Internationalization — the process of expanding your Shopify store into multiple countries or regions — is one of the fastest ways you can increase your reach and revenue. The move to having multiple storefronts can significantly increase your customer base, making your product and brand far more accessible for people overseas.
The Benefits of Internationalization
There are 3 main benefits to the internationalization strategy.
- We touched on this above, but you get to make more sales by going into a new region. Since many people only buy local, finding international shipping rates prohibitively expensive, having a local store opens you up to a whole new market of people who can buy from you. You can start making serious progress just through the exposure to so many new people.
- Being able to accept payments in local currency is a massive win. Not being able to pay in your home currency is one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment in international payments, and with a localized store, you get to nip this one in the bud.
- Having local stores can significantly improve the performance of your ad campaigns through more targeted traffic that brings in higher conversions. For example, rather than wasting your ad spend on directing Canadian traffic to your Australian store, where they can’t pay in local currency (and are therefore less likely to complete a purchase), you can send them directly to your Canadian shop instead.
Are You Ready for Internationalization?
The internationalization expansion process is easy and inexpensive to test — you really only need the Country Selector plug-in and a multi-store set-up in your Shopify account to test whether it’s a good fit for you.
That said, it’s not the right strategy for everyone. Whether or not you’re ready is a question only you can answer, and there are some points below to help you be sure.
- Is your business well-established? If your current store is generating over $10,000 per month, and things are fairly comfortable financially, then internationalization could be a good move for you. If you are financially stretched at the moment, wait until your current store has built up that steam before jumping into this.
- Are you getting a lot of traffic and sales from international locations? If you’re seeing consistent sales from a specific place, then that’s often a good indication that a local store would work well, particularly if the customers are very loyal and willing to deal with the higher costs and wait times of buying internationally to get their hands on your products.
- Do you have the resources to handle a significant increase in sales volume and the logistics and customer support that goes along with that? If your international stores really take off, then you’ll need to have the infrastructure in place to handle it (or at least be willing and able to scale up what you’re currently doing).
If you’re able to answer yes to the questions above, then taking a swing at internationalization could be a great win for the growth of your business. If not, then put it on the backburner for the moment, and come back when you’re ready.
How to Set Up Multi-Region Shopify Stores
Now, the internationalization process has a lot of moving parts, and it can be time-consuming if you’ve got lots of products and pages. If you know you want stores in multiple regions, but don’t have the time to do it yourself, you can check out our International Expansion Pack here — we can do all the set-up, so you can focus on the rest of your business.
Here are all the steps necessary to get your region-specific stores going. Whether you’re just setting up one international store (recommended if you’re testing the idea) or multiple stores (if you’ve got proof it’s going to work), the process is the same.
Step One: Get An Extra Shopify Account.
While it’s not strictly required (since the customer won’t see it), it’s a good idea to register them with the new region noted in the Shopify store name.
For example, if your current account is yourbrandhere.myshopify.com, register yourbrandhere-au.myshopify.com for Australia, yourbrandhere-uk.myshopify.com for the United Kingdom, and so on.
This helps keep your organized on the back end, and saves confusion, instead of your team trying to remember which unique store name belongs to which territory.
Step Two: Set Up Your New Domain
There are two ways you can set up the domain for your new store:
- Use a separate domain to your original one
- Use a sub-domain on your original one
If you use a separate domain, yourbrandhere.com might become yourbrandhere.com.au or yourbrandhere.co.uk. This works, provided the site (all the branding, product pages etc) are laid out exactly like the original store.
However, if you use a sub-domain, yourbrandhere.com might be your main site, while au.yourbrandhere.com.au would become your Australian store and uk.yourbrandhere.com.au would become your UK store. This is the ideal approach — it reassures customers that they’re in the right place and that they’re not getting ripped off by someone copying your store.
Step Three: Duplicate Your Store.
This is a pretty involved process, but it’s not difficult. You don’t have to do it all at once, either — just when you have the time to get it done.
