It’s the World Wide Web, Not the US Wide Web!

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Excepting a very small number of web designers, writers, and journalists, it seems that nobody is all that interested in the growth of the World Wide Web. Why? Because it feels like the stating of the obvious. Today’s interest is taking advantage of what the internet has to offer – not examining what is already there! Global business is now seen as standard, so the marketplace of any given business is worldwide.

At least, this is the theory. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly become reality yet. A staggeringly high percentage of all of the websites selling products and services online have placed their entire marketing strategy on a US market focus. However, if you are trying to sell to the world, this is far from the most effective strategy that you can apply.

The trick is to overhaul your way of thinking about the world. Indeed, it has become a commonly accepted attitude that the business world centers in the United States, however, there are millions upon millions of very desirable customers out there who live beyond the borders of the US. Furthermore, these people cannot be marketed to in the same way as you would market to an American. Other cultures have different norms, different currencies, different languages, and different expectations.

Assuming that your main goal is indeed to sell your products and services, you will be opening a floodgate of new prospective customers by simply being practical and using common sense. And it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive, either.

Perhaps you want to cater to your customers in their own currency – hooking up to an online currency converter is one of the most basic functions that you can add to your site. It is simple, inexpensive, and extremely practical. This tells your site visitors that you understand what the international marketplace is all about, and you know how to cater to it properly. This attitude sells!

Place the converter information right at the very top of each page that lists prices, as well as on the page that leads to the different pricing pages. Certainly, you can still make the US dollar your default price, but make sure that this is clearly marked so that you reduce possible confusion. Simply using the dollar sign doesn’t cut it, either, because there are many countries that use the “dollar”, even though it is not the US dollar; Canada and Australia for example.

Your web forms will also need to make sense to an international audience if you intend to make them your market. Many of the forms for sites that claim to be international don’t even allow a client to select their country, or fill it in themselves. Forms may also have drop-down menus that offer states to select from – and even if the user has opted for a country other than the United States, these forms frequently won’t allow users to submit without choosing a state – even though they don’t live in one. It is also frustrating to non-US users when they are asked for a ZIP code. This term does not exist outside the United States, and can create confusion for citizens of countries with Postal Codes, and other terms for regional coding. You’ll also need to ensure that your telephone number and fax field allows for more than ten digits. Essentially, go out of your way to make it easy for your prospective clients to buy from you. If they struggle, they’ll simply go elsewhere.

Lastly, it is important to recognize that just because you are an online business, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to cater to the whole world. In that case, it is important that you make this clear right up front. Nothing frustrates visitors more than filling up their carts with your wonderful items and deals, and then finding out that a site doesn’t ship to their country. It only takes a small note in your FAQ, and in the product description page template, and you’ll avoid this problem altogether.

When your business is online, the world is your oyster. Just make sure that you know how to cater to the world, and that you don’t assume that it is a uniform place.


Mark.

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