March 12, 2010, 12:00 AM

Even without sites customized for foreign markets, global sales are rising

Nearly 20% of merchants report more than 20% of their web sales in 2009 came from customers outside the United States, even though few have customized their sites or run standalone sites for consumers abroad, a new Internet Retailer survey says.

Few U.S. retailers offer web experiences tailored to consumers in foreign countries, but many nonetheless are reaping online sales from abroad.

14.5% of the 75.2% of merchants selling internationally, which includes Canada, report that in 2009 more than 25% of their total web sales came from customers outside the United States, according to Internet Retailer’s new international e-commerce survey of 247 web-only retailers, chain retailers, catalogers and consumer brand manufacturers. 4.8% report 21% to 25% of sales came from outside the borders of the country, 7.0% report 16% to 20%, and 5.9% report 11% to 15%, the survey finds.

9.1% say 8% to 10% of 2009 sales were derived from international shoppers, 12.4% report 5% to 7%, 18.3% say 2% to 4%, and 28.0% report less than 2%.

Of the 24.8% not selling internationally, 60.3% are assessing the viability of selling to consumers outside of the United States; and, of those merchants, 70.3% plan to start selling internationally within a year.

“There’s currently great interest in the international space, in part because of the pressures of the U.S. economy and the lack of growth, and that it simply is a new day and people are looking at things more globally,” says Bobby Frank, CEO of BorderJump LLC, a provider of international e-commerce technology and services. “And the survey shows the types of merchants and the products they sell cross all lines, so the action and interest is pretty universal.”

According to the survey, however, only 18.6% of U.S. merchants offer a currency converter, 15.4% show the fully landed cost of delivering an item to the consumer’s door in local currency, 15.4% offer product content in a local language, 15.0% feature customer service content in a local language, and 14.2% offer telephone support in a local language.

Complete results of the comprehensive survey on international e-commerce will appear in the April issue of Internet Retailer.

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