- Export your theme. Click Admin > Themes >Export Theme. Then upload the exported file to your new store.
- Export your products. Go to Admin > Products > Export > Export All. If you don’t want to list all your products on the new store, then just select the few you do want to export. Then upload those into the new store.
- Adjust your pricing. Depending on the region of the new store, you might decide to adjust your pricing. Once you’ve imported your products, you can change the prices via the admin panel, or via the CSV if you have a lot of products.
- Update your general settings. Go to the General Settings of the new store, and update the address, phone number, currency, and timezone to make sure they are how you want them.
- Duplicate the page content. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for this one! In order to migrate all the material from your original site onto the new one, open the two sites side-by-side.
i) Click on Pages and work your way down the list. Switch into HTML mode each time to make sure the pages are identical, then copy, and paste the content into the new site.
ii) Once all the content is migrated, add in hreflang, as outlined by Google here. This will save you from being penalized for duplicate content. This is a tag that’s added to each page on all your sites (add it to theme.liquid in the <head> section to ensure it’s listed for every page), which tells Google that the stores are linked. This is a critical step; if you don’t do it, Google can slap your stores with penalties or even de-index them, so make sure you do it! Here’s a great article explaining the implementation.
- Update the new store’s content and links. I recommend updating the language on the new store with any localized spelling changes (such as changing AU spelling to US spelling). Make sure you update the contact details if need be, and that any internal links on each of the pages are pointing to the right store. So, for example, if a product page in your new store has a link to the Contact page, make sure that link points to the Contact page on your new store, not the old one, as the link will not have been updated during the export/import of the page content.
- If you are using any apps on your original store, make sure you reinstall and configure those for the new one too.
Step Four: Set Up Your IP Redirect
The most effective way to get people to the right store for their location is to proactively point them to it. The Country Selector does exactly that. The software detects the visitor’s location, then pops up a little bar at the top of the page, offering to take them to the local store. It’s not invasive or aggressive — they can choose to stay at the store they landed at — but it gives them the option to switch over immediately to the right store for their location.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
Step Five: Launch and Monitor
Once the new store is up and running, it’s time to keep a close eye on how everything performs. Are you getting the kind of traction you were expecting? For example, are you seeing a steady stream of traffic and sales? How is everything going logistically? Are you keeping up with the demand and customer support?
Generally speaking, we would recommend running things for two to three months to make sure everything is running smoothly and profitably. Keep close records of your updated ad spend and ROI, how much the volume of work has increased for your team, and what your new revenue looks like so that you get a clear picture of how additional storefronts affect your overall business.
Use Our Internationalisation Experience To Your Advantage!
There are so many moving parts to this process — it can be so overwhelming and time-consuming that many store owners talk themselves out of it before they even begin! We hate to see that happen though because it’s such a great opportunity for many Shopify stores, and that’s why we built the International Expansion Pack.
It takes the pain out of regional expansion — having an expert handle the project for you allows you to focus on your newfound sales and empire-building instead.
Here’s what we’ve implemented for each of our International Expansion Pack clients:
- Regional account creation
- Theme set-up
- Product set-up
- Configuration (including Google Analytics, payment gateways, mailing list and all your critical Shopify Apps)
- Country Selector set-up
- SEO & Google Listing set-up
- Launch help
Want to explore internationalization for your own store? Check out the International Expansion Pack here.
With our experience with some of the biggest international expansions on Shopify (and running an international business ourselves), we know what to do. Let us take care of all the logistics, leaving you to focus on what you do best: running your business, and fulfilling all the new orders you’ll be taking.
Thank you for following our Shopify Insider Blog @ Blackbelt Commerce, we have many other valuable and informative posts that will help you to continue to optimize your website: here are our top recommendations; New Design, Animated Gifs and The Benefits of Multichannel Thinking. Make sure to check out all of our customer reviews. Also, you can learn all about who are the Shopify Experts at Blackbelt Commerce.
If you have any questions about any part of the internationalization process, drop us a comment below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
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