Don’t miss out on ecommerce sales by ignoring international users


People in different countries behave differently online – just like they do in real life. They have different expectations from websites, are used to different styles of communication and certainly hold different commitment expectations.  

Let’s say you have a spiffing ecommerce website. You trade internationally and your site has all the bells and whistles – translation and a currency converter. So why aren’t people converting?

Many play the numbers game in trying to solve this problem – “If only a fraction of our traffic is converting, we simply need to flood our site with more traffic.”

Google likes this – it makes more money from your online advertising. SEO companies like it too – they earn money from helping you rank well on Google.

But that’s so inefficient – it’s like pouring more water in a leaky bucket instead of plugging the leaks. If you don’t fix why people leave your site without taking action, that’s money down the drain. A lot of money.

89% of consumers purchased from a competitor following a poor customer experience – and as we know, online user experience comprises a sizeable chunk of customer experience.

The opportunities to provide a bad user experience increase exponentially when you throw an international audience into the mix. Why? You don’t understand or (importantly) share their nuances of culture, language and online behaviour.

In this article, I’ll:

  • Share real-life examples of how companies have improved the performance of their country-specific websites
  • Explain the benefits of having internationally optimised versions of your website
  • Show how user experience drives businesses growth

You can also read through our presentation from our recent webinar with UKTI:

How to fix user experience on international ecommerce sites

If you want to fix the culturally and behaviourally nuanced holes on your site, look no further than remote UX testing.

Remote UX testing is the process of using software to video record the actions and spoken thoughts of users, as they try to complete tasks on your website. In this case, the users you’d be testing with would be people from the countries you’re trying to sell in.

Why do this? It shows what users struggle with on your site and how to fix these problems.

Case study: a major retailer based in the UK

For confidentiality reasons, I can’t name this client. However, its experience of running remote UX tests via WhatUsersDo perfectly illustrates the pitfalls of trading internationally online.

The client had a problem in Russia – it had paid a small fortune to a translation agency for creating a Russian-language version of its website. When the site launched, the client found that although Russian customers were filling their baskets with products, there was a horrific abandonment rate at checkout.

Abandoned Cart

The client didn’t know if this was something to do with its Russian delivery options – which were about a week slower than in the UK and most of Western Europe. Or whether the problem was the manifestation of a cultural nuance – was this normal for fashion eCommerce in Russia?

But these were just guesses – when the client’s team found the real problem, it was so unnecessary (yet hidden) that they felt like kicking themselves.

The issue was when Russian customers tried to complete the checkout form, Cyrillic alphabets were not properly supported – some of the characters they typed did not work. It got converted by the system into gobbledygook.

This eroded the trust of Russian users at a critical point – just before entering their credit card details.

Of course shoppers abandoned the site.

As soon as the client became aware of the problem, it was quickly fixed and sales shot up.

Remote UX testing to guide the creation of new international sites

The example above is of a client fixing problems on an existing site. An even better decision is to use remote UX testing to guide the creation of an international trading site.

You can do that by incorporating insights at the following stages:


  1. Planning stage – before you enter a market, you can research it by watching customers using a competitor’s website. This will help you understand users’ needs.
  2. Build stage – when you or your design agency are starting to create the site, even if it’s far from finished, you should watch customers use prototypes to ensure a successful launch.
  3. Optimisation stage – regularly find opportunities to increase sales, and adapt to changes in user behaviour, by continuing to run UX tests on live sites.

What are the benefits of remote UX testing and having internationally optimised sites?

According to our clients, these are the 4 main benefits of their user-friendly international sites:

  1. Acquisition – you capture as many customers as possible, in every location where you trade – rather than getting customers in one location, at the expense of others.
  2. Market share – you don’t send customers off to competitors (because users feel more comfortable with the sites of local businesses).
  3. Retention and brand power – you don’t leave a negative impression of your brand on international customers due to a bad user experience.
  4. Competitive advantage – all markets are only going to become more internationally competitive. You should get a head start. 

Our case study with Hoteling, a leading hotel-booking eCommerce site, shows how important user-friendly international sites are.

When it ran UX tests with American users on the US version of its website, it uncovered issues that were causing it to leak customers:

  • 6 US-specific issues that would’ve gone undiscovered if the team hadn’t seen the site through the eyes of US customers
  • Over 40 previously unknown bugs
  • 5 critical issues that seriously compromised the usability (ease of use) of the site

How online user experience drives business growth on multiple levels

Another facet of the benefits listed above is the effect they have on clients’ businesses:

  • Avoid damage to your reputation – consumers are twice as likely to share bad customer experiences than positive ones. In the age of social media, you want to spare yourself the trouble of bad word of mouth.
  • Enjoy cost savings – a good UX will drastically reduce the number of support calls and emails you get. You’ll spend less time dealing with issues and more time making money.
  • Bask in increased engagement – when customers enjoy buying from you, more of them will leave positive reviews. Customers saying good things about your business is one of the most powerful forms of persuasion.
  • Crush the competition – insights from remote UX testing are specific to your business, so competitors can’t copy or replicate your results (unless, of course, they run tests too). They’ll have a very hard time stealing your customers.

See if your site is costing you sales – get a FREE trial of WhatUsersDo

It’s easy to get started

The WhatUsersDo platform uses software to video record the actions and spoken thoughts of users, as they try to complete tasks on your website. This shows you exactly what to keep, ditch or improve.

You can start getting back videos of users on your website within 24 hours – it’s super-quick and surprisingly cheap. Especially with this free trial offer. Take advantage – your users deserve to be heard and your hard work deserves uncompromised results.

• Identify user issues and use them as opportunities for improvement
• Over 30,000 testers worldwide: UK, US, Germany, Netherlands, France, and more
• Test across desktop, mobile, tablet, and prototypes

Timi is a London-based copywriter and full-time marketing sceptic – there are now more unvalidated opinions out there than ever.

He became a UX testing enthusiast after seeing its power while working at TUI – the world’s largest travel, leisure and tourism company. He then joined WhatUsersDo to sharpen his UX knowledge and work side-by-side with the field’s best and brightest.

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