As of September 2021, Shopify announced their merchants are 'global by default' with a new suite of internationalization tools called 'Shopify Markets'. And after months of speculation on the feature, it’s officially live. This means it’s time to break down all the changes and improvements and what these mean for merchants.
International pricing, international domains, multi-language and tax, and duties calculation were all features available prior to September 2021. Shopify Markets — rather than one monolithic tool — is the umbrella term for consolidation of these. By releasing Shopify Markets, Shopify has created a completely different, and in some cases new, User Interface for administration. Previously, the system was disjointed, but now with the new UI along with some additional features, it’s easier to administer and incorporate into merchants' sites. So let’s take a look at all the features that fall under Shopify Markets…
First came the 'multi-store setup' approach with Shopify Plus, which allows enterprise merchants to run dedicated storefronts for every country or region in which they operate. A Plus license, includes up to ten storefronts, with additional storefronts available but at a monthly cost.
Running multiple stores this way allows merchants to have complete control over the user experience and operational aspects of each region. For example, running different merchandising campaigns, promotions for different countries, and assigning specific inventory to a particular country.
However, many merchants complain of the overheads associated with needing to manage multiple storefronts, both financial (paying for one app or integration multiple times as it was installed on each store) and operationally (busy e-commerce teams needing to merchandise each homepage manually, although there are solutions for this).
With the release of Shopify Markets, merchants can now do all of the above as well as multi-currency, multi-language, international pricing, international domains and Geolocation all from a single-store setup - removing the overheads required to manage multiple storefronts and making a multi-store approach less appealing.
They can also:
From multi-currency to international pricing, Shopify is continually improving its localized pricing features for merchants. Let’s dive into the two features and what updates have been made since the launch of Shopify Markets…
With the arrival of Shopify Multi-Currency, merchants became able to sell in more than one currency, without needing to create another storefront. With Multi-Currency, merchants can add up to 130 global currencies via the store admin, and their product prices will be automatically converted based on a choice of either:
This has been excellent for merchants wanting to assess how many of their customers were coming from overseas and how well they responded to being able to pay in their own currency, but it has had its limitations:
First of all, most merchants who already trade in multiple currencies and are looking at replatforming to Shopify aren't used to calculating their international price lists based on the day's FX rate; they have distinct pricing per country or region. This was not something Shopify's original Multi-Currency offering accommodated but Shopify’s International Pricing did (more on this in a bit) - the only downside to this was you had to do it via a CSV export and import rather than easily via the Shopify admin.
Gift cards have also proved problematic, as they can fluctuate in value and price. Although they can be rounded to the nearest zero, they'd often convert to something that doesn't follow the traditional pricing formats of gift cards e.g. £5, £10, £20, etc. because of what the conversions would come out at e.g. £5 becomes a $6.81 gift card. This gets pretty complicated, but it’s all explained in further detail here.
Selling into other countries has also come with added complexities — around landed costs and duties i.e. the additional fees someone has to pay to get your product across borders into the destination country. Until recently, merchants' options were:
Another pain point for sticking to one store and selling in lots of different currencies is that merchants pay a conversion fee on every multi-currency transaction as opposed to no conversion fees when they have a dedicated storefront per currency.
Shopify Multi-Currency stores have a base currency. Any transaction completed with a different currency to the base currency will result in a transaction fee due to conversion between currencies.
If you have a multi-store setup, you can receive payments to underlying bank accounts in all the currencies you accept. Then you can control the FX or pay suppliers in those currencies, which may be preferential for bigger brands.
This is important to consider when setting up your store and deciding between single and multi-store.
International Pricing — a feature Shopify introduced around a year ago that allows merchants to:
This feature is different from Shopify Multi-Currency which calculates pricing in different currencies using FX rates and rounding rules. With international pricing, you can set the price in each currency directly, which is more akin to a traditional price book.
To use the International Pricing feature to set price adjustments for a country or region, merchants must be using Shopify Payments and using Shopify Plus or Shopify Advanced.
