Third & GroveThird & Grove
Apr 22, 2018 - Justin Emond

Six Key Questions to Answer Before Expanding your Shopify Plus Store Internationally


Among our own clients, and across the broader landscape, we continue to see more and more merchants choosing Shopify Plus for their enterprise commerce needs. We have entered the third wave of digital commerce platforms, and the biggest beneficiary of this paradigm shift is and will continue to be Shopify Plus.

As we help more and more clients migrate to or expand their Shopify Plus efforts, we are frequently asked to take a successful US store and expand into international markets. That kind of expansion requires some crucial architecture decisions, so our clients need to need to carefully answer five crucial questions to plan the best approach.

Here are six critical things to consider:

Question 1: What is the preferred payment method in each country?

Did you know that online shoppers in Japan prefer to get a special code at checkout that they to a convenience store so they can pay cash? Or that in China, the most popular online payment method is a mobile payment option from Alibaba called Alipay? It ’s so ubiquitous that homeless people request Alipayments rather than cash.

It is very easy as a consumer in the United States to assume that people in other countries like to pay the same way we do with credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. But payments are much more nuanced in different cultures. Before rolling out your store in a new country make sure you understand how people like to pay, and that you have a plan in place to support the most popular methods. (Need help? Check out our recent Shopify guide to international digital commerce payment preferences.)

If your international store has to support different payment methods than your U.S. store, you will need to run a separate Shopify instance, as you cannot support more than one set of universal payment methods per store.

Question 2: How will I handle translations?

There are two approaches to managing translations in Shopify, and they relate to how you approach your overall architecture.

If you are using one store to sell to more than one market, you will need to use a Shopify plugin to perform the critical tasks of language detection, language switching, translation tracking, multiple domains, SEO considerations, and right to left languages.  Langify is the leading Shopify app for these tasks and is likely an excellent choice for supporting all of your single-store use cases.  

If you are using one store per market (say, to support different payment methods in each country), you don’t have to use an app or service at all. You can simply enter the local language in the page content and product information. If you are using one store per market but have multiple languages in one market (say, in China) you likely will want to leverage the Langify extension for each store that needs to handle multiple languages in a single market.

Question 3: Am I ready to support the biggest payment method trend in 2018?

A staggering 25% of all fashion purchases in Australia use a new non-credit, non-deb,t multiple-payments system called AfterPay. People under 40 are native digital shoppers; people under 35 are getting fewer credit cards than previous generations and prefer not to carry credit card debt (likely a legacy of the great recession). Online payment preferences in first world countries like Australia, the U.S., and Europe are changing.

So how do these methods work? AfterPay is a new breed of payment system that allows a customer to get what they bought immediately, the merchant to get paid immediately, but the customer to pay in installments. This isn’t a line of credit or a debt issuance, and the total price paid by the consumer is the same. Crucially, services like AfterPay take the chargeback risk in exchange for the merchant paying a percent of the sale. Right now, there’s a massive opportunity for merchants to get ahead this big shift in payments.. (You can read a more detailed explanation in our in depth report of these new non-debt installment payment methods.) If your international expansion is looking at Australia, New Zealand, or Western Europe, your strategy may need to include support for services like AfterPay.

Question 4: How will I handle multiple currencies?

Showing your customers the price of a product in their own currency is critical for the success of your store. Don’t believe us? An outrageous 56% of shoppers in Germany said they would not return to a site that only listed prices in U.S. dollars (See ZDNet’s "Unease with foreign currencies").

If you are using individual stores for individual markets, you don’t need to worry about supporting multiple currencies. However, if you are using one store for multiple markets, you will need to show users prices in local currencies to reduce conversion friction. Multi Currency is an excellent Shopify app from Bold Commerce that will auto-detect a user’s location and show the right currency, allow customers to self-select the currency they prefer, and continuously update currency prices based on current exchange rates.

If you are using one store for multiple markets, make sure that you have a currency localization solution tested and ready to go.

Question 5: How will you fulfill orders?

How will you be fulfilling orders in your target countries? Are the warehouses different? Will there be a different ERP? Are the shipping options different? Are there accounting concerns about leaving profits overseas?

If fulfillment options are different, you likely need to run a separate Shopify store in each market.

Question 6: Am I prepared to comply with GDPR?

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is new legislation that aims to protect the personal data and privacy of European Union citizens for transactions that occur inside and outside of EU member states.

It governs how data is gathered and stored and gives EU citizens control over their personal data. Any and all companies that collect the data of citizens of the European Union will need to comply with strict new rules that protect customer data by May 25, 2018. Sanctions for non-compliance can be as high as  €20,000,000, or up to 4 percent of an organization's annual worldwide turnover from the preceding financial year, whichever is the greater.

If you are launching a store in an EU member country, you must comply with these regulations not only with your EU store but in every store a European might visit. European regulators are likely to take a dim view of organizations that don’t protect EU citizens’ data on non-EU systems when they have a footprint in the EU. And remember, it’s not always clear when a U.S. company has to comply  (Read up on our risk report for US-based companies and the GDPR to learn more.)

If you are launching in the EU, make sure you carefully plan how you will support compliance. (For more resources, see our GDPR overview, Dos and Don’ts, and Shopify’s excellent GDPR guide.)