How to prepare your e-commerce website for an international audience

How to prepare your e-commerce website for an international audience

Posted: Thu 25th Apr 2024

If you run an e-commerce business and want to expand your reach outside the UK, you need to make sure your website is set up to engage effectively with an overseas audience.

Here are some important steps to consider when planning your international expansion and preparing your e-commerce website for people in foreign markets.

Tailor your website's design and navigation to the market

Not all customers are the same and each target audience has its own preferences and behaviours.

Depending on which regions you're looking to enter, you'll need to make the necessary adjustments to your website to make sure visitors have a really good user experience.


One of the key aspects of adapting your design and navigation is taking into account the cultural nuances of your market.

Different cultures have their own aesthetic preferences, colour meanings and design principles. What may be visually appealing in one market could be offputting or confusing in another.

For example, while a Western audience may find vibrant and bold colours appealing, people in Asian cultures might consider them garish.

By doing thorough research and consulting with cultural experts, you can create a design that resonates with the local audience and gives them a great customer experience.


The way users navigate through a website or online store can vary across cultures, and it's essential that you accommodate those differences. For instance, in some countries, users might be accustomed to vertical scrolling, while, in others, horizontal navigation might be more intuitive.

By understanding the navigation patterns that people in your international markets prefer, you can make your site fully user-friendly.


If your target markets speak different languages, you must make sure your design allows for convenient translation and localisation (see below). Be mindful of text expanding or contracting in a way that affects your site's layout and look.

A button or element that fits perfectly in one language might get distorted or unreadable when translated into another. Leave enough space to accommodate translations and consider hiring language experts to make sure your content is accurate and culturally appropriate.


You need to adapt your design to specific devices and platforms that are used widely in different markets.

For example, if most people in your target country access the internet through mobile devices, it's crucial to design a mobile-friendly interface that prioritises touch-based navigation and is optimised for smaller screens.

In contrast, if your market mainly uses desktop computers, you can focus on creating sophisticated and interactive design elements.


Go Global: Free guides to help UK businesses kickstart their international trading

Download our free Go Global exporting guides

USA / China / India / Singapore / UAE / Germany / France / Australia


Adapt your content marketing to the local culture and context

In a world that's increasingly interconnected, it's no longer enough to simply translate the content into different languages. To truly engage and resonate with audiences worldwide, you must account for cultural nuances and adapt your content accordingly.

Local culture

This means tailoring the content to fit the specific values, norms, beliefs and customs of your audience. You can incorporate local references, idioms and humour, or address topics and issues that the local community finds relevant and meaningful.

As you do this, you'll create a connection with your customer base and foster a sense that you're familiar and relatable.


Adapting to context is about considering the social, economic, political and technological environment in which people will 'consume' your content.

This means knowing which communication channels and platforms are popular in a particular region, as well as how easily people have access to technology. Adapting to the local context makes sure that your content is not only understood but also accessible and engaging to the target audience.

This is vital for several reasons.

  • It shows you're respecting the local community's values and traditions. By taking the time to understand and incorporate cultural nuances, you avoid unintentionally offending or alienating your audience. This helps build trust and loyalty over time.

  • It gives your content more impact. People are more likely to pay attention to content they can relate to their own lives and experiences. When you incorporate local stories, examples and imagery, you can make your message more relevant and compelling, which boosts engagement and interest.

  • It allows you to communicate more effectively. Different cultures have different communication styles. By tailoring the content according to these preferences, you're increasing the chances that your audience will understand, accept and embrace your content.

Use multi-currency pricing

Pricing will be hugely important to anyone looking to make a purchase on your website. While you might have the GBP currency set up when selling to people in the UK, shoppers overseas should have the option to change currencies on your site without needing to convert themselves.

Make sure visitors can clearly see the currencies on your site. If you're going to be making extra charges on transactions, show them. You don't want people to reach the checkout, find they've been hit with fees they didn't expect, and abandon a full shopping cart.

