By Andrew Monroe

When you’re selling products online, your ideal customer may come from anywhere in the world, not just from North America. Maximizing those international sales and revenue opportunities means giving that customer a localized payment experience, regardless of regional currency differences and linguistic barriers.

Companies that do this are among the biggest online sellers that are growing and thriving internationally. They’re able to capitalize on global markets because they assimilate to different cultures around the world and recognize that conversion starts with speaking to customers in languages they understand, particularly when it comes to their money.

Here are the three keys to speaking that language and maximize your online sales and revenue opportunities with foreign exchange and international payments.

1. Create a geographically-localized web site
With foreign exchange and international payments, getting things right starts by considering the needs and perspectives of your international customers. For example, if you’re a customer in Japan and you’re trying to buy cloud-based software from a company in Canada, it won’t be very helpful if the price is listed as $65 CAD. How much does that cost in Japanese yen, and how much will you have to pay for the currency conversion?

The uncertainty might be enough for you to leave a web site and look for a similar product from another company that converts prices into your local currency. In fact, years of proprietary research by our team at Ingenico has shown that 25 per cent of consumers leave within the first few seconds of visiting a web site that doesn’t offer prices in their local currencies.

To avoid losing sales and revenue, it’s critical to create a user experience that offers local currency pricing and which automatically adapts to the customer’s geography: from the landing page all the way through checkout. Doing this boosts customer conversion, decreases e-commerce cart abandonment and enhances the overall user experience.

However, creating a localized experience requires more than IP (Internet Protocol) geolocation. You must combine it with an intelligent user experience that takes into account the possibility that IP connections aren’t accurate indicators of country of origin. For example, some customers are connected in a given country while travelling for business or pleasure but their actual country of origin is different. In this case, country flags and well-labelled dropdown menus work better.

It’s also crucial to consider alternative methods of payment (APM). Globally, in places such as Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) credit cards are declining in favour of e-wallets, payment apps and real-time bank transfer products. Supporting these other methods may be critical to capitalizing opportunities in these regions, and many APMs require transactions to be denominated in the local currencies.

2. Implement a good foreign exchange (FX) strategy
A good international payments strategy is not just about currency or a localized experience. Merchants also need to understand how to handle remittances and how their outbound currency choices can impact margins.

When you truly understand the impact and nuances of exchange rates and conversion timing, it becomes easier to calculate your risk exposure and lock in your profit margins. For example, a streamlined foreign exchange (FX) strategy takes advantage of natural hedges, which reduce your risk of exposure to large swings in exchange rates. If you are receiving income in another country and currency while incurring expenses in that same currency, it can protect you from the exchange rate fluctuations when your expenses and income are in different currencies. Thus, if you have significant local expenditures from overseas vendors, partners, offices or supplies, it makes sense to opt for in-currency remittance.

It also makes sense to minimize the number of local bank accounts you maintain with dormant funds. Many merchants believe they need to open a bank account in each country where they offer local currency pricing. But when you have multiple local accounts with dormant funds, the window of FX volatility and risk increase significantly. It also compounds your workload and creates inherently greater risk in processing currency conversions through banks.

A payment service provider (PSP) can help you limit your risk, reduce your FX costs and streamline your currency administration by offering treasury services. Most PSPs offer daily settlement, which converts funds daily to mitigate the risk of short-term market volatility.

Your PSP can also conduct a pre-assessment to determine what currencies you need to set up and where. For example, as a global PSP, Ingenico has a dedicated FX solutions team. We provide industry-specific FX best practices to each of our customers, plus actionable intelligence and insights to help them maximize gross margins and profitability.

Ultimately, the right strategy provides a framework you can implement, followed by creative self-management. But you’ll still need to have flexibility to make changes or adapt to market conditions as they arise. That’s where your PSP can continue to play a vital role in providing guidance.

3. Make sure your FX is transparent
A major point of contention in the payments industry is the lack of transparency in FX pricing. Generally speaking, payment providers only communicate their rates for FX conversion, and they typically hide their methodologies and markups deep in the details of their contracts.

This is far from optimal for online merchants, and it prevents the open conversations that lead to intelligent FX strategies. Adding to the complexity is the fact that the FX market is massively under-regulated and has no centralized governing body. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to nail down an “official” exchange rate.

This ambiguity gives payment providers leeway when it comes to defining the base rate used for payment conversions. By playing with this piece of the equation, payment providers can erode your potential profit margins and risk making your products more expensive to international consumers.

This is an area where it’s vital to work with a PSP that will help protect you. Your PSP should be completely transparent about FX pricing and should incorporate best practices to help you mitigate the risks and reduce the costs associated with accepting international online payments.

Unfortunately, these characteristics are virtually non-existent among PSPs, which is why our team at Ingenico has tried to take the lead by offering merchant solutions that incorporate all three keys to an effective FX and international payment strategy. We’ve developed an FX programme that ensures fast, localized payments with full transparency and maximum profit margins. We work with merchants to help them leverage FX to their advantage and implement an approach that suits their business and customers while helping them achieve additional growth.

If you’re looking to expand into international markets or maximize your global sales and revenue conversions, you should be focusing on those same priorities.

Andrew Monroe is general manager of ePayments, Ingenico North America
(www.ingenico.com).

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