Top tips on translating ecommerce websites


Research consistently shows that customers would rather buy from websites in their own language. When you consider that there are roughly 1.5 billion non-English speaking internet users, and that global e-commerce spending is expected to grow by around 13.5% a year over the next few years, can you afford for your ecommerce website not to be available in other languages?

Ecommerce website localisation is a process which helps businesses to break into overseas markets and maximise their profits. It involves adapting a website for a specific group of people, taking into account local cultures, values and dialects. In this article we will discuss the process in more detail and give advice to help ensure the localisation of your website is managed with success.

Our Top 10 tips for translating ecommerce websites

1. Use Google tools to find out which markets are likely to buy your products

There are tools at your disposal: Google Analytics, Google Market Finder and even just the internet are valuable research tools. But remember that a product which is successful in one market might be completely inappropriate in another. Make sure you target the markets which are most likely to need, or want, your products.

2. Make use of organisations that offer advice to help you expand

There are a number of organisations designed to help businesses expand overseas. UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) offers a wealth of information and advice, including country reports which will assist your research. Other useful services include the Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) and the Export Marketing Research Scheme (EMRS).

3. Look at the culture and competition in new markets

Once you have identified the key markets you plan to enter, further research is recommended. Who are your competitors and how they are marketing their products? It can be particularly useful to look at successful e-commerce websites already operating in your target market and try to identify key features which make them appeal to customers. Looking at which languages are spoken is also highly beneficial, as there can often be different languages used in a single country. There are also bound to be a number of cultural differences which could impact your promotional efforts. Working with a good provider of e-commerce website localisation will reduce the potential for negative effects, as they will have experience of both the language and the culture of your target markets.

4. Remember remember, remember – audience, audience, audience

Always have in mind who you are selling to. Some of your products might not be suitable in some markets; if this is the case don’t include them on your localised website. Localise product descriptions to suit the target market – a straightforward translation of the English description might not work in certain markets. This applies to images as well as text. A product photograph that might be perfectly acceptable in the UK may not be appropriate in another country. Also consider that different markets may use different standard measures and pack sizes. And, perhaps, most importantly, don’t forget that your overseas customers want to know the price of your products in their own currency!

5. Explain clearly how products will be delivered

If you plan on selling products overseas through your localised e-commerce website you need to have reliable delivery methods in place and make your shipping costs clear to customers from the start. You should also have a returns facility for customers. This should be clearly explained – in your customers’ own language – on your e-commerce website.

6. Re-think your domain

With a new foreign language website comes a new domain name.  And increasingly, more and more search engines are taking domain location into account. This means, for example, that when a customer enters a search term in Japan, the search engine is more likely to return results with a .jp extension, rather than a .uk extension. The solution is to purchase the right domain extension for each market you intend to target and host each one locally. However, there are other options, including using a subdomain or setting up language specific subfolders within your top level domain; for example

7. Is your new market and potential audience mobile shoppers?

In 2012, global mobile e-commerce sales topped $1 trillion for the first time – and in the same year mobile e-commerce (known as m-commerce) grew by 300%. Many major retailers have fully functional mobile sites which make up a significant proportion of their sales. But a standard website does not always function as it should on a mobile device, so it’s certainly worth making sure your localised e-commerce site is mobile friendly – or has a separate mobile-friendly site – to reach customers browsing on mobile devices.

8. Optimise online marketing strategies – Google is not for all countries

Most likely, your marketing strategy, with some adaptation, will be equally effective in your target market. Whilst, of course you should still localise your off-line marketing material, the main potential issues will arise online. SEO and social networks are two off the most powerful modern marketing tools, but different territories have different preferences. Some countries use different search engines, so finding the right information, including which social networking sites your potential customers use most, is vital.

9. Remember to provide consistent customer service in their language!

Having taken the initiative to translate your e-commerce website in order to encourage overseas customers to buy from you, don’t then make the mistake of falling short when it comes to the after-sales service. You are likely to receive enquiries from overseas customers, written in their own language, so make sure you have a system in place for translating these enquiries and responding appropriately in the customer’s language. This should also extend to localising automatic emails to clients with regards to orders, including order confirmations, shipping updates and any feedback requests. It is no use speaking your customers’ language before they buy your products, then expecting them to speak English for any follow-up enquiries!

10. Check your website works locally

Testing your website works as intended in your target markets is an excellent idea. The best way to ensure this is by working with an in-house native speaker or a contact in your local target market. Conducting a thorough trial of your localised e-commerce website, including a test product purchase, with the help of a native speaker allows you to iron out any issues or inconsistencies before releasing it to the public. One important point to note when planning your new website is that most languages will take up more space than English. Being aware of this allows you address this issue at the outset. It might also be worth running a search for your website using the search engines in your target market – it may surprise you to learn that not everyone relies on Google, so consider your position on other search engines, specifically the ones popular within your target countries.

Before embarking on a website translation project it is also important to think about how you will manage content, workflows and whether there is technology available to help streamline the process. For more on this subject click on this link exploring website translation and CMS integration.

You’ve probably guessed by now that we’re incredibly enthusiastic about all things languages! So if you have a question about setting up an ecommerce website in different languages, or anything else to do with marketing translations, please get in touch on or call us on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681.

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