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Expanding into international markets with Shopify

Is your Shopify store thriving in your local market? If so, it could be the right time to venture into international eCommerce. Tapping into new international markets can unlock new audiences and kickstart your business’s next phase of growth.

However, taking your Shopify store international is no simple task; it requires careful planning and preparation. Not only does your website need to be adapted to sell in different languages and currencies, but your business also needs to establish trust and foster confidence in your international audience to convince them to shop with you.

Breaking into new markets can be tough, but if you’ve built your website using Shopify, you already have a head start! Shopify offers a wide range of tools and functionalities to help merchants seamlessly expand their stores and tap into international markets. From setting up multiple languages and currencies to managing international shipping, our guide to Shopify international will explain how to take your Shopify store global and start conquering new markets!

How to know when it’s time to take your store international

Before you begin targeting new markets, it’s important to be sure that now is the right time to do so. Trying to expand internationally too early can waste time and resources, so you need to know the signs to look out for that could indicate that your business is poised for international success…

The two biggest indicators that it’s time to start selling overseas are that you’ve saturated your domestic market and your website’s international sales have started picking up organically. This shows that you already have a successful product and business model and that there is already demand for it overseas.  

Of course, you have to consider if you’re ready practically too. Before you start selling overseas, you should ensure you have the resources to cope with further business growth and the additional complexity of selling internationally.

If you’ve answered yes to both of the above, entering international markets could be the next step in your business’s journey.

How to plan and prepare for taking your Shopify store international

Before you start making any changes to your website, you need to lay the groundwork. This could include analysing website data to identify potentially lucrative markets, learning about international laws and regulations, identifying the most suitable way to sell your products internationally on Shopify, and creating a clear road map for your project. 

At a minimum, you should carry out the following research and planning:

Identify your target markets 

While global domination is an enticing goal, you need to start a little smaller. Review your eCommerce store’s website analytics to identify countries where you already have a presence to pinpoint where there is existing demand for your products. 

Research international laws and regulations 

Some countries have restrictions and rules about what can be purchased, sold, or imported. Ensure you understand any laws and regulations surrounding products like yours before you go any further, particularly if you’re selling potentially sensitive items like alcohol.

Perform competitor research

To better understand what you will be up against, identify and research who your competitors are in your international target markets. Analyse their product offerings, pricing strategies, and marketing techniques to spot gaps in the market, leverage your unique selling points, and create a strategy that differentiates your brand.

Create a shipping strategy

A fair, well-thought-out, and simple shipping strategy is key to winning worldwide conversions. Your shipping strategy should be based on data, insights, and research. The three main shipping strategies to choose from are flat-rate shipping, free shipping, and carrier-calculated shipping. Creating a unique international shipping strategy rather than sticking with Shopify’s default options will help to improve the chances of successfully breaking into international markets. Things to consider when creating your shipping strategy include shipping carriers, shipping speeds, and tax obligations.

International shipping handler carrying freight across the ocean on a large shipIdentify the most suitable internationalisation strategy

Shopify offers several routes for international selling. The most suitable option for your business will depend on several factors, including your budget, the size of your business, and the scale of the expansion you’re planning. The two most popular strategies are to either sell from one store set up to offer multiple currencies, languages, and shipping options or have separate Shopify expansion stores for each international target market.

Create an international eCommerce strategy

Entering new global markets requires more than just enthusiasm; it requires a strategy encompassing market research, localisation practices, shipping logistics, international marketing campaigns, and more. Creating an international eCommerce strategy can ensure that your venture into foreign markets aligns with your business’s mission and values and is both informed and effective.

What features does Shopify offer to support international expansion?

As one of the most popular, widely used, and user-friendly eCommerce platforms worldwide, Shopify is bursting with features to support international expansion.

Let’s learn more about some of the most prominent features and functionalities that position Shopify as a preferred eCommerce platform for global growth.

Shopify Payments

Businesses can use Shopify Payments to take payments and manage transactions without the hassle of setting up a third-party payment provider. When taking your store international, Shopify Payments can add new currencies to your store and automatically convert prices to your website visitor’s currency depending on their geolocation.

