Skip to main content

Selling with e-commerce:Adapting your website for export

What you’ll learn

  • why it’s important to adapt your website for export
  • the ways you can adapt websites for a foreign market
  • what site adaptations will suit your own business and your new market

Translate if you can

Consider translating your website, particularly if you know your customers expect it or exports to this market are likely to be a significant portion of your sales.

A professional translation will make your website:

  • easier for customers to use
  • rank higher in search engine results, particularly when you perform search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • available to a wider audience

You’ll need to decide whether users will land on a page in their own language automatically (by geo-targeting) or by their own selection of language or location.

Meet cultural and behavioural expectations

Everything on the site should make the international shopper feel like you’re a local business in their home country. That means considering the local culture and differing consumer behaviour online.

The images, colours and branding you use should be culturally appropriate. For example, avoid images of alcohol and certain foods and animals in some markets.

In English-speaking markets use plain English and avoid using figures of speech, UK cultural references and the wrong units of measurement.

It’s a good idea to adapt your website for local shopping holidays, like Singles Day in China, or Mother’s Day, which happens on 14 different dates, internationally.

You may want to use a web-design company in your target country to help you get your adaptation right.

Make it easy to pay

Make sure your payment gateway provider works with the chosen payment options of your customers in the new market. You can reduce cart abandonment by enabling your customers to checkout in their local currency.

It also helps if users can choose locally preferred payment methods. In the Middle East for example, a large proportion of online shopping is paid for using cash on delivery, while in Germany customers prefer electronic direct debit.

E-commerce platforms such as Shopify and WordPress make it easier to set up a new site or adapt an existing one. They feature plug-ins that will let you manage different currencies, payment mechanisms and more.

Have a clear delivery and returns policy

Getting your customers’ orders to them on time is a key to building trust in a new market. Make sure you can match the online experience, convenience and delivery price offered by local competitors.

Rates of return vary a lot between markets. But it’s always a good idea to have a simple, convenient and clear returns policy – which is easy to find on your website.

Consider optimising your content

Consider performing search engine optimisation (SEO) for each language your site uses. This increases the number and quality of visitors by improving rankings in search engine results.

But make sure this is the right option for you. The vital first page of most search results tends to be dominated by large corporations that spend huge amounts on SEO.

Unless you have a niche product or an unusual company name, ask yourself if it’s worth spending your digital marketing budget on SEO that may have no visible impact on your search ranking.

Choose a domain name

A domain extension is the last part of a website address. It reflects the website's country of origin, such as .com for the US, or for the UK. Using local domain extensions, for example .it for your Italian website, can increase web address recall and help traffic and sales. This is because many search engines filter results to include local country code domains only.

You could also use a subdomain, such as .com/it. Subdomains are cheaper and easier to manage, but they may have less positive impact on site traffic.

Website registration rules and costs vary between countries. You might not be able to buy a local domain extension if your company is not based in that country. So you may have to use a web hosting service in your target market. Do your research and weigh up your options.

Using your website for exports is a great way to start exporting and often less of an investment than some of the more traditional methods. But you’ll still need expertise and a cash outlay to achieve real success. Plan for the cost of translation and localisation – and don’t forget about the cost of optimising your site for search engines in local markets

International trade adviser

Share this page

  • Email
  • Facebook
  • X

Accelerate your learning

Sign up to and you'll be able to:

  • track your learning progress and read case studies
  • join live events from the UK Export Academy
  • compare markets using live export data
Sign up to get started

Already signed up? Sign in

Something went wrong. Please try again.

Was this page useful?

Thanks for letting us know

Can you tell us why this page was useful?

Do not share any personal or commercially sensitive information.


Thanks for letting us know

Can you tell us more about your feedback?

Do not share any personal or commercially sensitive information.


Thanks for your feedback