From a business point of view are multiple commerce sites critical to a company. In some cases multiple sites can improve profits but is not critical to the business. On the other hand, in many situations multiple sites are an essential part of a company’s commerce business.
Suppose a company that has a profitable business selling a particular product. The company may generate additional revenue if it created sites targeted to different kinds of needs of the people using the product. However, each additional
site would require additional effort to administer it, such as designing the site, creating the content, and deciding which products it should have. Each site would also carry some cost. Perhaps the company’s owners are perfectly happy with their current business, and are not interested in the additional costs and complexities, even if they could generate some extra income from extra sites.
By contrast, in many business scenarios, multiple sites are critical to successful online commerce. Suppose a company sells to both businesses and individual shoppers. The requirements of business purchasing are different from customer shopping. The checkout process, presentation of products, registration of customers are all different in business-to-business (B2B) compared to business-to-customer (B2C). If a company insists on a single site dedicated to both B2B and B2C markets, either the consumers or business customers will find it complicated to use the site.
Multiple Geographies: Selling in more than one country presents challenges that are difficult to meet with a single site because each country has unique market conditions, culture, and regulations. These country-specific conditions can affect not only the choice of products and the pricing, but also other aspects such as the presentation of the site and advertising. Each country site is designed so that the language, currency, advertising, and even products all correspond to the country’s needs.
Pricing: Even if the products sold in all the countries are the same, chances are that prices will be different. For example, if the USA price is $49.99, and the conversion rate to Canadian dollars is $1US = $1.22280CAN, by simple conversion the price would end up at $24.44. However, it is unlikely that in Canada the product will be priced that way, since this converted price looks uneven, ending with 44 cents rather than the usual 99 cents. Also, the business would probably want some stability in pricing so that it does not change with every currency fluctuation. The price also needs to reflect local costs. In this case, the Canadian price might be $25.99, to make sure that the price is both stable and profitable in the Canadian market.
Another factor that affects pricing is local competition. In our example, if this same product has more competition in Great Britain, the price there might be significantly lower than in the USA.
Taxes: In the US with 50 states and thousands of counties, tax rules are quite complex and vary by such factors as where the product is shipped from, where it is going, and what kind of product it is. In some cases there are additional fees, which are similar to taxes, imposed by local governments, such as recycling or disposal fees.
In other countries taxes are imposed by the national and provincial governments and are also calculated as an additional charge for the product.
Shipping: Typically on a site, buyers choose the shipping method that they want to use for the items they buy. Depending on the item and the shipping method, the buyers might need to pay different shipping charges.
Several shipping companies operate worldwide, such as UPS and Federal Express. Many shipping providers are unique to their locations, such as each country’s national postal service.
A seller might have a warehouse in one country that serves many other countries. In this case, the shipping provider would not depend on the country of the site, but only on the location of the warehouse. To make this situation more complicated, some providers might also drop-ship their orders directly from their suppliers, while some locations allow B2B customers to pick up items directly from the warehouse using their own trucks.
Even for the same products and the same shipping provider, each country can have different shipping charges. In addition, within each country there might be a unique shipping tax that must also be calculated and presented to buyers on the seller’s site.
Language: The most obvious difference in catalog display among different countries is language. In some countries, all information on the site should be shown in a single language, such as French in France or Japanese in Japan. In other countries, however, customers might need to choose their language or preference. Examples of this are Canada, where sites often give a choice of French or English, or Belgium, where Dutch and French are the languages that can be selected. Even within what is described as a single language, there can be significant variations. In many ways, U.S. English is different from UK English.
Products: Language is not the only thing that distinguishes product catalogs in different countries. It is common that some products are available only in restricted parts of the world and are not even shown in other countries.
Product catalog differences can also happen due to companies rolling out products slowly in different parts of the world, where some products are made available in various countries on a different schedule. This difference is typical in the movie industry.
Variations in products can also be due to local regulations. For example, in some states in the United States, you can legally buy a radar detector that helps speeders avoid being caught by police. In Canada, however, this product is illegal and should not be shown on a commerce site.
Page Layout: Aside from product, language, and price differences, often the sites created for different countries can look similar, with identical flow and page layout. However, there are also cultural differences between different parts of the world that can cause country sites to have different layouts. For example, in North America usually the home page of a site fits most of the information on one screen, requiring little scrolling. The tendency is for customers to click on various links to browse through the site to get to the products or the areas they are looking for. On the other hand, in
China you often find sites where the home page is long, so customers can find many products by scrolling down the page.
Another consideration for page layout is that it must be designed to suit the written form of the language. For example, most Western European countries can use the same page layout because their alphabets look similar. However, the page layout must be adjusted in China or Japan, where the characters are not alphabetic, and the translations might not fit into the layout designed for use with Latin-based languages that are written left-to-right.
Legal Differences: Privacy is one such consideration. Different countries have set up completely different privacy rules, potentially affecting such factors as how the company can make use of customer datafor its own advertising. In addition, most sites have a privacy statement that must reflect the regulations of the country where the site operates.For example, in the countries within the European Union, the privacy rules are governed by the EU Directive on Data Protection. This directive governs the storage and processing of personal data, and the liabilities and sanctions that would be invoked if a European company does not comply with the rules.