much money to be made in this sector. And hopefully, the conversation we'll have today will convince people it's the right way to go and also alleviate some of their concerns. One of which Jan already mentioned, and that's the tax situation. So it would be great to maybe look at that for a second. According to a Tax Slayer survey, around 52% of US adults find the tax filing process stressful. So the idea of complicating this further by going international could obviously cause people sleepless nights. Jan, maybe could you help listeners minds at rest, what should we be aware of when it comes to the tax process for international ecommerce business? And is there anything related to maybe shipping, import/export duties that we should be aware of too?


Jan Malicher 4:10

Yeah, well, as stressful as it is to understand your local taxing regulations, when you're an entrepreneur or you have a store that's trying to go global, so to multiple countries, then not only are you focusing on understanding your own tax regulations, but also the tax regulations of the new countries that you want to ship to or sell to. So we try to make this process as simple and as understandable as possible. We have multiple articles talking about the tax settings and tax regulations of most of the major countries around the world. And we try to help users make this expanding globally as simple as possible. In regards to the shipping import and export duties, this obviously can differ from country to country, so it's not really easy to summarize. But generally, the most important thing is to have some sort of a legal document, which in this case would be invoice. So if you're importing products or exporting, if your products are stopped in customs then having an invoice talking about the purchase transaction, it will help the process speed up.


Miz Trujillo 5:47

Thanks for that Jan, we'll make sure to link to the articles you mentioned to as I'm sure our listeners will find this extremely useful. And hopefully, after listening to this podcast, a lot of their concerns will be laid to rest and they will be ready to start down this international route. As a first step, let's say they're looking to start gathering market intelligence, Ben why would you say this is such an important step for people and what should they really be focusing on to get started?


Ben Froedge 6:14

Anytime you're going to start into a new market, you really have to understand the exact needs. The value propositions that you offer customers may not appeal to a new market the same as it does before. You might have other barriers as well; currency, language, you know, something like Sufio can really help you take on the tax issue, but you have to know not only what your business is in for and what those difficulties are going to be, but you really need to understand those customers. That's if you're launching a new product, launching into a new market. As far as how to get started on that, I would talk to your customers, I would talk to the VIP customers within your brand right now and find out what works for them, find out what's appealing to them what they love about you and use that as a starting point. And then launch testing into new markets. Don't go full tilt into it. Identify markets where you have cultural similarities with people that are already VIP customers and test in small portions, find the places that are the best for you to go before you launch full scale into a new market.


Miz Trujillo 7:30

Yeah, I mean, there's so much information to be gathered and it's so important for people to get this right early on to avoid costly mistakes further down the line. One of the things that people should start seeing as this data starts coming in is a difference in purchasing habits from country to country, one of these being local buyers preferred payment methods. For example, in the Netherlands, 60% of payments are made by direct debit whereas Germans make 46% of payments by online bank transfer? Jan, what should sellers ideally be offering when it comes to payment methods and multi currency payment options?


Jan Malicher 8:05

Right, well, you see, if we take the US market, for example, the US stores. Most people are accustomed there to pay by credit cards, credit cards here and there. Therefore, these US stores similarly will offer mostly only credit cards upon checkout, or let's say, PayPal and such. But when you're expanding globally; or internationally at least, then you really do have to think about different payment methods and localized payment methods, as you've mentioned. So the payment methods, for example, used in Europe may also differ from payment methods used in India. In India, for example, most customers are accustomed to paying upon delivery, so not actually online or upon Checkout, but later on when their products arrive. So if you're let's say a US store and you do have lots of Indian customers for example, but you don't provide them with their preferred payment method, then you might be losing out on a big client base. For example, as most most merchants we offer PayPal on our stores, we accept credit cards and such; and then further on, moving down the list invoicing could be one example, that you won't be paying right upon Checkout, but the customer receives an invoice. For example if the store is using Sufio invoicing, then we have Stripe so the customer can pay the invoice online through Stripe or obviously they can take the invoice offline to the bank for example, pay for it and, yeah.


Miz Trujillo 10:03

Excellent; and offering these payment methods is obviously great for the buyers who are on the site, but Ben maybe, how can it help the seller too? How can it help them save time and maybe decrease customer service needs?


Ben Froedge 10:17

As long as you have an automated solution for something like invoicing. I feel like giving the customer the payment and purchase methods that they are comfortable with and familiar with is really going to reduce their anxiety. So you know, at least in American ecommerce, people pay almost 100% of the time up front. You know, with B2B, we do invoicing or net 30 or net 60, but in B2C stores, it's always credit card or PayPal. So people have put the money into something that they have only seen online. So they're kind of anxious about it before it gets delivered. They have something big built up in their head before it gets there. So offering those delayed payment options, I feel like just reduces people's anxiety, their potential for dissatisfaction and even anger if something goes wrong. And so you can really avoid bad reviews, bad customer service issues that way.


