Why are international sales so poor compared to US domestic?


We sell software online. Our international trial to purchase ratio is abysmal compared to US domestic. I'm trying to determine why? Some possible answers:

  • Higher piracy overseas
  • PayPal and PO are only purchase options

What other possibilities am I missing?

What can I do to help my int'l customer purchase my product?

NOTE: We sell a B2B product for US$399.

Sales Payments B2B

asked Nov 1 '09 at 02:19
Shawn Anderson
21 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • I thought that was something good man. Even I would like to grab the US market as it is much harder to grab market here. – Jpartogi 14 years ago

10 Answers


International vs US Domestic markets are fundamentally of different magnitude.

Not sure who your target audience is and whether they face the same issues your Software addresses.

The following may be some reaons:

  1. Target Audience : Are they facing same issues you are trying to solve?
  2. Visibility : Do you have some kind of advertisement/marketing in other Countries?
  3. Price Point : Does it take local market information ?
  4. Localization : !
  5. Local partners : In many cases local partners will help to identify market opportunities

Good luck.

answered Nov 1 '09 at 07:22
264 points


Probably it will be best that you reach out to those international users and ask them the same question. Give them incentives to participate in your survey.

My guesses would be:

  • They don't see value for money.
  • Its too expensive for them.
  • Not enough payment options.

Piracy should not be an issue cuz it looks like your products targets enterprises and software houses.

answered Nov 1 '09 at 04:37
Arpit Tambi
1,050 points
  • +1 -- you have to ask them! You need to be able to ask questions of all customers and potential customers anyway so you can understand what's going on... – Jason 14 years ago


What language is your software and documentation written in? If you haven't localized then it is clear that you really are trying to cherry-pick as opposed to getting involved in the lives of your customers.

Don't market by U.S. vs. world but by English vs. other languages.

answered Nov 2 '09 at 00:13
51 points
  • I really like this comment. We see a very good ratio for english vs. non-english. Luckily our product is for techies, and by and large they're English speaking. But still, it does show a company's level of commitment to non-English customers if they're docs are only one language. Thanks for your comments. – Shawn Anderson 14 years ago


Paypal has a poor international reputation as a payment scheme. I'd wager that at least some of your problem is associated with the fact that it's hard to pay you. Investigate more locally adopted payment forms, and seriously consider accepting bare credit card payments. Many corporate purchasers don't want to mess with a PO, but aren't authorized to sign up for a company paypal account.

answered Nov 2 '09 at 14:46
Paul Mc Millan
601 points
  • Thanks Paul for your comment. I think we have a series of issues to deal with and PayPal as the only avenue is I think the low hanging fruit that we can handle first. – Shawn Anderson 14 years ago
  • If you have a PayPal account, it is possible to implement their "Payflow Pro" system, which allows for credit cards to be taken on your site, and they are processed in the background by PayPal, your customers would never know you were using PayPal. – Brian Swanson 14 years ago


The first thing you need to do is to break you sales into domestic and international. The world's a big place and different things will work for different places.

So start by analyzing your western European sales. The British are probably the best candidates to start with since there are almost no language issues. How are you sales there?

Also, you don't mention the source of your sales. Could it be that many of your sales in the US are word of mouth, and you need to generate that in other parts of the world too? Are you using Google ads?

Yes, there are large parts of the world where the ratio is going to be much lower than in the US, including India and China, though you can do well in India, since yours is a business tool.

answered Nov 2 '09 at 18:14
1,833 points


I think rather than guess it would be best if you gave them some kind of offer to tell you why they're leaving. Say I'll give you a $10 certificate to whatever in return for 5 minutes of your time.

If you follow a systematic process, you'll find out pretty quick. Good luck.

answered Nov 1 '09 at 18:13
Raj Raman
66 points
  • Uh, $10 won't be useful for anyone outside the US. As it happens providing a good incentive of this kind that works internationally is hard - and there are sites out there that list Web sites who give away "free money for surveys", which will completely skew your results. – Jeremy Mc Gee 14 years ago


Back when I sold software development tools in the mid-late 1990s we reckoned on 50% US, 50% "international" sales as a rough benchmark for an established product in an established market.

If you're new you will need to establish credibility outside the US before you'll see acceptable sales. In particular:

  • You must have a full trial version that is unrestricted. $399 is a lot of money for someone (even a company) to ante up for software that can't be tested. Screencams etc. won't be enough, it needs to be the full version.
  • Investigate whether you can create a lower band price point with reduced features.
  • Get some buzz around the product on well respected blogs. Consider SO advertising: according to traffic India is the #2 destination for SO users.
  • Don't worry about piracy too much, especially for a B2B product. Things like dongles, copy protection and whathaveyou really just get in the way. For B2B at that price point I'd consider a simple serial number and a call-home on startup.
  • Make sure that you don't have latent cultural assumptions in your product or supporting material. For instance, most people outside the US (and Japan) have no clue about baseball, so samples that do e.g. baseball scoring will be completely incomprehensible.
  • On uninstallation, consider opening a browser window to a page that has a simple text box asking why the user uninstalled the software. There's no need for an incentive.

Hope this helps, best of luck

answered Nov 13 '09 at 02:52
Jeremy Mc Gee
371 points


A concrete example: our main product is made in EU and we have 50% sales in EU, 30% USA, 20% rest of the world. We sell only through paypal and bank transfers. Paypal is not a concern for selling in EU. We just offer the double currency pay buttons. Our site, forum and documentation is only in English - otherwise maintenance would be costly - and hardly anyone complains. Sales are good.

Your product seems linked to administrering Windows servers; consider that in the EU the penetration of Linux servers is probably higher than in the USA. Maybe you should do a version for Linux servers and windows clients?

answered Nov 13 '09 at 05:01
Pietro Polsinelli
125 points


Perhaps you could offer a bounty hunter for everyone that wants to translate your software to other languages (for example Spain and France are very nationalist countries and they would prefer the software translated).

answered Nov 24 '09 at 17:33
Giancarlo Corzo
41 points


International markets vary wildly. Some countries are very price sensitive, while others demand features. You have to tailor your marketing for each one.

-Price. Your $399 piece of software might sell well in first world countries like the US, but in developing economies like India, you probably have thousands of customers looking for something $99 to free due to the difference in market rates there.

-Payment. Even in the age of technology, payment through internet or electronic transfer is difficult. Each country has a different system of banking that can cause numerous issues. This forces customers and vendors to go through third party services adding an additional layer of cost. Very undesirable.

-Support. Customers still like to be able to pick up a phone and reach you when they are having difficulties getting your gadget to work. Problem is, your 2pm might be 2am for an international customer. Unless you have 24 hours international support, they might look closer to home.

-Awareness. Sure adwords and google work well for getting customers to your site, but not all countries have high internet connectivity. In some places printed media still rules. Find ways of getting an ad into a local publication or newspaper.

The best way to solve many of these problems is to start a channel sales program. Search for and develop relationships with overseas vendors who do business in these overseas markets. Work out contracts with them for pricing tailored to their location. They will be able to handle all the marketing and support a lot better than you in their own area. Just make sure they know the product inside and out.

answered Nov 24 '09 at 20:14
277 points

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