What is Multi-Local Commerce and Why is it Essential for Growing Global Sales?

The world’s best-loved brands all have one thing in common: They deliver superior customer experiences. Regardless of product or industry, dominant brands prioritise and execute next-level online customer experiences in every market. These experiences don’t happen by accident. Rather, every detail of the shopper journey – from demand generation to last-mile delivery – is part of a multi-local commerce implementation.  

What is Multi-Local Commerce?

Multi-local commerce is the deployment of multiple ecommerce solutions integrated to create a seamless, domestic-equivalent purchase experience for shoppers of international brands in every global market.  

How is it Different from Traditional Market Entry Approaches? 

Multi-local commerce prioritises the shopper. It puts customers at the center of decision-making. It knows that long-term success is superior to a short-term burst of revenue. Multi-local commerce asks questions like: 

  • What is a typical domestic ecommerce experience like and how can we replicate it? 
  • What kind of marketing do shoppers in this market respond to? 
  • How long do customers expect to wait to receive a package? 
  • Which payment methods do shoppers in this market prefer? 
  • What kind of site imagery and merchandising appeals to shoppers and what might be offensive? 
  • How do shoppers expect to take delivery and/or make returns? 
  • Which channels do shoppers prefer to use to interact with customer service? 

In multi-local commerce, customer centrism guides every vendor selection, pricing strategy and marketing campaign.  

Meeting Global Shopper Expectations 

Online shoppers are more likely to convert if their experience matches their expectations. What do they expect? They expect to have a domestic-equivalent experience with every online merchant. Specifically, shoppers expect to have localised: 

  • Site language  
  • Checkout, including form fills 
  • Payment methods 
  • Payment processing times and acceptance rates 
  • Shipping options 
  • Delivery times 
  • Return and refund policies 
  • Customer support 
  • Marketing and communication outreach 

Leading brands with DTC ecommerce channels prioritise localisation in all of the above areas in each and every country and market in which they operate.  

Global Expansion Mistakes and Pitfalls

Brands expanding into new markets are under pressure to perform and show positive return on the international investment. In that case, it is tempting to prioritise speed over experience. 

For example, a brand may translate product pages to the local language but not display prices in local currency. Or a brand may not curate payment options, making shoppers scroll through irrelevant or obscure payment options to find the one they want.  

When brands don’t fully localise, international shoppers often face surprise tax and duty charges. Customers may also have to deal with delivery delays when products shipping cross-border get held up in customs.  

Overlooking or deprioritising any part of the purchase experience drives customers away. And all of the effort to reach those new prospective customers goes to waste. 

Key Integrated Solutions to Deploy for Multi-Local Commerce

A seamless, domestic-equivalent experience requires a suite of ecommerce solutions that meet the shopper at every step on their purchasing journey. 

Localised Demand Generation and Marketing

As with every other part of the DTC ecommerce experience, demand generation and performance marketing in new markets must align with shopper expectations. And it’s not enough to win a customer for one sale, global brands can capture customers for life and increase CLV over time.  

Even though shoppers around the world share enthusiasm for a brand, each market’s “why” will vary. To attract new customers, brands must localise awareness campaigns to appeal to specific cultural values and norms. It’s crucial at this stage to make sure imagery and language are more than on-brand, but that they’re also market-appropriate.  

As consumers become aware of a brand’s presence, marketing messaging turns to actually acquiring new customers. Localising these efforts requires understanding shopper motivations and designing promotions around them. For example, in one market discount offers may drive conversions. In another market, however, shoppers may feel that discounts cheapen the product and will not respond. 

Once shoppers have become customers, brands will want to retain those customers and grow their value. This is where localised loyalty programs can be launched. But again, these loyalty programs must be in line with domestic programs. For example, do customers prefer to earn points or pay a yearly membership fee to access perks? 

Multi-local commerce includes more than local fulfilment and site language considerations. The customer is on a purchasing journey and must be met with a local experience from the first time they encounter a brand. 

Localised Language across the Online Store Experience

From the homepage to the order confirmation page, customers expect to be able to browse and buy in their own language. In fact, 76% of consumers prefer buying from sites that display their language. In addition, 40% of shoppers say they will not purchase from websites in languages other than their own. 

Localised site language must be thorough and accurate. Brands should only go live with sites that have been translated and vetted by native speakers. Shoppers will know if a DTC site was poorly or hurriedly translated. Creating a familiar and exceptional experience starts with communication. If customers perceive that a brand will not invest in quality translation, they become suspicious of what other corners the brand has cut.  

A quality translation will take into account local turns of phrase and other language nuances.  

Local Merchandise Planning

Just like promotions and language, localised merchandise planning benefits the shopper and the brand. When brands know which SKUs to offer in local markets, they avoid amassing excess inventory. More importantly, customers do not have to scroll through endless catalogue options to find what they want.

Simply copying and pasting catalogue items, merchandising strategies and pricing from market to market dilutes the brand’s reputation and is a poor customer experience. For maximum return on investment for each international market, brands need to adopt multi-local.

Localised Checkout Experience

The checkout experience has many components. In the span of just a couple of screens, customers provide billing and shipping addresses, a payment method, select shipping options and complete the purchase. 

Brands that create a localised, seamless checkout flow build trust with shoppers which increases conversion rates. If a shopper sees an unfamiliar form field or the address fields do not match local formats, doubt sets in, and the shopper abandons the cart. In addition, the flow of the checkout process varies between markets. To ensure the highest conversion rates in every market, brands should lean on UX experts to guide checkout design. UX designers make sure every detail is local to every market. 

