We live in a world that seems ever smaller thanks to the internet. Nowadays, we are able to contact someone in a flash via email or instant messaging. However, when it comes to online retail, it seems the world can still feel foreign to many companies hoping to expand. One of the main reasons for this is that a huge number of companies still aren’t prepared for international data – and fail to understand the devastating impacts of poor data, for example, brand damage, poor decision making and failed deliveries.
Retailers shouldn’t give up though as there’s a myriad of things they can do to improve international data quality. Here are our tips for those who are looking to go global.
The first thing that is required is preparation – and plenty of it. Doing your research on territories you wish to cover is a must if you want to reach international customers successfully. This is especially true when you consider that there are more than 120 address formats around the world, several thousand languages, and a wealth of name formats, and these can catch retailers out if they are unprepared.
Don’t just assume
Another key tip is to avoid assumptions. Say you’re looking to sell your products to Italians. What language do they speak in Italy? Italian, right? Well, yes, but this isn’t the only spoken language in Italy. In fact, in the Trento-Alto Adige region of Italy, German is spoken by a whopping 75% of the population. And that’s just one example, but of course there are many more cases like this, so it’s essential that you don’t just assume before attempting to collect data as this will undoubtedly cause issues for your customers and for the quality of your data.
Cater for all
Database field length is another factor to consider when going global. Ok, so your national data may be fine, but could it hold Bosnia’s longest street name Aleja Alije Izetbegovića Prvig Predsjednika Predsjedništva Republika Bosna i Hercegovina? If you want to ensure you reach customers living at longer addresses and ensure you capture accurate address data, this is something worth seriously thinking about.
Know your address formats
And how about address formats? As mentioned earlier, there are more than 120 global address formats. Do you know each and every one of these? Probably not, but not allowing customers to enter their address in the way they’re used to will only cause frustration – and a lack of accurate data. Consider the difference between French and German address entry. In the UK and France, the building number or name comes before the street name, but in Germany and Italy, the street name comes first. And if your forms require shoppers to enter a postal code, are you absolutely sure they have one? Not all countries do.
Another thing to consider is data entry patterns. Are your fields presented in the way global shoppers would expect them to be? To ensure you are presenting the relevant fields and information, ask users for their country and preferred language, and then allow them to enter their data into form fields that work for them.
This sort of research and design and the specific tools required to make international data work for you and your customers may cost more initially, but is guaranteed to save you money in the long term. Capturing accurate data in the way the correct format will save you the cost and hassle of having to cleanse data and will ensure that you can communicate effectively with customers, deliver to the right address and make better business decisions.