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Sept. 13, 2016

How to Sell Internationally on Shopify using Multiple Currencies and Languages

Technical |Industry

While expanding your store to be multi-currency, multi-language or multi-country you are likely to encounter a range of limitations with the Shopify platform. In this article we discuss what those limitations are and the best options and solutions to work around them. 


We're big fans of the Shopify platform, it's incredibly powerful for developing e-Commerce stores of all sizes. One of it's best features comes from it's powerful admin system but this can also be a frustrating weakness: some things are simply fixed in place and can't be changed, in other cases apps offer work-around solutions but sometimes the only solution is to setup two separate stores.

Often, like whenever you try to push what is possible with Shopify, there is a trade-off between increased management complexity and a better experience for your customers.


One store vs multiple stores

Some limitations are impossible to work around if you only want to run a single store, even with third party apps. There are three key limitations that may force you to opt for a second/multiple Shopify store:

  • Checkout can only be in one language for all users. You can display translations for any part of the site, but the checkout will only use the pre-defined language setup in the Shopify admin panel and can't vary between different customers.
  • There can only be one store currency used for billing. All customers are billed in your configured store currency. The checkout pages have to display prices in this currency. It is possible to display the prices on the rest of your site in the customers own currency, but the actual checkout and the value of their cart that is charged to their bank account will always be your store currency.
  • Website stock management can not be based on location.  It's not possible to have different stock for different locations with one store.

If those three limitations aren't an issue then you should be fine with your single store account.

There are some downsides to multiple stores: 

  • You will have to pay for the monthly Shopify price plan for each store.
  • Each site's orders, customers, content, products, collections and stock will have to be independently managed.

Generally, the option you choose will depend on the needs of your business and how important those three points are. If the vast majority of your sales are in one location, it may be advisable to delay the extra costs and management needed for multiple stores and work with one store, with the trade-offs that involves.

1. Multi-Currency

As discussed above the key point regarding currencies is if you need the checkout, and the actual amount the user is charged, to be in multiple currencies. In many cases this isn't a high-priority as most consumers in the UK and EU are used to buying products online in various currencies and bank fees are normally quite minimal. 

Single-store

If you don't need the checkout in multiple currencies it is relatively straightforward to add a currency picker to your Shopify store that lets the user select any currency and automatically converts all of your prices based on the current exchange rate. The cart will also be displayed in the users selected currency, but the checkout pages will show the prices in your store's pre-defined currency.

It's normally a good idea to make your customers aware of this by adding a note to the cart page stating that all billing will be done in your store currency.

It is simple enough to automatically set the users currency based on their location or browser language. You are can then allow customers to override this themselves should it be necessary.

Multi-store

The multi-store option will allow you to have each store configured with a different currency. For example a UK store in GBP and a US store in USD. Each of these stores can also display other currencies but the same limitation applies that the checkout and customer-billing will only be in your store currency. This option does give you more control over promotions and product up-selling by allowing you to tailor your multiple stores in different ways. For example, you might have a product that sells well in the USA but is outperformed by another product in the UK. Multiple stores can give you the control to target diverse market sectors without compromising sales of your best products.

2. Translation

Like with currency, the key determining factor with translating your site is if you need the checkout and transactional emails to be in the customers language or not.

If you do, you will need a store for each language you wish to fully support. The Langify app is the most common third party app that can assist you in translating your store.

3. Stock management

As long as you have one store you can only have a single stock for all of your products, no matter your customers language or location. This one is simple, if you're shipping everything from one location you can get away with a single store, if you have different stock in different markets you'll have to use multiple stores.

Domain considerations

Switching to a multiple-store arrangement means you will have to make use of a second domain for that site. Usually it is best to make use of a subdomain or a local domain, for example:

  • yourstore.com
  • fr.yourstore.com
  • de.yourstore.com

or:

  • yourstore.com
  • yourstore.fr
  • yourstore.de

There are various SEO factors to consider with both approaches but what is very important is that both sites have the correct language specific meta tags which tell Google that the sites are alternate language versions.

It normally makes sense to have a landing page on your primary domain that lists the different sites and asks the user which site they wish to use. Or you can detect the users browser language and redirect them to the relevant site immediately, this is much more reliable than using their IP address.

Need help Internationalising your site? We're Shopify Experts

We have a wide range of experience in design, building and configuring a wide range of different setups in Shopify. Get in touch if you 're interested in working with us, we'd be happy to advise you on your options.

Need help Internationalising your Shopify store? We're Shopify Experts — Get in touch.

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