Market-specific details are also essential behind the scenes. For example, the right address validation running in the background can dramatically reduce rejected payments and delivery errors. 

Deploying a branded, domestic-equivalent checkout solution improves conversion rates and builds loyalty.  

Localised Transparent Displayed Pricing

The final price a customer pays is inclusive of many components. The final price typically includes the price of the item itself as well as taxes, duties, fees, etc. Customers in different markets prefer to see pricing differently. For example, a shopper in one market may prefer to see the price – inclusive of duties and taxes – on the product description page. In another market, the domestic equivalent experience displays the cost of duties and taxes during the checkout flow.

While it is important to display inclusive pricing at the right time in the purchase journey, it’s even more important that brands are transparent about pricing. Cart abandonment rates skyrocket when customers are surprised by hidden fees. Pricing transparency and pricing displayed at the right point in the customer experience increases conversion rates and builds trust.

Localised Payment Methods

Another key component to building trust and an exceptional customer experience is knowing and offering market-specific payment methods. Shoppers who reach the payment portion of the checkout experience want to see and be able to choose from payment methods they recognise.  

According to an ESW Global Voices survey, 25% of shoppers reported not being able to pay with local payment methods as a reason for not shopping with international brands. Offering local and multiple ecommerce payment options benefits brands as well as shoppers.  

Local acquirers are in-country financial institutions that benefit shoppers and brands. Local acquirers can process transactions more quickly than cross-border entities. In addition, using local acquirers yields higher approval rates and faster merchant settlement. Using in-country entities also shields shoppers from costly exchange rate conversions and transaction fees.  

Localising payment methods gives shoppers peace of mind and a better experience than cross-border transactions. 

Local Warehousing and Fulfilment

Perhaps one of the most challenging expectations for global brands to meet when entering a new market is that of delivery time. Shoppers increasingly demand shorter delivery times. For global brands, meeting those expectations cross-border is expensive at best and impossible at worst. 

Cross-border fulfilment can be a cost-savings, but it often comes at the expense of customer experience. Fulfiling orders from other countries is less reliable than having in-country warehousing and fulfilment. Orders can be held up in customs which delays delivery to the customer. The legal requirements for getting a product into a country may change and if the paperwork is not correctly completed and submitted, orders sit in customs. 

Brands may find that some goods are difficult to ship cross-border and may have to reduce the number of SKUs offered in certain countries. The consumer electronics and beauty industries in particular face challenges. Certain electronics components as well as fragrances are classified as “dangerous goods.” Warehousing and knowing how to ship dangerous goods lets global brands offer more of their catalogues to more customers. 

Brands should implement and integrate local fulfilment strategies that align with customer expectations and improve margin. In some cases, a hub model works well and for other brands, a hubless solution is ideal. Brands should also consider alternative and multichannel distribution methods. 

Omnichannel retail and commerce has seen a burst of popularity in the last few years. Understanding the local market’s expectations of omnichannel options helps brands create experiences that attract and retain customers. Smart, successful expansion includes knowing if customers will respond to buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) or buy-online-return-in-store (BORIS). If a market has high omnichannel expectations and utilisation, brands must implement those options. 

Localised Reverse Logistics

The customer experience extends past taking delivery of an order. Should the customer want or need to return an item, brands need to ensure that the process is also seamless and customer centric. To reduce the cost of customer service and optimise reverse logistics, brands should have a localised, branded return portal as part of their online store. These portals allow customers to self-serve and have more control over their experience.  

Just like with outbound shipping, brands need to know how shoppers in each market prefer to handle DTC ecommerce returns. Then, brands need to implement a multichannel return experience to serve those customers. For example, do shoppers in a certain market prefer pre-printed return labels they can affix and put in the post? Would shoppers prefer to return an item to a physical location or store?  

A domestic equivalent experience is essential – particularly in reverse logistics. Again, trust is key. Brands must meet customer expectations for processing the returns and issuing the refund or exchange. Localising returns improves processing speed while branded returns portals let customers track the progress of their return and refund. 

Localised Customer Support 

The customer support or customer service experience is one of the most important parts of the DTC post-purchase experience. In fact, it can make or break the shopper-brand relationship. A good experience can create a customer for life. A poor experience will create an unhappy customer. Unhappy customers are more likely to take to social and digital channels to express their displeasure with a brand. For this reason, having local customer service goes a long way. 

What does it mean to have local customer service? 

  • Prioritising customer-prefered communication channels 
  • Having agents that are native speakers of the local language 
  • Staffing customer service during local business hours 
  • Deploying AI chatbots for after-hours support  

Global brands that localise customer service create a customer experience that is indistinguishable from the shopper’s domestic experience. 

The Bottom Line 

Whether customers in new markets are super fans or are new to a brand, experience matters. Brands that have excellent products but poor experiences will lose sales and may have to pull out of markets. On the other hand, brands that prioritise customer experience and localisation are well positioned for both immediate and long-term success.

From an operations standpoint, there are certainly cost and revenue benefits to multi-local commerce. But brands that choose multi-local are choosing more than a suite of solutions. They are choosing to put the customer first. They are choosing to create an exceptional experience that will attract shoppers in the short term and keep them as loyal fans far into the future. 

Implementing multi-local from scratch in each country is not realistic. Instead, brands can outsource localisation. ESW has experience in more than 200 markets worldwide. We not only launch new DTC channels for the world’s best-loved brands, but we do it in weeks. 

Reach out today to talk about your brand’s ambitions.