One of the complaints I hear most often from those who reside outside of the United States is the inability to input foreign addresses on U.S. ecommerce sites. Some companies might not support international sales due to an inability to handle international shipping, import/export regulations or currency conversions. While strategies do exist to overcome these difficulties, that’s a topic for another post.
But what if an out-of-country shopper is simply looking to purchase an item for delivery to a stateside address? Whether it’s a grandchild’s birthday present from American Girl, a wedding gift from Macy’s gift registry, or a simple gift certificate for the Olive Garden, many ecommerce platforms are unable to accept shipping addresses in one country and billing addresses in another. The result: lost revenue for merchants and frustration for shoppers with friends and loved ones in other countries.
Security is one of the main reasons cited for not accepting international billing addresses. Right now, only a few countries support AVS (Address Verification System), an automated process that uses a cardholder’s billing address to verify his or her identity and thus help reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions. However, there are other ways to protect against fraud without limiting sales to residents of the seller’s country.
The following guidelines can help retailers accommodate international customers with minimal effort and expense. And the potential for increased sales and goodwill should more than cover the costs incurred.
1. Revamp the Checkout Process.
In order to accommodate foreign addresses, a Web site will need to be recoded to take regional differences into account, a process known as internationalization. If international delivery is not supported, only the billing address fields will need to be revised. However, messaging informing users about shipping locales and policies must be clearly and prominently displayed.
Victoria’s Secret uses a flexible checkout form that enables shoppers to input billing and shipping addresses for different countries. By asking users to indicate billing & shipping locations prior to providing them, the site is able to tailor the form fields to the user’s specific needs.
HarryandDavid.com, a site specializing in gift baskets, also makes it easy for users to purchase from one country and ship to another. Selecting an option in the “Country” drop-down menu resets the form to one that accepts foreign address formats.
2. Verify billing information manually.
If AVS is not an option, merchants can contact the purchaser’s credit card company to verify the information submitted online. The reduction in abandoned shopping carts should more than make up for any additional time or effort necessary to process sales. Retailers currently requiring shoppers living abroad to call in their orders via telephone will actually experience a decrease in processing time, by keeping the entire purchasing process online.
3. Use an online payment processing service.
If manually verifying billing addresses is not feasible, utilizing an online payment processing service is another way to expand a company’s customer base. With these simple, low cost services, online merchants can offer shoppers around the world a safe and secure environment for inputting their credit card information.
Paypal, the most widely used of these services, enables users to either remain on the seller’s site throughout the entire checkout process or be linked directly to Paypal.com in order to complete their purchase. Major retailers like Barnes and Noble, Cooking.com, and Dell all offer users the option of paying via Paypal.
Amazon Payments, a subsidiary of ecommerce behemoth Amazon.com, provides shoppers access to the payment information stored in their Amazon.com account, ensuring a simple and familiar user experience. Buy.com and JR.com are examples of large online retailers that utilize Amazon Payments in addition to other means of processing ecommerce transactions.
Figure 3. JR.com’s alternate payment options
With all these options, even if a site can only handle domestic shipping, there really is no reason to close the door to international shoppers.