Lowering the Currency Exchange Barrier

I’ve shopped online from overseas retailers on and off (mostly off) for about two years now. While the larger companies provide currency in US dollars, the smaller companies do not. Which leads me to currency exchange Web sites such as XE.com to figure out what I’m really paying.

But I am fortunate because I shop in US dollars. If my native currency was, say, the Tanzanian Shilling, shopping online globally would be more of a daily annoyance.

Enter MyOrbital. com, a company that offers real-time currency exchange across pretty much any currency you can think of. According to the founder, Jaco Vermeulen, “MyOrbital automatically converts the entire merchant site to the user’s customized settings. It opened to public use in mid December 2005 and the initial solution is currency conversion supplemented with 3rd party global delivery solutions for orders originating from the USA or UK (more countries coming soon).”

So I gave it a trial run. You first have to go to the MyOrbital site and click through some legalese and then you can select a Web site like Amazon. As you see below, there is a little MyOrbital header that follows you through the Amazon Web site and the pricing has been changed to Tanzanian Shillings.

myorbital.jpg

It’s a pretty nifty application. But keep in mind that it won’t actually translate the company’s Web site for you — all it does is convert currency.

Now how does MyOrbital make money? From referrals. If you buy something from Amazon, MyOrbital gets a small referral fee.

Now, I must admit that I’m never comfortable adding another layer between me and a merchant — though Jaco assures me that they use SSL and everything is perfectly secure. The company is also working on a less-obtrusive plug-in for Firefox and Explorer, which I think would help alleviate my paranoia.

Then again, it doesn’t really matter what I think because I’m not the target market.

This is an interesting application and business model. And I’ve heard of studies that say that when a Web user is presented with his or her currency the odds of that sale being closed go way up. I am always glad to see barriers to global ecommerce falling, be it currency, delivery, payment, or language.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.