May 29, 2008, 12:00 AM

Technology decisions a key challenge for e-retailers looking to go global

U.S. e-retailers are eyeing international markets as a source of customers and growth. Picking the right technology vendors is key, Jupiter Research says in a new report.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

With the U.S. dollar at a low, many U.S.-based online retailers are expressing interest in international markets as a source of customers and growth. According to a report from JupiterResearch Inc., “Global Online Retail: Navigating successful international expansion,” interest among U.S. e-retailers in international expansion is higher now than it’s been for the past few years. Yet for those retailers, choosing the right e-commerce technology vendors is “one of the most daunting aspects of global expansion,” Jupiter says.

Most online retailers looking to expand internationally first turn to their existing e-commerce technology vendors to support that expansion. But that isn’t always the best option, A retailer should thoroughly review that vendor’s global capacities before making that decision, Jupiter says.

That’s because in-country language support for customer service is becoming standard for e-retailers entering European or Asian markets, Jupiter adds. “Although retailers can keep costs in check by providing relatively limited options outside the U.S., skimping on local language service is a poor choice for retailers trying to break into new markets,” says report author and Jupiter analyst Zia Daniell Wigder.

And when it comes to software to support the e-commerce platform itself, online retailers looking abroad most often look to U.S.-based or European e-commerce software vendors to build out global sites, rather than building them on their own. While a retailer might initially outsource international sites to a different vendor than the the one supporting its U.S. site, e-retailers should eventually move onto a single platform. “Without a common vendor, leveraging underlying infrastructure for sites becomes difficult,” notes Wigder.

Overall, decisions about technology vendors on international sites should be the responsibility of a centralized office, with heavy local input, according to Jupiter. But that flips for marketing campaigns: to react to local market conditions, international sites need authority, within broad guidelines, for advertising and marketing campaigns.

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