Giving international customers the option of viewing prices in their local currency improves the user experience and makes it easier for them to decide whether to buy. It also helps make you more trustworthy and credible, which ultimately drives more conversions.

Provide appropriate payment options

Having payment methods that your overseas customers will find comfortable will help make for a smooth checkout process. Here are some examples:

Credit and debit card payments

Likely to be your first and most popular payment method. It's important to have a secure and reliable payment gateway that can process these transactions without any hiccups.

Customers can make instant payments and shop with confidence, knowing that their payment details are secure and their items will be processed and delivered promptly.

Digital wallets (such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal)

With many people using their smartphones for online shopping, digital wallets have become extremely popular.

These apps allow users to store their payment information securely on their phones and avoid having to enter card details for every transaction. Offering these options gives customers the convenience of a quick and hassle-free payment process.

"Pay on delivery"

This option can be beneficial in certain circumstances. It allows customers to pay for their purchases once they've received them. It's especially useful for customers who may be wary of making online payments or don't have access to a credit or debit card.

By offering this payment option, you can target a wider range of customers, especially those who prefer cash transactions or have misgivings about whether online payments are safe and reliable.

Reassure potential shoppers

For international shoppers, there are a few concerns that you might need to address to make them confident about buying from your online shop.

Customers want to know transactions are secure

You can overcome this by having strong  security measures in place that protect people's sensitive personal and financial information. This means adding the latest encryption technology to your website and partnering with trusted payment gateways.

Customers want reliable shipping options

Communicating openly and transparently about your shipping process is crucial. Provide accurate handling and delivery times and tracking information.

Also, clearly outline any extra customs duties or taxes that customers might incur, so there are no surprises when their goods arrive.

Customers want to be able to understand you

Language barriers are a common challenge for international shoppers, so be sure to offer multilingual customer support through online chat, email and/or phone.

Having staff who are fluent in the native language helps overseas customers navigate the buying process with ease and makes for a positive and seamless shopping experience.

Customers want to be sure what you're selling

Giving detailed product descriptions that mention features, size, materials and care instructions helps customers make informed decisions.

Providing clear and striking images that represent the product as accurately as possible allows online shoppers to visualise what they're thinking about buying.

Customers want to know they can contact you easily

Building trust with international shoppers means maintaining a strong online presence and engaging with them through social media platforms. Actively responding to queries, addressing concerns promptly and displaying positive customer testimonials can boost buyers' confidence.

Customers want to be able to return items easily

Offering hassle-free return and exchange policies is really important for overseas customers. The fear of buying something that might not meet their expectations without the option to return it can put potential buyers off.

By clearly outlining your processes and making them straightforward – like providing prepaid return labels or local drop-off points – you can alleviate concerns and show you're committed to customer satisfaction.

Attract the right audience with international SEO

International SEO (search engine optimisation) involves optimising your website and its content to specifically target a particular geographic area or audience.

By tailoring your marketing efforts to a particular location, you can become more visible to local customers who are more likely to convert into loyal clients.

One of the key benefits of international SEO is its ability to bring relevant traffic to a website. When people search for a product or service in a specific location, search engines display the most relevant local results.

Having a good international SEO strategy makes sure your website appears prominently in these search results, attracting the attention of potential customers who are actively looking for what you sell.

Key takeaways

Expanding your e-commerce website to an international audience requires careful planning and preparation.

By understanding and adapting to your market, offering the right currencies and variety of payment methods, reassuring shoppers of your reliability and providing excellent customer support, you can successfully cater to your overseas audience and drive your business's growth beyond the UK.


Go Global: Free support and guidance to help UK businesses kickstart their international trading

About Go Global

Kickstart your international trading with this free programme of support from Santander and Enterprise Nation. Take me to the international trade hub


Relevant resources

Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

Get business support right to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive business tips, learn about new funding programmes, join upcoming events, take e-learning courses, and more.