7 Pricing Tips to Reduce International Shopping Cart Abandonment

This is part of our 4-part series on reducing international shopping cart abandonment. You can read the other three parts here: 4 Shipping Tips, 4 UX Tips, and 4 Trust Tips.


When selling internationally, you can help cut down on shopping cart abandonment by making sure that all facets of your pricing are localized, appealing, and well-understood by local shoppers. Consider that 61% of international online shoppers say they’ve made cross-border purchases because of price—in fact, it’s the #1 reason they do.

Bear in mind, however, that localizing prices means more than just swapping out the word “coupon” for “voucher,” or dollars for pounds sterling. Prices communicate different things to different buyers for different products in each market; in a way, it’s a language of its own. Thus, reducing shopping cart abandonment requires a thoroughly localized pricing strategy that takes into account everything from local pricing perceptions, to shipping cost considerations and more.    

Get the basics right: currencies.

The idea that shoppers need to see prices listed in their local currency may seem obvious, or even rudimentary, but given its importance (and how surprisingly easy it can be to overlook) it still bears mentioning. Research shows that 13% of customers will abandon their shopping carts, or even leave a retail site completely, when they discover that prices are not listed in their local currency. After all, asking shoppers to do something as basic as convert prices into their own currency is dead giveaway that a site doesn’t value that local market.

Having to translate foreign currencies also makes it difficult for customers to predict exactly how much something costs, and most people aren’t going to buy something unless they know the exact price.

The solution here is fairly straightforward: list prices in the currency relevant to the shopper to encourage trust, and keep the funnel flowing smoothly and speedbump-free for your customers.

Base prices on local market elasticity.

Different markets will place a different value on your products, and have different purchasing power parities, which means you’ll need to price accordingly. You may need to lower your price in markets where your product may not be valued as much in order to keep customers from walking. That said, you may also find that you can actually increase prices in other countries: consider the classic “big mac index.”

Of course, while the big mac index is a fun way to get started on pricing, it takes into account neither tastes, nor perceptions of quality. For instance, Chinese consumers like luxury products, and historically have been willing to pay premiums for foreign brands in the fashion, automotive and wine industries. Even now, they continue to be willing to pay foreign premiums for staples, like powdered milk, in cases where their local brands aren’t as trusted.

However, as high quality local brands start emerging with staples like toothpaste, cosmetics, and juice—and, consequently, gaining and maintaining local consumers’ trust and loyalty—these same consumers become less and less willing to pay premiums for imports.

This is an example of why it’s important to pay close attention and respond quickly to changes in the markets you’re building in. One sign that it may be time to re-evaluate your pricing strategy in a given market would be the emergence of gray-market middle-men: for instance, nearly $11B in goods were brought into China in 2013 through shopping agents in order to get around high import costs.

Keeping an eye on such local issues will help you maintain an attractive pricing strategy, ensuring more of your international shoppers actually purchase the items they place in their carts.

Localize shipping costs.

Shipping costs can skyrocket when it comes to cross-border sales. Making matters even more challenging, 61% of online shoppers say they’ve abandoned their carts due to price shocks after shipping, taxes, and fees are added in.

A few key issues global e-tailers will need to navigate here include balancing cost and shipping wait times; running effective and appealing free shipping promotions; as well as issues with taxes, tariffs and other fees.

To learn more, check out our full article: 4 Shipping Tips to Reduce International Shopping Cart Abandonment.

Offer customers their preferred method of payment.

As one might assume, when customers are presented with unfamiliar payment options, trust is diminished—in fact, one of the leading reasons shoppers abandon their carts is because their  preferred method of payment isn’t supported.


For example, online shoppers in India and Indonesia still love to pay with cash. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that young mobile online shoppers in India—who, in many cases, are also the most tech-savvy—still prefer to pay for goods using cash on delivery (COD.) Similarly, in Indonesia, COD remains the #2 most preferred method of payment.

For the most part, though, shoppers the world over still prefer credit and debit cards. Visa and Mastercard remain popular options in many regions, but exceptions, like China, where regulations are only now starting to allow foreign payment cards, remain.

