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How to make your website more accessible

How to make your website more accessible

In a tough marketplace, British companies need to consider a simple, low cost route to business expansion. By adding international accessibility to their websites, beyond just translated text, companies could be taking advantage of additional sales opportunities and access to new markets, insists Emma Gooderham, Managing Director of WorldAddresses.com

International expansion has proven itself to be the perfect antidote for struggling domestic consumer confidence.

Indeed, Asos has led the crowds in moving into international markets – recently announcing that their half year profits are up by 59% with expansion into France, Germany and the US. UK internet e-tailers should be using Asos’ example as inspiration to engage in international expansion with renewed vigour. After all, international sales for Asos are up by a staggering 120% – can any e-tailer afford to miss out on this and similar opportunities?

In a tough marketplace, British companies need to consider a simple, low cost route to business expansion. By adding international accessibility to their websites, beyond just translated text, companies could be taking advantage of additional sales opportunities and access to new markets, insists Emma Gooderham, Managing Director of WorldAddresses.com

With domestic growth still severely constrained, UK businesses should be taking advantage of the weak pound to expand into international markets. And some are.

After launching dedicated e-tail sites in France, Germany and the US,  Asos’ progress in international markets now accounts for 37% of its total sales. Similarly, Marks and Spencer are seeking to double e-tail sales by 2014, and will be using the web to embark on overseas expansion. Smaller UK e-tailers should therefore be aware of the benefits the big boys are enjoying, and should follow suit accordingly!

In a recent survey of 100 websites of UK internet e-tailers***, only 1% were geared up for international deliveries. In what is becoming an increasingly international market place, the UK’s current approach to online sales will do little to entice international visitors, and as a result will constrain exports and reduce potential profits.

So what is deterring UK e-tailers from offering a service which satisfies international demand? While global logistics can cause headaches for some e-tailers, the core online infrastructure really need not do so.

Broadening customer reach however, requires more than just translating pages – ambitious e-tailers must appreciate that their international marketplaces are just as much in need of time-savings in their e-orders as their domestic marketplaces are.

Time-savings during the ordering process are the most highly appreciated aspects of ease of use - figures from Marketing Sherpa show that 27% of website visitors abandon the checkout process due to ‘not having enough time to complete the process.’

Since typing in a full address – rather than just a postcode – can consume up to 80% of the time spent inputting delivery information, and yet more if errors are made, organisations taking inspiration from Asos to expand into international markets need to put in place a solution that is as simple as the best postcode lookup services available in the UK.

Certainly, postcode lookup software is not the primary reason why an e-tail visitor offers repeat custom, but it is a vital element in the overall impression of site usability: recognition of the customer’s origin, and/or the delivery country will not only improve their experience, but also the chance of customer retention.

The logistics involved in setting up international delivery provision however, can prove tricky. Addresses are structured differently in each country, whilst data accuracy, costs and licensing agreements vary according to national postal authorities.

This variance in address accuracy creates significant complexity for any company looking to expand internationally. It is not a minor task to develop address-matching algorithms to match zip codes to addresses, or to manage the different licensing arrangements for each country. So how can UK businesses exploit global opportunities without incurring major development overheads?

The key is to achieve a degree of standardisation. Organisations can leverage address look-up technology that outputs addresses in the Universal Postal Union (UPU) (the United Nation’s addressing department) Standard S42 format.

Postal operators approve their own country’s format, enabling companies to be confident that mail will be processed efficiently, speeding up delivery and ensuring it gets to the addressee first time – an instant relief for e-tailers.

For instance, Saudi Post are already reaping the benefits of their S42 template, with improved address validation, enhanced quality control, and ultimately, a superior postal service.

With international expansion providing a viable method of addressing the lack of domestic consumer confidence, the demand for accurate, easy-to-use international address look-up, has never been greater.

UK e-tailers should therefore be wasting no time in using Asos’ staggering international sales figures as inspiration to move into global markets. Any business failing to exploit current exchange rates is missing a major opportunity.

If simply adding this technology to an existing e-tail site can open up massive new markets and opportunities, can any business afford to miss out?

AJR
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