Miz Trujillo 11:16

Thanks, Ben. I'm sure that's exactly what our listeners want to hear. So, so far in our conversation we've looked at the tax situation and how Sufio can help with that as well as with invoicing, we have also looked at the international market and why it's such a great idea to go down this route. So it'd be good to look at another concern that can come up as a result of this which is that they're now selling more all around the world but they're also having to deal with more refunds. The simple idea of that can give people a headache, so what steps should they be taking to simplify credit notes and refunds? Maybe Jan you could help us out with this?


Jan Malicher 11:54

It's never nice to hear, when you wake up in the morning and you see there is a couple refunds waiting in your orders tab for example, but obviously, having the right measures to deal with this can make the process simpler, or at least not such a bad experience for you and the customer. When we're talking about B2B sales for example, if the customer has already received an invoice and then he cancels the order for whatever the reason, issuing a compliant credit note is always important. So this is one of the multiple legal documents that Sufio can generate for the customer. Therefore, when the orders cancelled, they can quickly receive a credit note for their order and make the whole process simpler.


Miz Trujillo 12:56

Well, that's exactly what people are looking for, to make things a little bit simpler, isn't it? So seeing as we're ticking off these concerns, let's go for another big one, which is fraud. How can sellers protect themselves and their customers? Ben maybe you could start?


Ben Froedge 13:14

So the best thing I can think of is this, identify; and there are services that help with this, identify high fraud risk areas in the world. It may be countries, it may be, you know, provinces or states, it may be just local areas where you have a group of people operating to defraud stores. If you can automate the identification of those high risk orders using something like Shopify Flows, then you can use your human time to verify those orders and to see if you can look for patterns in the ones that are legitimate orders from high risk areas and separate those from more likely fraud. You may end up you know, you may end up with a few fraud issues, or you may end up turning down a few orders that were legitimate, but you can at least eliminate the bulk of them.


Miz Trujillo 14:13

Thanks, Ben. I know that here at Underwaterpistol we were very involved with GDPR not that long ago, the way that sensitive data is stored is obviously a big concern for people, so is there may be something you'd add on that note?


Ben Froedge 14:25

Yes, I feel like a lot of the business community kind of looked at GDPR as a big burden, but now that you know, everybody is more used to it and has gotten compliant, I really think we should look at it as an opportunity. The best businesses are going to be those who willingly and voluntarily even have enthusiasm about protecting their customers and protecting their customers data. And protecting that data is going to protect them as well. Because when credit card, when contact information is stolen, that leads to higher incidences of fraud and so you can eliminate, you can just cut the legs off of the problem of fraud by protecting your customers data and keeping them safe.


Miz Trujillo 15:12

Definitely, yeah. Jan is there anything you'd mentioned in this regard as well?


Jan Malicher 15:16

Having the data stored correctly, is going to eliminate most of the issues and at the same time, when you're selling to these high risk countries where fraud is more likely to occur, then it's also important to look at the payment methods that you're offering to the given country. So if it's a local payment method, then you probably want to run some security checks on it. Like, how protected is it, if it's secure, and then yeah, just really try your best to eliminate all these issues. Because fraud protection is really important.


Miz Trujillo 15:57

Excellent. So with a lot of concern out of the way now, it would be great to talk about optimizing sites specifically for international sales. It's amazing how small details affect buyers decisions, a recent HubSpot survey in the US compared Amazon.co.jp to Bestbuy.com, the question that was raised was, "Which do you think is more likely to offer the more reliable Express shipping to your home?". The intent of the question was to see if users zeroed in on the recognizable brand name, or their domain extension; and 40% of people said they felt that .com would be more reliable. How should information like that affect our site optimization? And what other things should people be taking into account when optimizing their size? Ben maybe?


Ben Froedge 16:47

Okay, well, that's a good insight right there. First off, you need to ask the question, you need to consider that from the get go and gather that information as soon as you can. Each market is going to be somewhat different, you're going to have different trust indicators, people are going to have different things that cause them to believe you're a reliable person to purchase from, to trust you with their shipping, with their payment information. So you need to find out in a market before you launch preferably, what that is. You could do that with user testing online, you could even do AB testing in a limited run. Like we mentioned earlier, test in markets before you launch. As far as optimizing the site, it's really about giving people what they want to see, what they're used to seeing. So their language, local shipping options that they're familiar with as was discussed earlier, payment techniques. So cash on delivery, your invoicing versus pre-payment, local currency, all of those things are going to increase people's trust in you and their willingness to buy. So we often think of conversion rate optimization, as you know, button colors, or copy, or page flow and that matters, but just giving people something that they're familiar with and they can trust is a huge boost. It's kind of just part of the basic strategy that you should undertake, before you go higher level.


Miz Trujillo 18:21

Perfect, Jan is there anything you'd add at all?


Jan Malicher 18:24

As Ben mentioned, it's always nice to implement the things that people are familiar with. So it's kind of the don't break what works technique. So obviously, when it's been tested multiple times people have done AB testing and there's some general rules that you have to follow that are proven to work. So it's not always necessary to try to reinvent the wheel. So yeah, following the general rules in regards to expansion will make it easier, you don't have to create absolute brand new strategies when entering new markets.


