For nearly a decade, ecommerce in the United States has grown at a yearly rise of over 15%. In 2018, global web sales neared $3 trillion. While every American has Amazon in their favorites, they are not alone in their use of the internet for shopping. China is the world’s leading ecommerce market and will not be slowing down anytime soon. In China, online global sales increased by 28% from the previous year.

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The rest of the world is near the same level or working their way there. According to Roy Morgan, 9.4 million Australians purchased something online within just one year until March 2018. Australia had not seen this much growth in the ecommerce market since 2014. The significant jump in online shopping indicates that trends won’t be changing anytime soon.

India represents a huge potential for online sales. Indian consumers spent $38.5 billion online in 2017, and in 2026 they are projected to spend $200 billion. Less than 65% of the country has an online connection, but the reach of the internet is expected to double by 2021. By 2034, experts believe India will be the second-largest market for ecommerce in the entire world behind China only.

Given the worldwide trend towards ecommerce, it comes as no surprise that international retailers are growing 1.3 times faster than those who sell only in a single country. Experts project that, through 2020, international ecommerce will grow twice as fast as domestic online shopping. Recent research has revealed that 67% of online shoppers in the top global markets have made a cross-border purchase within the past 6 months.

With online shopping becoming increasingly global, the importance of localization has come to the forefront. The customization of a domestic site may not be optimally adapted for a foreign one for a host of reasons. Language quickly comes to mind when one thinks of localization.

While translating a site for local speakers is important and can increase online sales, the truth is that localization involves so much more than that. There are many factors involved in tailoring a site for the customers of a specific area and these will have a huge influence on the success an online retailer enjoys.

Address Forms

The United States has zip codes, which are required for shipping, but not all countries do. Furthermore, not all zip code formats are the same in countries that do have them. In China, zip codes are six digits long. In Canada, Ireland, and the UK, zip codes include both letters and numbers.


Many shoppers will abandon their carts when they discover that prices are not shown in their local currency. Furthermore, the expectations of how prices are displayed (i.e. if they are rounded to a whole number or end in a .99 or .95) changes from country to country and within countries as well.

Retailers need to be able to customize the shopping experience down to the cent. The difference between $15.99 and $16.00 can be the difference between a customer feeling like they’re shopping from a domestic site and not an international one. This may seem small, but combined with other factors, could lead to cart abandonment and a drop off in sales, which is why retailers need to test all these details across their sites.

It is important the brand builds trust with their customers by presenting their websites in a way that adapts to local cultural norms. Creating a local experience goes a long way to create customer loyalty and boost retention.

Culturally Appropriate Visuals

Different populations will deem different items offensive for a variety of reasons. It is important to learn about local customs so as not to offend your customers in a foreign market. For example, in more conservative countries, consumers could be offended seeing product imagery with a model and might prefer seeing visuals that only show the product.

Additionally, a logo or image that is perfectly acceptable in one region could be offensive or taboo in another. Beyond that, certain colors may work better in one part of the world than another depending on their cultural significance or meaning.


Shopping holidays vary from country to country, and missing out on an important holiday in one region could be a missed opportunity. The United States has Black Friday and Cyber Monday in November around Thanksgiving, and while these holidays are gaining ground in other parts of the world, these are not necessarily the biggest shopping days worldwide. In Australia, Click Frenzy Day began in 2012 and is on the third Tuesday in November.

Similar to Cyber Monday, buyers can expect deep discounts, and ecommerce sites should expect heavy website traffic. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day might be important in the U.S., but in China, they celebrate Children’s Day. In contrast, Eid-Al-Fitr is an important Muslim holiday. It is important that global ecommerce merchants plan their promotions to coincide with the major holidays in each market where they have a presence.

Duties and Taxes

Collecting taxes can be tricky as well. In the U.S. and Canada, prices represent the base price before adding sales taxes.

However, in Great Britain and France, the listed price usually includes all applicable taxes. A British shopper may see the sudden addition of tax as a sneaky surcharge. Unexpected surcharges can be a key factor influencing cart abandonment.

The Importance Of Localization

Localization is an important way to connect with your customers and increase your online sales. It can be a challenging process, with different aspects to consider. Many of these factors are not obvious and come as a surprise to online retailers when they decide to take the plunge and enter a new market.

It is usually best to partner up with an advanced cross-border ecommerce platform to localize your site for global shoppers. The investment will be worth it in the end, as your retail reach broadens with your customer base.

It all comes down to the experience. In fact, it’s best to think about customizing the shopping experience for each country. This is because when shopping online, everything from pricing to taxes, shipping and payments, and especially customer service, is part of the experience.

A global ecommerce business will not be as successful without localization. However, localization can be challenging. With global sales increasing dramatically over the next few years, a successful ecommerce business cannot afford to ignore it. Leading technology platforms like Flow are worth the investment for ecommerce businesses with global aspirations that are serious about seizing international opportunities.