Businesses that seek to operate internationally have to consider local preferences and digital payments, while implementing fraud protection and a responsive checkout experience, if they want to succeed, says Stripe’s Sarita Singh.

Global trade has traditionally been dominated by large companies with significant resources and capital. However, in recent years, the digital economy has democratised access to international customers. With low barriers to internet access and the help of digital platforms, all kinds of businesses now have the opportunity to find new customers in international markets and generate new revenue streams. For businesses that have traditionally served domestic customers, this newly available opportunity can also create unforeseen challenges in maintaining customer experience across borders.

Internationalisation strategies are no longer just about translation but thoughtful localisation. A 2023 Stripe study found the biggest technical challenges internationalising brands face include:

  • Being able to accept payments according to local preferences (53%);
  • Ensuring the checkout experience adapts to different audiences (43%);
  • Managing fraud and chargebacks for international buyers (42%).

Localisation through payments

Payment is a core part of a thoughtful internationalisation strategy. Money and the way we pay is highly local, even online. Digital payment methods that are popular in one country may not exist or be prevalent in another.

To expand global reach, businesses have to stay on top of how and when their customers prefer to pay. That could mean offering one-click checkout in some markets, local payment methods like PayNow in others or instalment plans in regions where buy now pay later (BNPL) options are popular.

However, it’s not just about increasing the number of payment options. Businesses need to ensure that they are surfacing the right ones, too.

  • 97% of consumers say it is important for a website to provide the common payment methods in their country.
  • 84% say they frequently abandon their cart if their preferred payment method isn’t available.

In Asia Pacific markets, shopping on mobile is particularly prevalent. This means businesses can reduce friction by enabling customers to check out faster when paying with Apple Pay, Google Pay, WeChat Pay or AliPay. An analysis of hundreds of Stripe users around the world showed that many doubled their revenues from Chinese buyers just by adding Alipay and WeChat Pay options.

Working with a global payment service provider can be a powerful way to mitigate the challenges that come with accepting payments internationally. Payment service providers simplify transactions for businesses by consolidating various payment methods and help save time and resources by eliminating the need to manage multiple relationships with different providers. Additionally, by learning from millions of global businesses processing billions in payments each year, global providers can use their scale to provide advanced fraud protection infrastructure that assign risk scores to every payment and automatically block many high-risk transactions.

Danish-Swiss kitchenware manufacturer Bodum has taken advantage of this opportunity to sell its kitchen and household products. Bodum partnered with Stripe to localise its checkout experience and scale its online business to 23 countries across Europe, America, Australia and Asia. This improved the organisation’s conversion rates, minimised developer resources and allowed flexibility and efficiency when launching into new markets.

Responsive checkout experience

The importance of a fast, intuitive checkout experience that works for customers internationally in this process can’t be overstated: 49%  of customers give up on a purchase if it takes more than three minutes. This means businesses are losing about half of all online customers who intend to make a purchase.

In a Stripe study, 99% of APAC websites make at least five basic errors in their overall checkout process. These include not offering popular payment methods, not allowing customers to save their payment method details for future use and not displaying security logos on their checkout page, which jeopardises customer trust.

While 98% of Asia Pacific businesses do adapt their checkout flow to the mobile screen, the majority do not support wallets, a mobile-friendly payment method that allows customers to store payment information, such as debit or credit cards, on their phones.

To maximise the international checkout experience, particularly on mobile, brands should look to localise by translating the page and displaying local currency, implement a fully responsive design to ensure the form automatically resizes based on device screen size and offer one-click payment options to increase conversion and reduce friction.

Fraud protection as a central tenet of customer experience

Finally, the level of customer experience that brands can deliver in international markets is also dependent on managing fraud and security risks. Not only can security breaches and fraud erode customer confidence and dissolve brand loyalty, combating fraud can also be overly draining on businesses' internal resources.

Juniper Research says the Asia Pacific region is particularly susceptible to online payment fraud as its mobile-first consumer economy opens more points of entry for attacks, particularly in countries where regulations and security standards may be less stringent. This creates major financial losses for businesses and consumers, and damages reputation and customer trust.

At the other end of the spectrum, as online transaction volume grows over time, there is an increasing number of legitimate purchases that are wrongfully rejected. In addition to the financial blow from lost revenue, these “false declines” can erode customer trust and dampen brand loyalty, as frustrated customers are more likely to abandon their shopping basket and turn to competitors.

To fight online and e-commerce fraud, and minimise false declines, businesses should adopt a multi-layered approach to security. This includes the use of advanced authentication technologies, fraud detection and prevention solutions and best practices for data security and privacy. This may involve implementing two-step authentication, using machine learning and AI to detect fraudulent activity and ensuring that all customer data is encrypted and stored securely.

This approach was successfully implemented by Castlery, the Singapore-headquartered, direct-to-consumer furniture brand, as part of its business expansion into the US. Castlery was mindful of different fraud patterns in the US market, so it collaborated with Stripe to design and set up a fraud-detection engine with new rules. For example, the engine-imposed 3D Secure 2 for high-risk transactions and feeds certain transactions into a risk-review process.

Optimism in a challenging economic climate

While the road to international success is nuanced, businesses across the world feel there are fewer restrictions on how they operate internationally today, compared to the past.

In 2023, a Stripe report showed that 50% of businesses found it easier to run an international business than five years ago, a marked improvement from our findings in 2019, where only 36% indicated the same. This upward sentiment on ease of running an international business shows renewed optimism among businesses in their long-term ability to do so.

While there are significant challenges in maintaining customer experience in multi-market strategies, for those that get it right, the opportunities are endless.