Barriers To International E-Commerce

Posted by Sohail Khatri  |  at  7:51 PM No comments

Barriers to international ecommerce include lack of trust, lack of infrastructure, language and culture. E-commerce is a combination of three different areas of study, namely, technology, business and law/policy. We have studied the technology and business side of e-commerce to a reasonably good extent. Now, we have to start the law and policy side of e – commerce. However, before we do that lets discuss some interesting issues related to the international aspect of e-commerce.

Different Barriers to International e-commerce

Lack of Trust
It is very important for online businesses to establish trusting relationships with their customers like in the physical world where companies ensure that customers know who they are. However, it is difficult to build trust because a kind of anonymity exists for companies trying to establish web presence. There was, once, a famous cartoon used to depict that on the internet nobody knows whether you are a dog. The issue of anonymity can be explained by the example that a visiting customer will not know in case of an online bank as to how large or well-established the bank is, simply by browsing through its web site.

On the other hand, visitors would not become customers unless they trust the company behind the site. Thus, a plan for establishing credibility of an online business is extremely crucial for its success. In this behalf, attention to the needs of the site visitors is very important while designing the web site, since it can be helpful in building trust with customers. For instance, there should be easy to find web pages that answer questions of the visitors. Note that companies with established brands can build trust for online business more quickly as compared to a new company/business without reputation, since a brand conveys expectations about how the online business would behave. For example, how the seller online business would react to a claim of refund by the customer.

Only way to do business in other cultures is to be a part of such cultures. Language plays a very important role in this regard. In the first step you should provide local language versions of your web site. Software packages exist that can translate your web site content into different languages. Some sites translate all of their pages, but if the web site is very large then one can be selective in translation effort. Usually, home page, or pages related to marketing and product information or those related to any local interest/advertisement are given higher priority from translation point of view. Mainly two approaches are used for the translation of the content.
                        In the first approach, browser default language setting can be communicated to server when connection establishes between browser and server through ‘http’. Server can thus detect default browser language setting and automatically redirect the browser to those set of pages in that language. Second approach is to include links to different language versions on the web site’s home page. One can select any language by clicking the appropriate link. However, the link should show name of that language in that language so that the user can read/understand the information. It would be interesting to look at an estimate about the use of different languages over the internet

It should be useful to know about different cultural  issues surrounding international e-commerce. Firstly, there is the issue of choice of name. For example, a famous car manufacturing company had chosen the name ‘nova’ for one of its car models, which could be understood by the people in Latin America in the sense that ‘it will not go’. Similarly, a company selling baby foods in jars should not place the picture of a baby on the jar while doing business in certain parts of Africa, since in such parts it is customary (or part of the culture/tradition) to put on the jar the picture of contents contained in it.
                                Web designers must be careful about the choice of icons because they can have different meanings in different cultures. For instance, in U.S shopping cart is a good symbol for selecting and putting your items in a virtual place, whereas shopping basket is a more appropriate symbol or icon for the said purpose in Europe. Similarly, in India it would not be appropriate to use the image of a cow in a cartoon. In Muslim countries people can be offended by human pictures that violate the limit of Islamic parda. Use of colors in the web design can also be troublesome. For example, white color denotes purity in Europe and America but is associated with death and mourning in china and some Asian countries. Similarly, a web page divided into four segments can be unpleasant to a Japanese visitor because no. four is a symbol of death in that culture.

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