Clearing the User Trust Hurdle: A Country-Specific Approach

Clearing the User Trust Hurdle: A Country-Specific Approach
Table of contents
Dimitris Glezos
October 26, 2015
11 min read

According to a Nielsen report that polled 30,000 Internet respondents in 60 countries, consumers are more trusting of online advertising than ever before. The study concluded that advertising trust goes beyond creating favorable views of a company in the eyes of its consumers. Effective advertising can increase a customer’s willingness to take action and make a purchase, meaning “trust and action often go hand in hand.”

The Trust Hurdle

Companies are taking steps in the right direction and acknowledging the advertising and selling opportunities in other countries, but complete localization isn’t achieved unless consumer purchasing behaviors are also taken into consideration. To better understand the global consumer, companies need to identify how consumers in different countries interact with websites, more specifically, whether they trust the company, brand messaging, and checkout process. Today, we’re sharing some of the top e-commerce markets and their associated trust hurdles.


When localizing your website for Japanese buyers, the bottom line is simple: your business will not succeed in Japan unless it earns the trust of Japanese consumers.

The Japanese are often recognized as luxury shoppers, yet a majority of the population is mistrustful of things sold on the internet, especially when items aren’t a native brand. Additionally, only about 1% of the population has enough foreign language skills to understand content on non-Japanese websites, most skipping content they can’t read.

Product or service quality is a primary desire among Japanese buyers (as it is in most countries), but gaining the trust of that buyer is equally if not more important. When localizing digital content into Japanese, pay careful attention to:

    1. Level of Customer Service – Common practice in Japan is to treat the customer with the utmost politeness and importance during any business-related transaction. This level of respect and high quality customer service must be displayed throughout your website in order for customers to trust your product and be compelled to buy. How do you create this ideal web experience for Japanese buyers? Read on to points 2 and 3.


    1. Tone of Voice – When speaking in Japanese, there are varying levels of politeness used depending on who is being spoken to. For instance, a child in middle school would speak to a peer with a different level of politeness than to a teacher. When content is displayed on a website, retailers are expected to speak to customers with extreme respect. This means that translating your content will likely require assistance from a native speaker, ensuring that the tone and language used is appropriate for the situation.


  1. Content Quality – The nuances of the Japanese language is what makes translating content so difficult. For instance, the Japanese rarely use “you” when speaking, and doing so on your website could be offensive or show a lack of thoughtfulness, ultimately indicating poor quality. The Japanese language also doesn’t have spaces between words. To present an aesthetically pleasing website that gains consumer trust, avoid line breaks. A user’s browser will automatically insert breaks where needed to create a localized online experience.


The size of the Russian market is huge, but so are the obstacles, leaving many companies unsure of whether or not to expand into Russia. As a population known to be distrustful of e-commerce websites, many retailers have left Russia out of their global expansion plans. Recent research, however, shows that new technologies are leading to increased internet adoption, making e-commerce a more popular buying channel. Russia’s e-commerce sector is predicted to grow 35% in the next few years, according to Morgan Stanley.

Russian buyers are much like their Western counterparts when it comes to making purchases online. They’re looking for quality products at affordable prices, and many are willing to do their research before they buy. But there are a few common buying trends in Russia, and any business that wants to gain the trust of Russian buyers needs to be familiar with them:

    1. Cash is King – It might sound crazy to some, but the Russian market is still driven by cash. Payments are rarely made with credit cards, and the few who have bank cards often withdraw their entire salaries in cash. So how are online goods purchased? Often through a cash delivery system where cash is exchanged for the product upon delivery or through prepay payment kiosks. After a purchase is made, the retailer provides the buyer with a unique payment code which is then taken to a nearby payment kiosk (they’re everywhere). The buyer enters the code and deposits the cash directly into the kiosk. E-money ( is also a popular way to finalize an online purchase. Exclude these payment options from your website and you’ll be sure to lose buyer trust and sales.


    1. Increased Smartphone Usage – Just like many other countries, more consumers are adopting smartphones and using them to make purchases online. While Russians may be wary of making credit card payments, there’s no research indicating they have a problem buying directly from their smartphone. In fact, just under 40% of orders are made through a smartphone, so it’s important that your website is responsive or mobile-friendly.


  1. Preference for Native-Language Websites – While the e-commerce market in Russia continues to grow, there is still a large portion of the population that does not make purchases online. Some might say it’s indifference to new technologies, but a recent study by the research group GfK found that 40% of those who don’t shop online admitted that language barrier was the main reason for continuing to patronize Russian brick-and-mortar stores. Not being able to read the content of the website made the customer uncomfortable, leading them to select a more trusting option in their native language.


Did you know 35% of Germans only browse websites that are in German? And according to research by the European Commission, another 40% would not communicate in a language other than German in a professional context, plus when it comes to complex translations (i.e. online banking), 81% of Germans wouldn’t use a website that wasn’t written in German.

