While global e-commerce promises a whole new world of sales, a new 2013 Forrester study shows that competent businesses must prepare new, customized websites for their international customers.
Domestic strategies falter when it comes to online sales in foreign countries. Sites that work at home often prove slow, unresponsive, and unreliable abroad. Mobile commerce, with its reliance on varying local data speeds, is especially troublesome. While the average site response time in Germany or the United States hovers around two seconds, in India the average is eight seconds. How long will consumers shop on a site with an 8-second response time?
Consistency in response time is a similar issue, with locales like Japan and the Netherlands showing consistency within one to two seconds while Brazil and China show high volatility with six to seven second consistencies. Emerging markets, with their areas of vastly different network quality (even within urban areas) have notoriously poor consistency, making it difficult to count on any web infrastructure, even if it works in more advanced economies.
“There’s a direct correlation between site performance and conversation rates,” reports the Forrester study. “If your firm is serious about growing revenues from international markets and has made these markets a strategic priority, then you must be prepared to invest in the people and technologies that will make the World Wide Web deliver your content quickly. It is naïve to presume the processes and tools that make your domestic site whizz along will magically do the same for international sites.”
While the coming years will doubtless ease the problems with response and variance in international e-tailing, the current problem could cost a lot of hopeful businesses foreign customers. Companies that have spent thousands or more on creating high-speed domestic web solutions may be particularly disappointed to realize their formula utterly fails when moved to an emerging market.
Forrester has several suggestions for turning international ecommerce around, and all have to do with speeding up the process from the perspective of the buyer. Businesses with poor front-end performance can compress code, simplify data-heavy features like Flash banners, and minimalize page design. For example, Suzuki’s tile-based American home page has relatively few links, and a design that can be easily altered to make room for less hospitable Internet speeds. Companies that have strong interfaces but poor infrastructure can use CDNs (content delivery networks) more effectively, utilize cloud computing for online services, and even reduce some analytic/personalization tools to help sites run more quickly.
Online businesses looking to benefit from global sales should also keep an eye on the digital horizon. Global e-commerce – especially in the digital field – is a new industry and benchmarks are developing quickly. Keeping up to date with trends and watching competitor sites can provide worried companies with a stock of new ideas. When in doubt, testing from the perspective of the end user can offer potential innovations.
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