Shopify apps

The Shopify app store features an expansive range of apps and custom apps that can help merchants to take their store international, including apps to help with translating website content into different languages, shipping internationally, and converting currencies.

Shopify Markets

Shopify Markets is an all-in-one tool that allows businesses to sell to multiple countries from one Shopify store. It allows merchants to sell in 136 currencies and 20 languages and makes expanding into new global markets quick, simple, and efficient. It is available to Shopify merchants worldwide, no matter which Shopify plan they are on. However, Shopify Markets offers additional advanced features to merchants on the Advanced Shopify and Shopify Plus plans. With Shopify Markets, you can personalise the shopping experience for international website visitors by offering multiple languages and currencies from one storefront. 

Key features and functionalities of Shopify Markets include:

  • SEO tags are automatically updated for international audiences.
  • Tax and duty fees are automatically calculated at checkout.
  • A diverse range of secure payment options.
  • Strategic global inventory locations.
  • Flexibility in defining target market regions.
  • Advanced analytics for monitoring international performance.

Shopify expansion stores

Large or enterprise-level businesses with complex requirements may need more granular control over their website’s appearance in different countries. You may benefit from setting up expansion stores if you want to customise more than the currency and language for your international markets. This option is only available to businesses on Shopify’s enterprise-level Shopify Plus plan. Merchants that upgrade to Shopify Plus can create up to nine expansion stores. Expansion stores are duplicates of your original store, customised to target specific markets. The main benefit of this approach is that you can tailor every aspect of an expansion store to your target market, including website layout, images, and tone of voice. However, as you can imagine, managing multiple unique stores and their inventories can get very complicated, which is why this approach is only usually taken by enterprise-level businesses with large budgets and resources for optimising Shopify for international markets and managing and updating multiple stores.

A step-by-step guide to taking your Shopify store international

Businesses on one of Shopify’s standard plans, rather than Shopify Plus, can make changes to their store to begin selling to multiple international markets.

This section will provide simple step-by-step instructions for Shopify international setup, helping you to set up your Shopify store and begin selling to multiple countries from one Shopify storefront.

1. Set up Shopify Payments

Most merchants will already have Shopify Payments set up, but if you haven’t, your first port of call is to set it up. To do so, navigate to ‘Settings’ and then ‘Payments’. Click ‘Activate Shopify Payments’, and you should be good to go.

2. Add Shopify’s Geolocation app

Before you take your store overseas, it’s important to make sure you can pinpoint the precise locations of your website visitors. The best way to achieve this is by installing Shopify’s Geolocation app, which identifies where in the world website visitors are based on their IP addresses. 

3. Add a new market

To start selling to a new country; you will first need to add a new market within your Shopify admin. To do this, navigate to Settings > Markets, then click ‘Add Market’. Name your new market and select the countries and regions you want to add. Finally, click ‘Done’ and then ‘Save’. Your new market is now set up, but you must create shipping rates for all the countries and regions before activating it. Shopify’s Help Centre provides detailed information about how to manage markets.

4. Set up international shipping

As discussed earlier, shipping products worldwide can get complicated without a shipping strategy. Every time you set up a new market, you must also set up or assign a shipping zone and rates. A shipping zone is a group of countries or regions with the same shipping rates. To set up a new shipping zone, navigate to Settings > Shipping and Delivery. Next to the relevant shipping profile, select ‘Manage’. Find the group of locations for which you wish to add a shipping zone and click ‘Create Zone’. Next, name your new shipping zone and select the countries and regions you wish to include within it. Click ‘Done’ and enter the shipping rates you want to charge customers within this zone.

5. Activate your new market

Once your shipping rates are all set up, you can go to Settings > Markets and click ‘Manage’ beside your new market. Click ‘Activate market’. Your new market is now up and running.

6. Add new currencies

According to Shopify, 33% of international visitors won’t consider making a purchase if their local currency isn’t offered. Luckily, you have access to Shopify multi-currency features, no matter what plan you’re on. To add a new currency to Shopify Payments, navigate to Shopify Payments settings and click ‘Add a new country/region’. Next, select the country you wish to start selling to. Now, when website visitors from this country visit your website, they’ll be able to view the price of your products in their currency. Shopify Payments will automatically convert your prices using a real-time foreign exchange rate.