While translating and localizing websites in German can gain consumer trust, security has been a long-time concern for online buyers. Fortunately, thanks to a number of security advancements over the past few years, “consumers in Germany have largely overcome their reluctance about buying online,” according to a report from eMarketer. Retailers can further create trust by providing:

    1. Creditability – Germans feel at ease when an online retailer displays seals of approval, a certification that indicates the shop is transparent and reputable. In a survey conducted by GfK, more than 60% say that a seal of approval in an online shop is “important” or “very important” and these seals must be from approved providers including Trusted Shops, Safer Shopping, and EHI.


    1. Resources – Another way to assure the uncertain German customer is to provide a wealth of information about the product and service offerings. Again, this helps to provide the buyer with transparency and simplifies the decision-making process. Customer reviews are also a great way to build trust about a product’s quality level.


  1. Payment – Similar to Russia, payment by credit card is less common than payment by invoice after delivery or through PayPal. Buyers are also skeptical of paying in advance, concerned how they’ll be refunded if they cancel their order. To overcome this obstacle, many German retailers insist first-time customers pay cash upon delivery. Buyer protection, like money-back guarantees, can also make customers feel more at ease when making an online purchase.


France is the sixth largest e-commerce market worldwide, with sales of more than 65 billion euros annually. The French are unique when it comes to making purchases online; France is one of the few countries where the multi-channel purchasing trend can be seen. In addition to reading reviews online and searching for additional product information before making a purchase, French shoppers see price as a primary motivation for purchasing online – a decision made only after visiting a brick-and-mortar store to see or touch the product in real life. As these price-sensitive buyers continue to make more online purchases, it’s important to gain their trust by offering:

    1. Secure Payments – French consumers were slow to become patrons of online retailers because they didn’t offer a secure way to pay. As in many other countries, concerns about security have lessened as technology has evolved over the past few years, but French consumers still want reassurance that their personal data will be safeguarded. Websites that show their commitment to protecting sensitive customer data by mentioning “secure payment via SSL” are seen as reputable and trusted retailers. Accepting CartesBancaires (a French credit card representing more than half the total credit card market share) and providing a visual representation like the company’s logo on the checkout page also helps to enhance customer trust.


  1. A Great Delivery Experience – Quick and affordable delivery is highly valued among French buyers, with 84% saying that a positive delivery experience can convince them to return to the same merchant for their next purchase as opposed to going to a competitor. Free delivery is the best option and when executed properly, can create trust and brand loyalty with a first-time French buyer.


According to eMarketer, China’s e-commerce industry will grow 42.1% in 2015 to $672 billion, easily making it the world’s largest e-commerce market. The potential for additional sales for non-Chinese companies is strikingly apparent and is driving more businesses to entering the traditionally complex marketplace.

A younger, more affluent generation is responsible for a majority of e-commerce growth in the country. They’re dominating the buying environment, willing to pay more for quality products. At the same time, other segments of the population remain somewhat wary of making online purchases. Localizing in China can be somewhat difficult and there are a few trust hurdles that must be addressed for success, including:

    1. Safety – Quality control is a huge problem in China. Just look at Mattel’s 2007 lead paint scandal which resulted in one of the largest toy recalls in history. Although nearly a decade has passed, Chinese consumers continually site product safety as one of their top concerns. And according to the China Market Research Group, these concerns arise from incidents that would never even cross the American consumer’s mind, like injecting watermelons with dirty water to make them heavier. Consumers also said they were willing to spend 20% more for ingestible products if they believed they were safe, showing that safety should be a key selling point when doing business in China.


    1. Online Advertisements – The Chinese generally find online advertisements, specifically those from the manufacturer or parent company, to be manipulative. In many cases, the highest level of trust comes from peer reviews or recommendations. Chinese customers are very active on social media outlets such as Youku, Kaixin, Tudou, Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo, and often share their product recommendations as well as positive and negative reviews via these platforms. To create a brand image that can be trusted by the Chinese, it’s important to create positive buzz and engagement on such platforms.


  1. Lifestyle – One of the top localization mistakes is not accounting for the target country’s lifestyle, and China is no exception. For example, clothing brand Nautica entered the Chinese market, displaying advertisements that used non-Chinese models. While this doesn’t seem like a major mistake, Chinese customers became concerned that Nautica clothing wouldn’t compliment their body types. Another thing to keep in mind in terms of lifestyle is that Chinese customers are adopting online platforms because they’re looking for more options. Websites that offer a wide range of products, even if they’re presented in a rather overwhelming format, appeal to the Chinese buyer and make them feel comfortable.

At the end of the day, localization will only be successful when time and effort is spent researching the local customs and buying behaviors of your target market. Although this process can be time consuming, the growing e-commerce industry on a global scale indicates great potential for retailers. To learn more about localization, download the Localization Benchmarks Report or reach out to a Transifex team member!

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Dimitris Glezos
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