This article provides the first steps towards creating a globalized website for online international sales and business.
Last Published: 10/20/2016

Step 1—Select A Domain Name

A key component to establishing a web presence is choosing a uniform resource locator (URL), also known as a web address. As with URLs aimed toward the domestic market, a URL for an online exporter’s website should be short, simple, descriptive, and memorable to customers in the target market. ICANN-Accredited Registrars will concurrently register your URL and domain name for each country in which you register.

Using Country-Level Domain Codes

Every country (and a few territories) in the world has a reserved, two-letter country   code domain (e.g., the United Kingdom has the domain .uk; for a complete list, visit bit. ly/1NhhWkY). An online exporter might want to choose domain names localized for their target markets. Locally branded domain names can increase brand awareness,  web address recall, and even brand sales and loyalty. In addition, most local search engines display locally relevant content by filtering the search results to include local country code domains only—something to consider when deciding whether to localize or internationalize your site. Companies that want to have a local domain name should research the rules for the particular country, as registration requirements vary. For more information, please visit iana.org.

Internationalizing Your  Domain Name

Companies seeking foreign customers may also consider an “internationalized” or “multilingual” domain name. Such domain names are web addresses written in characters other than the Roman alphabet. For example, a company called “Bright Light Bulbs”  wishing to sell in China could have a domain name that would use the Chinese characters for “bright light bulbs” in its web address. Internationalized domain names allow customers to search and access sites in their native language. Again, most ICANN-Accredited  Registrars can assist you in researching domain names in various  countries.


Step 2—Register with Search Engines

Most people use search engines to find information on the Internet. Major U.S. search engines such as Google and Bing will find your website automatically; however, in some markets, you may need to registeryour site with multiple local search engine.
 
There are a number of international search engines. Some search engines, such as baidu.com, are in native languages and characters. Others are popular U.S. search engines with international links, such as br.search.yahoo.com. Online exporters should find out if they need to register with each target market’s preferred search engines.
 

Step 3—Choose a Web Host

A “web host” is simply a company which “hosts” your website’s files—basically, storing them on powerful Internet-connected computer systems, and allowing them to be accessed by users all over the world. A variety of free and subscription-based web host services is available. Hosting may be purchased from a many different kinds of companies, many of whom offer a wide range of services.
 
Hosting services often go beyond website maintenance to include domain name registration, website design, and search engine registration. For some online exporters, it may be most feasible to use a web host in their target market to take advantage of all of these localized services. The location or nationality of the website host does not affect accessibility of the site. However, when choosing a host, companies should ensure that the host servers reside within a stable infrastructure and are maintained to ensure optimal reliability. Companies also should consider whether they will be storing the personal information of EU citizens, or citizens of other nations that restrict exporting personal data. The personal data of EU citizens can be sent only to countries deemed “adequate,” or to companies using approved model contracts and binding corporate rules, or to those participating in the U.S.–EU Safe Harbor program. Companies also should take into account potential negative perceptions if they store personal data in nations in which fraud or identity theft are rampant.
 
As with domestically located hosting services, agreements should be clear and enforceable regarding the ownership of intellectual property, performance specifications and warranties, security, privacy, the right to transfer the site to a different host, and contract termination. Your contract with a hosting service should provide the same level of security and privacy that your company promises clients whose information it collects, when applicable.

Step 4—Website Content: Localize and Internationalize

Companies seeking foreign audiences for their websites will want to localize or internationalize their site, or provide a mixture of both approaches. Forrester Research notes that “visitors linger twice as long [on international sites] as they do at English-  only URLs; business buyers are three times more likely to buy if addressed in their own language; and customer service costs drop when instructions are displayed in the user’s language.”
 
Localization consists of adapting your website to meet the linguistic, cultural, and commercial requirements of a targeted market. Internationalizing a firm’s website enables the company to be multilingual and to be sensitive to cultural conventions without the need for extensive redesign. Localization or internationalization must be part of the online exporter’s corporate strategy for website and business development. Features that should be considered include
  • Language
  • Cultural nuance, such as differences in color association and  symbols
  • Payment preferences
  • Pricing in the appropriate currency
  • Web metrics and visitor reports
  • Regular maintenance and updating of  content
 
More information on localization and internationalization can be found at   gala-global.org.
  
Step 5—Execute Orders
Guidelines for order execution and after-sales service are similar for offline and online transactions. You can easily add a checkout app to your website from a growing number  of vendors. You can specify the payment methods that you will accept. Keep in mind that overseas buyers will have different payment methods, and that the app or third-party checkout service you acquire needs to provide these  options.
 
You can also create your own site and online store using vendors such as Shopify. These services provide templates which can be customized up to a point. You can purchase a domain name and install a checkout function. Some vendors purport to enable their customers to have a store up, running, and taking orders within a couple of hours—and no computer programming skills are needed.

DISCLAIMER: Links to websites outside the U.S. Federal Government, or the use of trade, firm, or corporation names within the International Trade Administration websites (export.gov and trade.gov) are for the convenience of the user. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the U.S. Commerce Department of any private sector website, product, or service. When selecting links, be aware that you are subject to the privacy and security policies of the owners/sponsors of the outside website. Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.



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