Can’t read it, won’t buy it: Ecommerce localization best practices and insights for success

Can’t read it, won’t buy it: Ecommerce localization best practices and insights for success

December 1, 2020
When entering new markets and selling products internationally, a tailored, local approach makes a huge impact on targeted demographics. Ecommerce localization is the act of understanding shopping behaviors and cultural differences of world audiences and adapting content, services and products in a way that will maximize engagement and purchases.
Why does ecommerce localization matter to online shops? Localized content presents advantages for both sellers and buyers:
  • Comfort and confidence: the user experience in their mother tongue makes clients more at ease in their shopping
  • Understandability: the client can better comprehend the products they are buying and any related instructions, terms or conditions
  • Trust: Customers are more likely to trust the product at hand
Companies that make assumptions about a nation’s online behavior are setting themselves up for difficulties rather than success. We can learn from Target’s experience when launching Canadian offline and online stores in 2015. After just two years, all stores had shut down. Unfortunately, Target had failed to understand some of the core shopping values of Canadians, which negatively impacted their business venture.

Ikea on the other hand tweaked its Chinese services in 2018 by delivering its products in either small or large scale packages after realizing the local audience’s desire for reduced delivery fees. In March 2020, when Amazon restricted the sale of non-essential goods in China, Ikea jumped at the chance and partnered with local ecommerce platform Tmall in order to reach more shoppers who prefer multi-line ecommerce platforms. Ikea has been able to adapt its local approach to fit with the times.
Here are some key steps, as well as tips, to ensure your localization is successful.

Determining which markets you should enter

An English-only approach to ecommerce won’t get you far internationally. 76.9% of the world’s internet users use digital services in their mother tongue as opposed to English. Companies who wish to operate ecommerce internationally also need to look at the countries with growing ecommerce sales growth. For example, there’s a forecasted 6.6% annual growth rate in Mexico’s ecommerce market by 2024. They also need to consider local competition to see what they’re up against and check to see if the products in question are in local demand.
Languages used on internet - localization
Source: Statista

Ecommerce localization steps and best practices

1. Market and consumer research

Once a company has determined they’d like to enter a new market, further research needs to go into understanding local online and consumer behaviors for ecommerce localization to be a success. By utilizing research, case studies, and user data, companies can make wise decisions when it comes to how they approach a new demographic. It’s important to identify the key target audiences of the specific region. For example, the targeted age groups in the US may be larger than in another country where older generations don’t shop online. The target audience or customer persona should include elements like age, gender, income, education, main cities, profession, hobbies, and interests.
Linguistic and cultural elements must also be analyzed to identify the best way of communicating with each foreign client. All texts should be written with the target audiences in mind in a way that would best appeal to them. For example, an informal style used in the US might not work in Germany where traditionally a more formal tone is used. This also depends on brand identity and its customer persona.
It’s also important to consider local laws and regulations to avoid any legal faux-pas.

2. Localizability review

The localizability review ensures your product is world-ready. In this step, you evaluate whether your platform, app, website or e-shop is ready for localization. If you have your own custom store, then it’s very important to identify any aspects of the user interface that require any changes before translations get underway. For instance, you need to make sure you can easily accommodate localizable elements, such as character height, units of measure, currencies, writing direction (right-to-left or left-to-right), and local payment methods. It’s best to set up any elements like this in translatable “strings” that can be translated within a translation management system and do not require any coding.

3. Translation, copywriting, and unique content creation

An important step of localization is of course the written part where translators or copywriters adapt the original source texts for new target audiences. A simple translation (not word-for-word or Google Translate by any means) may suffice, however truly localized content often means going a step further and “rewriting” it in a way to drive engagement. Add cultural or local anecdotes and include local style and humor to achieve this. The best translators can adapt the source text all while maintaining the original core meaning of the message. For example, one pair of shoes could be described differently depending on the country; in one, comfort may be more important to highlight, while in another, they might emphasize on where and how products are manufactured.
“What’s the difference between localization and translation in eCommerce? Translation is a part of localization, which is made up of many steps that include market research, customer analysis and localization testing.”

4. Multilingual Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

When creating an ecommerce site, you also need to optimize search terms so your site can easily be found by local search engines. SEO optimizing will be different for each new audience and language. The right search terms need to be used in links, metadata, and content. This can also vary per English-speaking country where vocabulary differs.

5. Localization and linguistic testing

Prior to translating all languages right away, it’s advised to test one language other than English to check for any kinks to iron out within your online channels. Localization testing also verifies that your product’s content meets the linguistic, cultural, and regional requirements of a particular region and identifies any technical issues after localizing that need sorting. After your first language is a success, it’s safe to proceed with the rest.

Other ecommerce localization considerations

Local payments If clients don’t find a payment option in an online store that is known to them, there’s a great chance they won’t finalize the purchase. It’s important to ensure that the payment is convenient and reliable on a local level. Also make sure to use the local currency.
Imagery Not only do your content and product descriptions need to be adapted, but also your pictures and creatives. Highlighting the cultural identity of a country by using local models, cities, and scenery makes your product more relatable.
Customer care Customer service is important anywhere you sell. You’ve got to make sure you have fast and reliable customer support in the language of each country where you operate. It’s not recommended to use Google Translate to take care of this either as this could deter returning clients and lead to a bad reputation.

How to create a localization style guide

A style guide is used to create consistency when multiple parties are working on one project. It allows you to pinpoint your preferred communication style (tone, voice, style, etc.) and the school of grammar you would like to have followed. Elements such as target audience, product definitions, and messaging goals can also be included to clarify the purpose of the texts. Translators will then be able to produce much more contextually-appropriate translations.
To succees, you'll need to understand localization software, translation memory and glossaries. Whether you work with an in-house team or a third-party translation agency, the use of translation management software will render your work more automated and manageable. There are some SaaS solutions, such as Crowdin and Wordbee, that integrate with other commonly used software and even your site’s own content management system.
Translation management systems (TMS) also use translation memories to store preferred translations, which are used to speed up the work by always presenting the closest translation “match” in each language. The translator should always evaluate each memory suggestion to ensure the right meaning is conveyed.
Glossaries are also important to help ensure a level of consistency by avoiding variations in writing, like with “T-shirt” and “Tshirt”, or by sticking to fixed branded vocabulary.

How can Productsup help with ecommerce localization

The Productsup platform helps companies localize their existing product catalogs for new demographics with little fuss thanks to its many automation features. We’ve helped many companies create multilingual product feeds, like in the case of Dutch shoe retailer Waardijk, who was able to list 15,000 products on German Amazon in just 24 hours.
Your guide to cross-border ecommerce
LF
Loïe Favre
Editor