Here are some preferred payment options you should be sure to consider, by country. (Also, an interesting note—most of these involve cash payments):

  • China: AliPay, UnionPay, and WeChat Pay
  • India: Cash options (especially COD,) and online bank transfer
  • Indonesia: Online bank transfer, cash options
  • Japan: Konbini (where shoppers pay for items by cash at kiosk-type locations)
  • Thailand: 123 (a payment location where shoppers can pay cash for goods purchased online)
  • Argentina: Cash options including PagoFácil and RapiPago
  • Brazil: Boleto, a type of payment ticket that permits online shoppers to pay in cash at ATMs and other locations
  • Mexico: Cash options, such as OXXO, a convenience store where shoppers can pay for online purchases
  • France: CarteBancaires
  • Germany: SEPA direct debit
  • The Netherlands: iDEAL

Reconsider promo or coupon code boxes—they may actually contribute to international shopping cart abandonment.

The presence of a coupon or promo code box at checkout may be driving customers away. Why? Seeing the promo code box can trigger shoppers to navigate away from the shopping cart in order to search the web for applicable coupon codes. Often, they either become distracted, or they find a better deal somewhere else.

One way that Macy’s (the #1 department store chain ranked by e-commerce sales) has mitigated this problem is by enabling shoppers to look up coupon codes right in the shopping cart during the checkout process.

If you decide to go this route, keep localization in mind: though your primary e-commerce system may be impeccably localized, if a 3rd party service powers the coupon search, it can be easy to forget to localize content in that service. For example, an international shopper may find themselves frustrated if your site encourages them to search for a coupon, only to find results that aren’t in their local language or currency.

Understand local perceptions of discounts.

It’s common for e-tailers to drive sales via promotions, discounts, and coupon codes. However, non-localized promotions could fall short in international markets for a number of reasons. While discounts are typically appealing, there’s still a chance that they may convey your product as a lesser quality in different cultures.

There are other ways international customers may misinterpret your promotions or discounts if you haven’t carefully localized them. A Chinese customer on a North American retailer’s site, for instance, would be far more excited to see a “10%” sale advertisement than a North American might be. That’s because in China, a sale advertisement for a “10%” discount indicates that the product costs just 10% of its full retail price—in other words, the product is actually 90% off.

Flip that around, and imagine a Chinese customer browsing your site on a day where your store is having a huge 75% clearance sale. The Chinese customer, thinking that the products are currently at 75% of the retail price—and not 75% off the retail price—probably wouldn’t get too excited about the promotion. The takeaway here: before offering a sale or discount, don’t forget to research how these function in your specific market, and always double-check to make sure the promotion is communicated accurately and clearly.

Additionally, consider how you offer the coupon. Increasingly, vendors are offering coupons to shoppers who take specific actions, such as referring a friend, signing up for a newsletter or through various social media posts. Hence, it’s important to understand which types of personal information your local market values. If your international customers are uncomfortable offering up an email address, refer-a-friend or social media strategies may perform better than newsletter sign-up promotions.

However, if you do offer coupons in exchange for a retweet or the use of a specific hashtag, just remember that social outlets, too, require localization. Popular North American social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter aren’t dominant in every market. In fact, both these mega social networks are blocked in mainland China, so offering promotions via them would likely lead to higher cart abandonment rates in this country (where social networks like Weibo and WeChat rule) rather than lower.

Test, test, optimize, and test again.

Pricing is so important that, regardless of what best practices are employed, it should always be driven by internal testing and optimization. Why? Dan Ariely demonstrates the fact, as consumers, we often aren’t as aware of our personal preferences as we think we are.

In his example, he showed the following 3 options for subscriptions to the Economist to a sample group, and asked which of them they’d prefer to purchase:

  • $59 for a digital subscription
  • $125 for a print-only subscription
  • $125 for both a print-and-digital subscription

The $125 print-and-digital subscription proved most popular and 0% of those surveyed saying they would choose a $125 print-only subscription. Presented this way, the print-and-digital option looked like a great deal, with the digital option basically appearing “free.” So, UX best practices would suggest removing the $125 print-only option—right? After all, no one chose it.

Dr. Ariely ran the survey again, this time removing that option. The sample group was left to choose from these two:

  • $59 for a digital subscription
  • $125 for a print-and-digital subscription

This time, those surveyed overwhelmingly chose the $59 digital-only subscription, even though the more expensive print-and-digital option had been favored last time. Without the print-only subscription as an option, the print-and-digital subscription didn’t look nearly as valuable or attractive anymore. Therefore they chose this option 2.6X less frequently, leaving tons of potential revenue on the table.

This example serves to show that even the best, most meticulously planned pricing strategies (even those built around some evidence-based practices) can be counter-intuitive. Thus, when entering new markets where your organization may not have as much expertise, it’s even more important to double-down on driving decisions based on data!

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