If you are seeking (future) global growth, it is important to know whether you can trust on your ecommerce software platform to make the ride more smooth. In this article, I explore what ecommerce software – here focusing on three Software as a Service providers, Bigcommerce, SEOshop and Shopify – are best suited for online stores (interested in) selling worldwide.
Over the last two weeks, I discussed the Europe-readiness of SEOshop, Shopify and Bigcommerce. In a first blog post, I discussed Sales Taxes, Multiple Languages, and Trustmarks. In a second article, I dealt with Multiple Stores, Payments and Shipping, and with the possibilities to scale up while keeping using the same ecommerce software. Many of the points made – the ones not specifically related to Europe – are also relevant for a globally operating online store.
Shipping, Payments and Sales Tax
I have more experience with selling within Europe than selling globally, but I would say it would be a wise start to contact a globally operating shipping company, such as DHL, and see what part of the customs clearing and Sales tax obligations they take care of and what kind of information they have on countries you expect to ship to most frequently. It comes in handy when there is a ready integration of the shipping company of your choice with your ecommerce software, but SEOshop, Shopify and Bigcommerce all over an API in case there is not an integration yet.
Concerning the Sales tax, Bigcommerce has an advantage with its native integration with Avalara. This could come in really handy.
Definitely take a big and flexible global payments services provider on board, such as Adyen. You need to offer local payment methods everywhere, and a company like adyen is able to do this for you on a global scale. Most of these companies integrate with some or all of the three ecommerce software providers discussed.
Multiple Stores, Multiple Languages, Multiple Currencies
I already discussed the great multiple stores and multiple languages features of SEOshop in the already mentioned articles on Europe-wide Ecommerce. I didn’t discuss multiple currencies yet. It is really important to show customers how much something costs in their own currency. Do you care how much something costs in foreign money? Exactly!
Multiple currencies in Shopify, Bigcommerce, and SEOshop
You can set up Multiple currencies in Shopify by changing some of the code of the theme. Shopify has a step-by-step description on how to do that in their online manual. It works fine, the only disadvantage is that once the customer goes to checkout, they will see your store’s operating currency, and not the currency they saw while they were shopping. Shopify checks the exchange rate twice a day. The customer’s preferred currency is stored in a cookie so that the store shows the same currency during a future visit.
In Bigcommerce, the process of setting up multiple currencies is more straightforward and can be done in the admin panel. The currency is displayed depending on the IP address of the visitor.
In SEOshop, setting up multiple currencies couldn’t be more straightforward. You just go to settings –> currencies and you can add as many currencies as you want. SEOshop retrieves the latest exchange rates every 15 minutes to make sure your prices are always up-to-date. There is one default currency that is shown when somebody enters the online store. If they want to view the prices in another currency they need to do so manually.
In my great “Socks are Sexy” test store, I added the Bahraini Dinar and the Russian Ruble, alongside my default Euro – see the currencies next to the language flags.
Do Bigcommerce, Shopify, SEOshop support alternative characters such as Chinese and Arabic?
We already saw that it can take quite some effort with some ecommerce software (notably with Bigcommerce and Shopify) to set up a multi language store. In the same article I showed how easy it is to set up a multi language store in SEOshop.
What about alternative character sets, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic?
SEOshop doesn’t offer these languages yet, and it is not clear to me whether they could technically support the character sets. (Their sales team just told me – we don’t have those languages yet). I am sure though, that when you want to build an SEOshop online store incorporating these languages, it is is possible to get support in this effort, as SEOshop is seeking to expand the number of languages on offer.
Shopify does seem to support alternative character sets, such as Chinese. I have seen a Shopify powered Chinese online store. Normally, however, Shopify has great documentation on pretty much any subject – and there is no documentation on this. So it doesn’t seem to be very standard offering. And, of course, you would need to do all the translating yourself. You would probably need to make a separate online store for every language though (see the link above on setting up a multi language store for more information on that). For languages such as Arabic and Hebrew, which read from Right-To-Left, you need to make some changes to the code.
Bigcommerce doesn’t seem to be natively supporting alternative character sets such as used by Chinese. There seems to be a workaround by changing the code somewhat, but apart from this process not being very straightforward, there is the danger that when a Bigcommerce update is released, it overwrites this hack.
Conclusion: What Ecommerce Software Should Globally Operating Online Stores Use?
There is no satisfying conclusion to this article. None of the three Ecommerce Software providers discussed offer everything you need to do business on a global scale, with store(s) in all major languages. It is of course possible to sell worldwide and not offer all languages, to not show all currencies, and offer just a few globally used payment methods (such as paypal).
I advise you to use this article (and the relevant parts of the Europe-ready articles published last week (see here, and here for the links)) as a checklist. Add and/or remove those aspects you (don’t) find important in a global ecommerce software solution. Based on those point, make your choice for your ecommerce software provider.
As a general advice, I can tell you that Shopify is the most used platform, both in numbers and in the geographical spread of the users. Because of this wide user base and the many third party developers working with the platform, there are many solutions available for Shopify. Bigcommerce comes second in this respect: its app store is less rich that Shopify’s. Bigcommerce is in many ways completer out of the box though – we saw, for example, the Avalara sales tax integration. SEOshop, the best solution for doing business accross borders in Europe, has some native features that are also very welcome for the global ecommerce entrepreneur, such as multiple stores, and much more.