International bank notes in a variety of currencies

When you create a new market, local currencies are enabled by default, meaning Shopify will automatically display prices on your website in the market’s local currency. Currency settings can be found by navigating to Settings > Markets. Next to the name of the relevant market, click ‘Manage’, select ‘Products and Pricing’, and then click ‘Manage’ again.

7. Localise your website

If you’re unfamiliar with website localisation, it’s the process of adapting a website to cater to a specific international market. This could involve translating text content to a different language, changing the website layout, creating international domains, and making other cultural considerations.

Add international domains – Creating international domain names indicates to visitors that your store regularly sells to people in their country and is set up and ready to do so, giving them the confidence to buy from you. You can either create a subdomain within Shopify or with a third party and then connect it to Shopify. Once you have created and connected your new international domain, you can set its default currency within Shopify’s domain management settings.

Translate your content – According to an article on the BBC,  82% of consumers were less likely to buy goods online if the website was not in their native language. If you’re targeting markets that do not speak the same native language as you, then translating the text content on your website is one of the most important things you can do to encourage sales.
Installing a translation app is the simplest way to translate your website content for international visitors. These apps automatically translate your website content into the local language based on visitor geolocation. Popular Shopify translation apps include Shopify Translate and Adapt, Transcy, T Lab, and Langify.

Publish a new language – Once your translation is ready, you can add the new language to your store. To do so, navigate to Settings > Languages and select ‘Add Language’. Now choose the language you wish to add from the drop-down menu and click ‘Add’. Next, choose which active market you wish to add the language to and import the translated content using your translation app. Finally, publish the new language. You must also assign a language to each Shopify market you create, as new markets are set up with your store’s default language.

8. Market your store internationally

Once your online store is all setup and ready to welcome international customers, it’s time to spread the word and let them know you’re open for business. Every region has unique marketing preferences, so a one-size-fits-all marketing approach will likely fall flat.

Your marketing strategy for each location must be carefully researched and planned. The channels and messages that resonate in one country may be ineffective in another. Investigate which channels each target market spends most of their time on and tailor your tone and messaging to resonate with their preferences.

Platforms like social media and Google ads come with advanced targeting features. Harness them to run campaigns featuring unique content and messaging to target audiences in different geolocations.

What are the key challenges of globalising your Shopify store?

Expanding into international markets offers many opportunities for business growth, but it also brings a unique set of challenges. In this section, we’ll explore some key hurdles you might face when taking your Shopify store to new global markets. 

International tax and duties – Every country has its own tax and duty laws. Failing to incorporate these into your store’s pricing and shipping practices can result in fines, shipping delays, and reduced profit margins. Luckily, Shopify offers features that automate and simplify tax calculations and compliance, helping you to ensure you charge the correct amounts.

Cultural differences – Cultural differences greatly influence customer behaviour, product preferences, and buying patterns, making it very important to tailor your approach based on cultural insights.

Legal compliance – Beyond tax and duty laws, various countries have specific regulations about what can be sold, how it’s marketed, or how transactions should be handled. Non-compliance can result in legal actions, fines, or damage to your brand’s reputation.

Translation problems – Sometimes, direct translations generated by translation apps do not convey the intended meaning. This can lead to misinterpretation of text, confusion, or in some cases, even unintended offence. Translation apps are a good place to start, but eventually, you may need to hire a professional translator to manually translate the content on your website.

Currency fluctuations – Exchange rates can change overnight, causing unexpected changes to pricing and profit margins. Using dynamic pricing tools and strategies can help to mitigate risks associated with currency fluctuations.

Payment preferences – Different countries often favour different methods of payment. While credit cards may be popular in one country, another may favour digital wallets. It’s important to research and integrate the preferred payment methods for each market to help win conversions.

Take your Shopify store international with Create8

Ready to expand your Shopify store’s reach into global markets? At Create8, we are Shopify partners and have helped numerous businesses expand their Shopify stores into global markets. We specialise in branding and web design, helping you to ensure your brand resonates across borders and cultures.

We can help you to adapt your Shopify store to sell in multiple currencies and languages, and thrive globally.  Contact us to discuss your project and take the first step towards achieving international success!

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