Gone are the days where you needed an in-house army of developers to create a globally-equipped ecommerce website that sells to consumers around the world.
The rise of the micro-multinational is upon us. Many Shopify merchants have grown from a small one-region store, to serving global customers, dramatically increasing their profits along the way.
This process is broken down in detail below. We’ll share some specific examples to show you how other ecommerce store owners have transformed their business with this step-by-step process.
Why expand your store?
Make more sales by expanding into new regions
Most notably, expansion allows you to grow your sales by expanding your customer base. If you’re only selling in one country, you’re limiting your Shopify store’s capacity to reach larger markets. Even if you offer international shipping rates, the cost is often prohibitively expensive for customers in other areas.
By expanding into new regions—especially with local options for shipping and currency—you automatically enable a lot of new people to buy from you.
Offer local currency and payment options
Without having a store that's ready to sell to international customers, you run into a problem: If Australians want to buy from your American store, they have to pay in US dollars. Your conversions will, almost without exception, be less than they would if you could offer a local currency option.
Most folks don't want to pay in a different currency. While you might make an exception for your absolute favorite store, if given a choice, you'd probably choose a store that offers your local currency. Paying in a different currency is messy, especially for business purchases, and often more expensive than your local currency. Offering local currency can increase your sales.
Quad Lock Case is a perfect example. They expanded from a one-region shop (USA/global store) to localized versions across the USA, Europe, Australia, and the UK—and they saw massive increases in purchases as a result. The increase was almost instant and has lead to thousands of new orders.
Target local customers in advertising
If you’re using Google Adwords or Facebook Ads to target specific audiences and generate traffic to your store, offering a local option in your advertising will set you up for more effective targeting.
For example, rather than wasting money sending Canadian customers to your US Shop where they can’t pay in local currency (and are therefore less likely to complete a purchase), you can send them directly to your Canadian shop instead.
Done right, creating local stores can increase your return on investment with paid advertising. Ideally, you’ll spend less, and convert more.
Offer local shipping and logistics
Having local stores allows you to offer certain shipping options to local customers. For example, Erstwilder created an announcement bar at the top of their website to show one set of shipping options for Australian customers, and another set for international customers.
More control over your products
Want to offer products to customers in a certain country, but not in another? Because you’ll effectively be managing individual shops that are linked together, you can manipulate and manage the inventory however you want.
Now that we’ve covered the main benefits of why you might like to set up regional stores, let’s get into the execution.
How do I set up multiple region shops?
To illustrate, let’s fast forward to the end result. If you follow this plan, you will end up with something like Quad Lock Case: An Australian Store, a European Store, a United Kingdom Store, and a USA / Global Store, which serves any country which hasn’t yet been localized.
Each of these stores has its own inventory, currency, domain, and backend shop.
Of course, you could create just two countries, or ten—it’s up to you. So far, the most successful companies I've have worked with have 2 to 6 localized shops. You want to create a balance between making the stores easy to manage and maximizing your total number of customers.
Most likely, if you’ve been in business for a while, you already know which countries could be good candidates for expansion. You can use information such as:
Where large numbers of your customers buy from.
Where you get a lot of inquiries from (“Do you ship to country X?”).
Your abandoned cart reports and Google Analytics to see which markets are underserved or frequently abandon their purchases.
As long as you already have one store, you have the baseline for your expansion. From there, you’ll need to take the following steps.
Tip: Check to see if your store meets the requirements to sell in multiple languages without having to create another Shopify account or duplicate your shop.
1. Get another Shopify account
To keep things organized, I like to register them with the region in the Shopify store name.
For example, if your current shop is yourshopname.myshopify.com, I like to register yourshopname-ca.myshopify.com for Canada, yourshopname-au.myshopify.com for Australia, and so on.
Customers won’t see this, so it’s not critical, but it will help to keep your systems neat on the backend.
2. Get another domain
There are two main options here:
Use a separate domain
Use a sub-domain
Using a separate domain means something like yourshop.com as your ‘main’ site, yourshopusa.com as your USA shop, yourshop.ca as your Canada shop, etc. This approach can also work, as long as the branding and everything else is set up correctly.
Using a subdomain means you would end up with yourshop.com as your ‘main’ site, ca.yourshop.com for Canada, au.yourshop.com for Australia, and so on.
I prefer this approach because it reassures customers that the domain is legitimately part of your brand.
