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Oct 11, 2010 | 5 minute read

International Ecommerce: Directing Visitors to Localized Content

written by Linda Bustos

If you’ve been trekking with us through our internationalization series, you’re familiar with the 6 things you need to consider about going global, and the decision to serve the world through multiple, localized stores or through one “internationalized” site.

Whether you’ve opted for one or multiple stores, you need to direct visitors who arrive at your home country’s site to the appropriate content – whether that’s simply shipping information, localized features (currency conversion, refined assortment) or localized sites.

There are several ways you can accomplish this:

  • Use IP detection and force redirect to the localized site/landing page
  • Use IP detection and show localized content (prices, assortment)
  • Use IP detection and present user with options
  • Don’t use IP detection, but allow customer to manually change region
  • Do nothing except support international transactions (mention international shipping somewhere on the site)

Let’s break down the good and bad of each approach.

Use IP detection and force redirect to the localized site/landing page

Example: Bluenile

If a vistor from Canada types “Bluenile” or “” into her browser, she is taken directly to Because product selection, pricing and style/model availability varies depending on the final shipping destination, redirection ensures the customer is never shown the wrong product catalog.

The customer is visibly assured that the site is Canadian with an easy-to-spot flag icon in the header. Clicking on the flag brings up shipping information.

Bluenile provides a manual override at the bottom of the page, where the customer can change shipping destination, currency, or both.


  • Eliminates the use of annoying country selection splash page. User doesn’t have to think or take action (reduces bounce rate).
  • Eliminates the risk of customers reaching checkout only to find they can’t complete their order.


  • Some visitors with non-domestic IP addresses may intend to ship to your home country (expats, gift givers, travelers, etc). Unless you provide a manual override, you risk losing these customers.
  • Redirecting to a localized landing page (as is the practice of American Eagle Outfitters), rather than a localized site can give visitors the false impression of a localized site. As they browse the rest of the (US) site, Canadian customers may assume they are on a Canadian site with prices in Canadian dollars, which is not the case.

Use IP detection and show localized content

Example: Tiger Direct

Tiger Direct shows a conspicuous banner advertising its site. Unfortunately, TD’s site design is so cluttered it may be easily overlooked.

Amazon’s a bit clearer:


  • Does not force customers to a localized site when they might prefer to shop the .com (or whatever extension your parent site is).


  • May suffer from “banner blindness” effect.
  • Eats up header real estate that could be used more effectively, and pushes content below the fold.

Use IP detection and present user with options

Examples: Nordstrom and Best Buy

Nordstrom serves a landing page asking customers to select their country and currency or proceed as US customer. The preference is saved so the settings are auto-applied for future sessions.

It’s important to save settings. Best Buy doesn’t remember your preference. Each time you return, you need to select your site again. Even worse, after making your selection, if you click on the Best Buy logo to return to the home page, you return to the country/language selection page again.


  • There’s no risk of banner blindness with the in-your-face approach.
  • You put the customer in control, and ensure the content they prefer is the content you deliver.


  • A customer may change his mind, so provide a manual override option that's easy to spot.
  • Splash pages are generally annoying and may cause search engine problems. Pay attention to design, usability and SEO best practices. Get Elastic reader, Alan Perkins, comments: "Using IP detection to redirect to a landing page *may* hurt SEO because the search engine spider may be redirected to the English language content for US visitors, and thus miss the English content for non-US visitors and/or the non-English content for all visitors."

Don’t use IP detection, but allow customer to manually change region

Example: Dell

Many large enterprise sites that have global brand recognition opt for the big pull down menu with every single country (or at least continent) covered. Dell is no exception, using a flag icon in the top left for clarity.


  • Gives customers the option to change region without using a cluttered country selection page (Like
  • You don’t need a geolocation tool.


  • The links may not be noticeable, and customers may get to the checkout before realizing they need to change region. Flag icons may look cheap but they’re more recognizable than text links.
  • Avoid loading a big country selector page after the user clicks the region link if possible. Dropdown menus are okay, but a flyout menu is both user and search engine friendly.

Do nothing, except support international transactions

Many sites don’t make a big enough deal about international shipping. Information is provided behind “Customer Service,” “Shipping” or “FAQ” links, but not clearly advertised on the site.

While this is the lazy man’s approach to internationalization, at the very least, international shipping information should be easy to find under Customer Service, and through the search box. Just don’t expect as many international sales as with the other options.

Despite which option you choose, keep the following in mind:

1. Don’t assume they know about your localized site. It’s habitual to type, for example, into a search engine or address bar. Sears makes no attempt to inform Canadians there is a .ca site (and Sears is the largest Canadian online retailer).

2. Use a flag. It might look a bit cheesy, but like a Noxzema girl, it will get noticed. Put it in the top left, center or right hand corner, not your footer menu.

3. Geolocation tools are not free, but they can prevent your domestic visitors from seeing international calls to action, and serve targeted content to the right ones. Not to mention, the host of other benefits of geolocation.

4. Always provide the option to change to the home country site.

We’ve only scratched the surface. Next post we’ll explore international usability tactics for category, search, product and cart review pages. And we'll discuss much more in our October 27 webinar Upcoming Ecommerce Webinar - Tapping into the International Online Consumer: What Every Enterprise Needs to Know About Going Global with Forrester Research Analyst Zia Daniell Widger. Sign up today!