Miz Trujillo 19:06

Well, that's exactly the point. We want to make customers feel comfortable when navigating the site and that in turn will help sales come through. So hopefully, they follow these suggestions and they've got the perfect site, now they're ready to start selling around the globe, but how do they gain local visibility? What should people be doing when it comes to search engine optimization? Jan, maybe you could kick us off?


Jan Malicher 19:30

Well, say you have a market in a in a foreign country, there's customers coming in from countries you didn't expect to make sales for example, so it will be likely that you might want to localize your website when you feel like it's profitable for you. Obviously, one way to localize a website is maybe multi languages, so translating into the local language. But basically, when you are translating your website, then it's always important to realize that the upkeep is going to be much, much more, it's time consuming. Because when you're, let's say, adding a new product to a website, then you have to make the translations to the local language, and also inventory tracking. So that's going to be a bit of upkeep to do


Miz Trujillo 20:37

Absolutely, it's very important for people to be aware of the extra workload, this is going to cause especially so that they expand at the right time for their business. And it's also important for them to be aware of what these differences in search engine optimization will be from country to country. And how actually doing these will benefit their sales, Ben is there maybe anything you'd add?


Ben Froedge 20:57

Yes, I agree, definitely, that the language is going to play a huge part in it. If you are operating in an American based company, and you're operating in another English language market, consider what different terms they might use, what different slang, if there are differences in phrasing. And then if you're moving into a non English speaking market, you need to hire a local writer who understands not only translating the language, but translating the ideas because running something through Google Translate or a similar service is not going to cut it, they're going to be big differences in meaning between words that are going to give you some real problems. So number one, is optimized for the language. So at the same time, you want to hire a writer, you want to hire somebody, whether that's the same writer or someone else who can do SEO research for that local market, your keywords may be different, just some of your ideas and like I may mentioned earlier, even the value proposition, what you're really offering them with the product, how they think of it may be different. So the way they're going to search for it is going to be different. They're going to be looking for different things based on different ideas. And then finally, if you are content marketing, which is where so much of your SEO value is going to come in, you'll need to focus on content that relates to, again, local ideas, possibly local events, and I think that's really going to make a big difference for SEO in new marketplaces.


Miz Trujillo 22:30

Absolutely and I think that everything you've mentioned there would obviously run across to when they're doing the marketing in terms of social media for these different local areas as well. Because when you change languages, everything, the sense of humor, turns of phrases, can change, it can change really quickly. So having someone that knows the language inside out would would definitely help on that regard.


Ben Froedge 22:52

Absolutely. The way you engage with your audience is going to entirely change in a new language marketplace.


Miz Trujillo 22:58

Perfect, it has been so great chatting to you both about this subject today. To start wrapping up the conversation and summing up what we talked about. Ben, maybe if you had to leave listeners with one thing that we've discussed today what would it be?


Ben Froedge 23:12

Before you start anything new, especially something as complicated as international ecommerce can be, lay the groundwork, plan out a strategy before you get started. Think about issues like fraud, think about issues like language, invoicing, or cash on delivery instead of credit card payment. Think about how things are going to have to be done differently. And you don't have to get things perfect at the start. But getting a good baseline established and building a solid foundation for what you're going to do will serve you throughout your expansion efforts, whether that's in new international markets, whether it's into B2B sales, it's really going to give you a solid base to work from and it's going to make everything easier. And then solutions like Sufio, are really going to help by automating those new processes. That way, you're not spending hours on something that can be done quickly and easily.


Miz Trujillo 24:11

Definitely, that's great. Thanks so much Ben. And Jan, what would you leave our listeners with?


Jan Malicher 24:17

Yeah, I just want to continue Ben's note, basically, in today's world, it's not too difficult or maybe the possibilities are endless. So to become a successful entrepreneur or store owner, that's fantastic, it's great for you, but it is also your obligation at the same time to be compliant with the tax regulations in your country and the countries you're selling to. So as it is your obligation to have all these taxes set up correctly and have your invoicing data correct with your local accountants, This is where many people start to get shaky, they they start running into problems and sometimes they they try to avoid this topic. So that's really where we try to come come in and help these people convince them it's not really as complicated as it looks. And at the same time, they're not there alone to get around this issue. So really, this invoicing and compliance can be taken care of very easily as long as you follow some quick guides and yeah.


Miz Trujillo 25:41

That's great, thanks so much Jan. It's been really great talking to you both today and it's been a real pleasure having you on the show thank you.


Jan Malicher 25:48

Thank you so much for having me.


Ben Froedge 25:50

Thank you


Miz Trujillo 25:51

A huge thanks to everyone who listens to the show too, you can find links to both Sufio and Underwaterpistol in the description below, as well as to any reports we've mentioned. If you need any help with Shopify and Ecommerce you can book a free consultation with Underwaterpistol via the link below too. Please subscribe to the podcast to keep up to date with all the upcoming shows and you can get involved in the discussion and receive all the latest news by joining our Make Merchants Money Facebook group. Thanks for listening and thanks again Jan and Ben.