3. Duplicate your shop
There are a lot of steps involved here, and it will take some work, but you don't have to do it all in one sitting. Here’s the step by step process, which can be repeated for multiple stores:
Duplicate your theme. Go to Admin > Themes and click “Export Theme”. Then upload that into your new shop.
Duplicate your products. Go to Admin > Products and click “Export”, then “Export All”. This is assuming you want to show all your products on your second site (otherwise you could choose to just duplicate a few products). Then import them into your new shop.
Localize your pricing. You might like to update your pricing from your first shop to your second, depending on the region or enable selling in multiple currencies if you're selling across borders. After you’ve imported them in the step above, you can adjust the pricing on the second shop, either via the admin or the CSV if you have a lot of products.
Localize your general settings. On your new regional shop, revisit the General Settings (address, phone, etc.), currency, and timezone and ensure they are set up the way you want them to be.
Migrate all your page content. There is no shortcut or export for this. To move your page content from your original shop to your new regional shop, open the two sites side-by-side.
Next, click on Pages and work your way down the list, flipping into HTML mode, copy, and paste into the new site. (Copying in HTML mode ensures the pages will look exactly the same).
After migration, to avoid being penalized by Google, be sure to implement hreflang, as outlined by Google here. Hreflang is a tag you can add to each page on your respective websites (add it to theme.liquid in the <head> section to make sure it's on every page), which tells Google that your websites are connected. In other words, hreflang is required to make sure that Google understands that your Canadian website is for Canadian customers, and your US website is for US customers—without penalizing you for having two sites that are alike. Do not skip this step.
Localize your page content and ensure links to your store are all local links. You may want to localize the language (from US spelling to UK spelling for example), change the contact details on your contact page, and ensure that any internal links are correctly pointing to your new shop.
For example, if you had an internal link to your Contact Us page pointing to yourshop.com/pages/contact-us, you’d need to update this when you copy it across, so that it doesn’t point back to your main site, but rather to your new contact page.
As a general rule, it’s good to use relative URLs, which means removing the ‘main’ part of your URL—just set the link as /pages/contact-us instead of yourshop.com/pages/contact-us.
Re-install any Apps onto your second shop, and configure them.
Connect your payment gateways and Google Analytics so you can track traffic.
4. Use an IP redirect to direct traffic
Now that you’re going multinational, you may want to use an IP redirect app to detect your visitors’ location and point them to the right shop.
For example, if a Canadian customer visits your Australian shop, you could show them a message saying “Looks like you’re in Canada. Want to visit our Canada store so you can see pricing in CAD and receive cheaper shipping?”. You can either ask them this in a popup or a top bar, or just push them to your Canada shop automatically.
5. Update Google's Search Console
You should also choose the country you want to target, in Google’s Search Console. For more information on exactly how to do this, please see Google’s recommendations here. It sounds a bit complex, but should only take a few minutes to do. You’ll see something like this, which will allow you to set the country.
6. Tie off any loose ends
This last step will depend in your unique situation. There may be some other areas to test and check. Some common ones are:
If you’re running paid ads from Facebook or Google Adwords, you may want to create new tracking codes for the unique shops and their corresponding advertising campaigns.
Create a separate Google Analytics Profile.
Set up an email campaign to your customers, letting them know that you’ll be opening a new regional shop. If you can get fancy with it, even better. For example, filter your mailing list for Canadian customers only, and send them a specific campaign to inform them you’re opening a Canadian shop especially for them.
If you’re using a shipping or fulfillment service, talk to them about setting up a local presence, and create corresponding shipping rates in your new Shopify store.
If you use customer service software such as Zendesk, you may need to connect that to your new shop and create some new rules so you can identify the region the customer is coming from.
From there, your new shop should be mostly set up. Once you activate your IP Redirects, you can start pointing traffic between the shops, and activate your advertising.
Real world examples
Below are some real world examples of some of our clients’ stores who have seen tremendous growth based on this strategy.
Shhh Silk Pillowcases has an Australian and USA website. They offer payment in Australian dollars or US dollars, and have unique control over their inventories. Local shipping rates help keep all shipping affordable for local customers, as well as improving customer loyalty with unique messaging.
The aforementioned Quad Lock Case have seen massive growth since launching their presences in the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, and the USA. They’re on track to have more local stores launched in mid-2016.
When Cultiver launched in the USA, they saw tremendous uptake in the first six weeks and it’s still ongoing, after having run a single Australian store prior to branching out to two regions.
Erstwilder uses provides local and international shipping information to encourage upsells.