The Why and How of E-commerce Localization
What is e-commerce localization?
More often than not, people confuse localization with translation. Translation is the process of communicating your message in another language (different from the source language).
While translation forms an essential part of creating a global e-commerce site, localization goes even further. It takes into account your customers’ cultural context and ensures that they can easily use your website.
For instance, translation helps your customers in accessing your site in their native languages. Localization places the words and other visual elements in their appropriate cultural context - colours, symbols, dates, times, etc.
Benefits of e-commerce Localization
Today, localization isn’t just an accessory but a necessity for all those e-commerce businesses looking to expand globally. However, in case you’re still in two minds about investing time and money into localizing your site, here are some benefits of localization you should consider:
Penetrate local markets and compete with local sellers
In every target market, there’s always a large population that consistently chooses to buy from local sellers. Why is that? Local sellers have an advantage as they understand the buying preferences of the locals, and their brand messaging appeals to them.
Researching the market and localizing your message to suit locals’ needs will help you gain a competitive edge over the local sellers.
While localization will help you win half the battle, you must also leverage all cultural peculiarities to stay in the game. For instance, every region has specific times of the year when they shop for certain products.
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are celebrated in the US and the UK, China has its own version of the annual shopping festival - Singles’ Day. If you’re localizing your e-commerce site for the Chinese market, you must bank on this opportunity with exclusive discounts, theme advertisements, and brand messaging.
Build trust and good brand recall among all your customers
In a survey spanning ten countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, and Turkey, CSA Research found that 30% of customers either never buy anything on English-only websites or avoid surfing such sites altogether.
While translating your e-commerce site in different languages can help you attract people’s attention, localizing it will create ‘repeat’ customers.
Putting their needs and preferences first will build trust, and consequently, your customers will keep returning to your site. If the customers think you’re trying to understand their shopping behaviour and incorporate those insights to make the shopping process easier, they’ll respond by being loyal to your brand.
Reduce customer service/support issues
A large percentage of customer service or support issues are a result of miscommunication. The customer might miss some information included in the product description, or he/she might find some discrepancy in the information and visuals. Localization reduces the occurrence of these issues.
When various elements of an e-commerce website are culturally relevant, your customers won’t get lost in translation. Plus, if your customer service/support officials speak their language, issues will automatically be solved quickly.
Note: Localized reviews work wonders for local customers - there’s nothing more trustworthy and appealing for customers than reading a positive review of a product in their own language and cultural context. Not translating or localizing reviews will lead to you missing out on customers who need validation to make buying decisions.
How to Localize for e-commerce
You must follow the proper process for localizing your e-commerce website. For instance, if you localize for a few popular languages without researching online shopping behaviours of your target markets, your efforts won’t bear excellent results.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you you create your e-commerce localization strategy:
Conducting market research and determining the target markets
You must be tracking traffic sources on your website - learn more about how customers (or potential customers) land on your site and which products they show interest in. This data will help you determine the markets or geographical regions that you should target for maximum customer conversion.
After you’ve determined your target markets, ascertain which languages customers in those markets generally choose or prefer while surfing sites. For instance, if you are targeting the U.S. market, you might assume that an English-only website would work well. However, that’s not the case.
The U.S. has many customers whose native languages are Spanish, Chinese, French, etc. and who would prefer to surf websites in these languages. With an English-only website, you might miss attracting these non-English speaking customers.
Selecting localization resources
If you don’t have an in-house team of translators and localization experts, it is advisable to look for a translation and localization provider which offers a bouquet of services. It may be tempting to start with machine translations thinking that it’ll take less time and money; however, this approach will create issues in the long-term.
Many e-commerce brands use machine translations and then use human translators to review those translations. This practice not only increases the time and effort that goes into a project but also defeats the purpose of saving money.
As they are native speakers of a language, human translators translate content while also ensuring that the context is right. As for the budget, you can always use translation memories and glossaries to list repeated words and save money.
Translation memory and glossary are two different methods that help identify identical translation and use translations of repeated terms.
Translating website content into the languages native to your target customers
Start with identifying what content you need to get translated - product titles, descriptions, reviews, etc. It’s essential to note that the biggest customer service issues occur during the checkout process. So, you must ensure that all elements of the checkout process are appropriately translated and localized:
- Payment Methods - enable payments through bank cards and e-wallets that are popular in your chosen target markets.
- Currencies - save your customers the hassle of converting the prices from one currency to another along with enabling payments in the currency of their choice.
- Tax regulations - learn about the rules applicable to those target markets and localize all related content, for instance, privacy policies.
While selecting a Language Service Provider (LSP), check whether they provide live testing after various elements of your website have been translated and localized. Testing will ensure that you catch errors in time and make necessary corrections before going live.
Localizing the website’s design and user-interface for all languages
Your localization efforts must not end at ‘text’. When a local customer looks at your website, it should feel like it was tailor-made for them. To do that, your UI developer must create a design flexible enough to accommodate text, symbols, colours, and icons specific to each language.
Here are a few things they must keep in mind:
- Spacing - Some languages, when translated from English, take up more space. Building dynamic templates will help them avoid misalignment and other design errors.
- Text on Images - In the case of product images with embedded text, they must ensure that all the text has been externalized. This way, translators won’t miss translating this text, and your customers will get a consistent localized experience.
- Icons, symbols, colours - Every culture has unique views and beliefs associated with these elements. Conduct research on the culturally appropriate designs for each target market and language.
About the Author
Aarohi Pathak is the Sr. Content Writer at Translate By Humans, a professional language service provider headquartered in London, UK. Translate By Humans delivers language services by certified native language experts for clients like Google, Nike, Vogue, and Deloitte and many others. In her spare time, Aarohi curates and shares interesting content about language, culture, and food on social media.