With International pricing, prices can only be set via CSV import and export, but it has solved a few of the frustrations merchants have historically had with Multi-Currency:
Customers cannot check out in whichever currency they fancy — the price and currency they pay are mapped to a specific shipping country. If a customer chooses to ship to a country or region that differs from the one selected on the storefront, then their prices change to match their shipping destination at checkout. This is why it's more important than ever to clearly communicate to customers that they should choose the correct country/currency combination when browsing.
You can now set a specific gift card value per country, meaning the value of your gift cards won't fluctuate for your customers.
Most international merchants charge different prices for different countries due to a number of factors. They may also run their sale periods at different times. With International Pricing, merchants can set their RRP and compare-at/sale pricing at a variant level on a country-by-country basis.
Whilst merchants will have access to all of the solutions that came with International Pricing, Markets now allows them to:
Initially, Shopify's Multi-Language API could only be used in conjunction with third-party translation apps. However, Shopify recently released a useful, new feature that allows you to import or export a translations' CSV directly via the admin.
This file supports the import of all Shopify-hosted content but does not yet support the translation of dynamic content injected into your theme. One of the biggest challenges this creates is how to support multi-lingual search on one Shopify store. To get around this, you'll need to do one of the following:
Currently, when multiple languages are enabled, your Shopify storefront will automatically use subfolders to denote which language is selected. For example, mycoolstore.com/fr for French. Your store's master language, when selected, will not exist under a subfolder.
These sub-folders are still a good option for those wanting a multi-lingual store but aren't using Multi-Currency (as you have to be using Multi-Currency for International Domains — the alternative we'll cover in a bit).
Translation is inherently complex on a single-store architecture. Shopify still maintains this concept of a 'master' language, with all translated languages decoupled from the original product record. Some elements of that record cannot be translated (tags and product handles, for example).
Clients who already have all of their translated content managed in a third-party system (like a PIM or a translation platform) may need to revisit their approach to translation management when migrating to Shopify. With a multi-store setup, this can be managed via a middleware platform. On a single-store architecture, a more bespoke approach is required. We've solved this problem for a number of our clients, including Alessi, Pavers, and North Sails.
With Shopify moving away from the scenario where currencies and languages are entirely decoupled (i.e. where a Spain-based customer could shop on the .eu storefront, browse in German and pay in Danish Krone) they released the International Domains feature that permits the direct mapping of the country to store URL: merchants with multi-currency enabled can now map languages and price lists to specific regional URLs. Now, one Shopify storefront can have up to ten regional URLs. This is positive, as it will improve your customer's chances of being served the correct version of the site via search and remove the need for multiple stores purely for SEO reasons.
All of the updates of Shopify Markets directly impact and improve international domains. When updating language and currency on your store the domain will automatically change based on the customer's choice. Including additional updates:
Another international tool we've had from Shopify is their free Geolocation app. This uses the customer's IP address to determine from which country they're browsing. If the said customer is browsing with the store's default settings (e.g. .com URL, English language, and USD currency) but they're in France — where the merchant has defined specific settings for French customers in the Shopify admin — then the Geolocation pop-up will offer them the opportunity to update their settings so that they're viewing the relevant pricing and content.
If a merchant has used the International Domains feature, it will also update their store URL to reflect this. Customers can, however, decline to update their settings and browse any country view they like. But it's worth remembering that, with International Pricing developments, now, shipping countries are matched to the corresponding price list so your customers will only be able to pay in a currency that marries up with their shipping address.
Merchants seeking a more custom or branded geolocation experience can build a bespoke geolocation form, rather than using the out-of-the-box version that is installed when the Geolocation app is downloaded from the app store - we did this for gaming giant HyperX.
Finally, at the beginning of Q4 of 2022, Shopify announced Markets Pro, the next level up from Shopify Markets, created to fit the needs of more established merchants. This latest release is so big it needed an article of its own – you can read up on Pro here. As for Shopify Markets, as and when new features are released we’ll test them out and let you know our thoughts - stay tuned.