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Internet Malls Getting International Shopper Friendly

By: Kishor Gidwani, Student Intern

Date Posted: 2000-01-08

Headline after headline tells us of the ever-expanding world of e-commerce. Yet after hours of navigation through some of the world’s most popular websites like gap.com and clinique.com, orders with international shipping addresses are refused. After surfing through Time International Magazine 25 Best E-Commerce Sites, frustrations built even more…only four of those sites actually ship internationally.

The company that turns out to be the most international friendly on the internet also seems to be the site that dominates e-commerce worldwide. Nearly one third of all internet shopping transactions take place within the domain of amazon.com. Amazon recently expanded its range of products from books and multimedia to toys, home improvement items and digital technology. Amazon is currently only able to ship books, CDs, DVDs, VHS cassettes, music cassettes, and vinyl records to international addresses. This state of affairs is related to warranty issues and manufacturer restrictions. This company offers a wider variety of shipping options than any other site visited. Standard Shipping, which can only be used for books, starts off at a flat rate of 4 dollars a shipment with an additional 95 cents per item. Standard Shipping is expected to take 7 weeks to reach locations in Japan. World Mail, the second option averages out to 10 dollars a shipment, products ordered using this option are expected to take 2 weeks to arrive at your doorstep. International Priority Mail, with an average cost of 25 dollars takes only 1 to 4 business days to reach you.

Anyone shopping for computers in the online market could try dell.com. This appears to be, from several points of view, the most diverse and culturally sensitive web page on the internet.There are almost 30 different versions of its websites tailored to suit the needs of specific countries. Dell dominates the online computer sales industry with over $30 million dollars worth of equipment bought from the site every day. It seems that Dell’s customizable computers and extensive network of customer service options did the trick. The site for Japan does not come in an English version and the site pretty much advises the customer to pick a country upon entrance; so surfing another country’s English language site first to familiarize oneself with the link placements is a good idea.

Disney and Lands’ End are the two remaining sites on the list that cater for the international shopper. Both of these sites have high flat international shipping surcharges with shipping times of 10-21 days. International surcharge at both of stores are, on average, $30 dollars per shipment.

Landsend.com captures the surfer upon entrance, shoppers give this site high points for features that no other web site contains. These include Lands’ End Live™ which connects to an expert shopper via chat who helps you surf through the site and gives solid advice on matching colors and styles. This personal touch, which may seem disturbing to some people, turns out to be a rather warm current in the solitary world of e-shopping. Shop with a Friend™ lets you and someone from a remote location surf the site together, putting your purchases in the same shopping basket, once again communicating through a chat applet. The user that initiates contact gets stuck with the bill. Your Personal Model™ is another fresh, yet queer idea that creates a virtual “you” after gathering info on your body and face shape, skin and hair colors and hair cut. This model, which you can name, follows you throughout your visit and tries on anything you want in the site. This feature is currently only available for women. For men, the Oxford Express which helps you navigate through the complicated world of shirt collars, cuts and button designs proves to be quite useful.

Compensating for international shipping is done in many different ways in smaller, less popular sites. The website for April Cornell, a company addressing the housewife's concerns, asks for the online shopper's email address when checking out, and sends them a message when the cost for the shipment has been determined; at that time, the shopper has the option of okaying the order or canceling it.

Audradella Plus-Size Fashion adds a simple flat 25 dollar surcharge on any order. Urbanwhere.com, a website selling the latest hip-hop fashions, asks the overseas customer to fax in their latest credit card billing statement in order to set up an international mailing account. As always, it is best to make sure one is using a secure connection when typing in one's credit card number. Checking the site's reliability with small orders, before placing a big order is also recommended.

Customs and special duties are always an issue when items travel through international boundaries. In Japan, the system is quite simple: the postal worker hands a bill to the recipient of a parcel, to be paid before the package can finally belong to the owner.

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