Customer reviews are important, there’s no doubt about that. They help online customers with their purchasing decisions, fuel their desires for a particular product and encourage them to take another look at the product. They currently influence our purchasing decisions to the same degree that personal recommendations do. However, for international e-commerce it’s not simply enough to just offer a local review service: customer reviews in the local language should be embedded within an all-encompassing localisation strategy.

Customer reviews are just the tip of the iceberg

Regardless of where in the world you sell your products on your online shop, the opinions of other shoppers are important to (potential) customers. So it goes without saying that at the very moment that you select a new target market that you’d want to offer local customers the ability to review, answer questions and to interact with other customers in their own language. Customers write reviews to voice their opinions on the product. Often, however, the experience of the whole shopping process plays a large role; the ordering process, answers to common questions, information on shipping and payment, on returns, and last but not least the product description and whether the product received also actually matches this description.

Customer reviews within international e-commerce should form part of an all-encompassing localisation strategy based on 2 key principles: localisation of all content and a local customer support team where native speakers support the customers in the foreign target market. After all, you don’t just want to facilitate communication from customer to customer but also want an active dialogue and to make effective use of these findings!

Localisation: not just a feel good factor 

According to the findings of studies and the Can’t Read- Won’t Buy study, conducted by the consultancy firm Common Sense Advisory (*1), 76% of international customers favour online shops in their mother tongue. Data from Eurostat (*2)  also confirms this: 56% of Europeans would never shop in online shops in a foreign language. Therefore localise your web shop’s content - translating the product descriptions, delivery information, information on the ordering process, frequently asked questions and marketing content as well as also listing the product prices in the local currency counts towards this.

This creates trust and ensures that local customers feel at ease. It is important that your customers feel at ease as, just like trust, this increases your conversion rate and helps you to win new customers and also encourages existing customers to return. Localisation is, however, also the first key to getting positive reviews abroad: if the product description is translated accurately, fewer clearly false expectations will result. You can defuse common causes of frustration like delivery times, shipping costs and your international payment processes by providing clear descriptions in the local language: if your customers are able to find the information that they’re looking for this increases their satisfaction and your chances of receiving a positive review.

Dialogue with local customers

You should offer a country specific customer support number to handle all unanswered queries - this too increases trust. The study conducted by Common Sense Advisory  also highlights that 74% of a total of 3,002 customers who were polled from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America want a locally based customer support team.

Locally based, native speaking employees are not only able to help customers with any queries or problems, but also form an important part in the strategic development of your local online shop: these employees understand exactly what your customers want to say in their reviews - what they like and what they don’t like. They can react on other platforms like on social media or comparison sites to negative (and positive) experiences, get into a dialogue with the customer and feed this information back when planning future strategy for a (new) foreign market.

International customer reviews therefore have many advantages: they increase trust, create a platform for customers and give you important insights about your target market. Your task is now to build up the proper resources and to make effective use of this priceless interaction with the customers for the positive development of your company in the international marketplace!

This article was previously published in the members' magazine of Trusted Shops Germany.

"Can't Read, Won't Buy", Common Sense Advisory, February 2014
Consumer attitudes towards cross-border trade and consumer protection (Flash Eurobarometer 358)