Expanding to International Sites with Salesforce?

Take these five considerations into account—before you embark.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) is a platform built with internationalization in mind, ready to support enterprise retailers and help small- to medium-size businesses blaze the trail to that “enterprise” distinction. But when embarking on this journey, technical questions come to play. How many SFCC realms will you need? When should you create a new site? When should you support multiple countries, currencies, and locales within a single site?

Although this article does not answer every question, and you should seek guidance from a solution architect to help you on your path, the following aims to serve as a starting point for ensuring your successful transition.

1. Localized Customer Experiences

Localization is a lot more than just “translations”—it’s supporting your local consumers at every touchpoint in a manner that delights them. Everything in ecommerce and everything in SFCC begins and ends with the customer, and when going international, you have to understand your local business in each country of operation.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How will you provide translated content to your local customer?
  • What will be your approach for campaigns and promotions? Can a global team support promotions, or do promotions need to be country-specific?
  • Which payment methods are popular for your local customers? Are you and your bank(s) equipped financially to support them?
  • What does your catalog and inventory look like? Are products shared or country-exclusive/specific? Are there multiple inventory locations?
  • Do you have individual teams able to manage your storefront in different countries? What are their sizes and levels of ecommerce/web management skills?

Language remains the most important factor in the customer experience: Salesforce has found bad translations to be the #1 hindrance to conversion on foreign sites. Be sure you have a native-language speaker to review the entire site before go-live, calling out missed translations and improving the verbiage on your storefront.

2. Application Architecture: One-App Versus Ref-App Approach

When handling an international application on SFCC, finding the balance between regional autonomy and global governance is a delicate process, but it’s something Salesforce B2C Commerce is well-tailored to handle when implemented properly. There are generally two approaches—a reference application, or ref-app approach, or a single application, or one-app approach.

In a ref-app approach, your local storefront application code is composed of multiple codebases, with one global codebase serving as the ref app. This gives regional developers more power and autonomy at greater cost to global feature development.

In a one-app approach, everyone shares the same codebase, and all regional changes must be handled via configuration only. This can be restricting to regions but prioritizes global brand guidelines and initiatives.

3. Data Security and Compliance

As you expand internationally, it’s imperative that you be familiar with regional compliance expectations for data security, payment security, and accessibility.

The following table outlines some of the terms, standards, and considerations you’ll need to take into account. Please note this list is not comprehensive, and this guide is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice.

TermMeaningRegionDescriptionSalesforce Considerations
PIIPersonally identifiable information GlobalAny information related to an identifiable person, including name, address, social security number, and driver’s license Salesforce provides secure APIs, such as session.privacy, which will clear data stored within it after a customer logs out.
PCI (or PCI DSS)Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard GlobalAn information security standard for organizations that handle branded credit cardsSalesforce provides encryption and other secure APIs to support PCI DSS.
WCAGWeb Content Accessibility Guidelines GlobalEnsures HTML content is accessible to all, including screen readers SFCC’s reference applications, SiteGenesis and SFRA, each come prebaked with accessibility in mind but are not certified WCAG AA 2.1-compliant. Additional effort is needed to ensure compliance.
ADAAmericans with Disabilities ActUnited States Civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life. It’s generally believed that if your website is WCAG AA 2.0-compliant, you’re adhering to the ADA. See WCAG above.
GDPRGeneral Data Protection RegulationEuropeProvides customers the right to opt in/opt out of data tracking, access their personal data, and have their PII removed from systems Salesforce provides reference plugins and APIs to support data regulations, but compliance/certification may be required. For more information, see this guide on Salesforce.com.
CCPACalifornia Consumer Privacy ActUnited States (California)California state statute that provides consumer protection, similar to GDPRGDPR is considered more protective of consumer data than CCPA, so if you’re adhering to GDPR, configure your US site to adhere to the same data security functions of your EU site(s).
SOX Sarbanes-Oxley ActUnited States, and foreign companies that are dual-listedApplies to publicly traded companies, making sure changes are able to be audited and that there is a delegation of duties for production changes (that is, the person making the change is not the person pushing the change to production, unchecked)Use source control tools like Bitbucket or GitHub to promote audibility; mandate pull-request reviews and/or limit replication rights within SFCC Business Manager to promote delegation of duties.

4. Inventory and Fulfillment

A distinct site in SFCC should be configured for each distinct fulfillment area based on your business rules. For example, if you have distinct warehouses or distribution centers fulfilling to the United States, Canada, and Europe, we recommend three sites at a minimum—one each for CA, US, and EU. SFCC is well-optimized to perform using this configuration.

Of course, not all retailers are equipped to fulfill internationally this way, which is where the Salesforce AppExchange and Commerce Cloud LINK Partner Marketplace come in. Partners such as UPS i-Parcel and Borderfree may manage most back-end fulfillment on your behalf, including payments, duties, customs, and tax compliance. Using these technologies, you can have a single managed international storefront and let your partner handle all the international complexities related to fulfillment and finances.

5. Taxation

Finally, there is a hard-and-fast rule within SFCC: a site cannot blend taxation policies (net versus gross). The United States and Canada require net taxation, while most other countries in the world support gross taxation. This makes blending a United States site and a European Union site impossible natively within SFCC without a cross-border fulfillment partner.

Check the List

I leave you with the following checklist for determining your site architecture. If any of these statements is true for your business, strongly consider creating a distinct site within SFCC for the country or region, or investing in a cross-border fulfillment integration.

  • The area’s taxation policy (gross/net) is different from other countries’ policies
  • The area’s inventory will be distinct
  • There are specific/exclusive/restricted products for the area
  • The area has distinct data security, networking, or accessibility compliance requirements
  • You have analytics, reporting, or personalization needs specific to the region/country
  • You have a marketing team that can manage local campaigns and promotions better than a global team
  • You have a development team that can manage local feature functionality and releases better than a global team

Embarking on the journey toward internationalization can be daunting, but these considerations and guidelines will help to start you down the right path.

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Kyle Montgomery

Kyle Montomery is vice president of engineering for Astound Commerce North America.

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