How localization can help increase your global eCommerce sales

This is a guest post from Elizabeth Pokorny, content manager at Weglot, a translation app for eCommerce (and non-eCommerce) websites.

It’s natural to focus on selling to people in your home country when you’re starting out with eCommerce. Some businesses will expand go beyond that market. But the beauty of selling online is you don’t have to stay within your own geographic boundaries—anyone in the world can find your site and many of them just might be interested in what you have to offer. However, if you want those international visitors to turn into actual customers, you’ll need to make sure your site is ready to sell to them. 

Localization is defined by the Globalization and Localization Association as the process of “adapting a product, an offering, or simply content to a specific locale or market”. With an eCommerce site, the goal of localization is to provide international customers with an online shopping experience that’s indistinguishable from what they typically encounter with a domestic site. 

While language translation is a major part of localization, it’s not the only facet. Localization involves bridging gaps between different languages and cultures as you aim to replicate their native shopping experiences. 

The prospect of localizing your site may seem daunting, however, when you commit to it, it can be a worthwhile investment. In fact, a study by the Localization Industry Standards Association found, on average, every $1 you spend on localizing your website yields $25 in return. (PDF)

In this article, we’ll discuss three key ways you can localize your eCommerce site and why doing so can unlock significant international revenue.

1. Translating your content 

Consider the following statistics: 

  • There are more than 4.7 billion internet users worldwide.
  • Only 25.9 percent of the global internet population are native English speakers.
  • 72.1 percent of eCommerce customers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language.

If you’ve ever found yourself on a site in another language and used Google Translate to read it, you know the results are… shall we say, unpredictable. You don’t want customers who speak other languages to rely on third-party translations to shop at your site—not only will most decide it’s not worth the trouble, but you have no idea how those translations will turn out.

Taking all of this into account, it’s clear that in order to improve your global reach and capitalize on international eCommerce potential, you’ll need to take it upon yourself to translate your site into multiple languages. How many? Well, one study found it takes 14 languages to reach 90 percent of the eCommerce market and by 2022 it will take 16 languages to reach the same percentage. That being said, you may want to start a bit smaller than that and work your way up to that level.  

What exactly should I translate? 

The short answer to “what exactly should I translate?” is: “Everything you can.” However, if that’s not possible, here are some areas to focus on first. 

Product titles and descriptions

At a bare minimum, you should translate fundamental product info so a potential buyer can make a more informed purchasing decision. Nearly three-quarters of eCommerce customers say they’re more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.

Social proof 

Reviews and testimonials have a major influence on customers’ buying decisions, so localizing any social proof on your site is a smart choice. This means translating reviews and testimonials so a customer sees them in their native language—but even better, it means including reviews and testimonials from that customer’s country that are more relevant and applicable to their buying experience. 

Email marketing

Any correspondence with a customer should ideally be in their native language to strengthen your relationship with that customer and encourage brand loyalty. You can localize your email content by segmenting your emails by country or language preference.

Metadata for SEO

It’s easy to forget to translate your metadata—after all, your website visitors most likely won’t ever see it. But metadata translation serves an important purpose: helping your website rank higher on international search engine result pages where users search in different languages. Higher rankings lead to more traffic, and with more traffic comes more sales. (If you use our service at Weglot, we automatically translate metadata, meaning you’re covered for international SEO.)

2. Translating your images

“Content” doesn’t just refer to the written words on your site—it also includes the images, videos and other types of media. Of course, you can’t literally translate an image to another language, but you can localize your media to ensure it’s both culturally and contextually relevant to the market you’re targeting. Media localization can help you better appeal to customers in other markets—and also avoid potentially alienating those customers with an image that’s culturally irrelevant or (inadvertently, of course) insensitive.

U.S. New Year's compared to Chinese New Year's.
“New Year’s” can mean different things in different cultures. Via: Flickr, Unsplash.

For example, if you have a New Year’s promotion on your website, this would make little sense when targeting customers in countries like China where they make a far bigger deal of their own New Year’s celebration a few months later. In these instances, it makes sense to localize your media so customers visiting your site from China see more relevant content.

3. Adapting your checkout

One overlooked aspect of website localization is the importance of an adapted checkout and payment process. To follow up on from the previous example, imagine you are a U.S.-based business and have translated your website to better target customers in China. However, when it comes to the checkout the price is only available in U.S. dollars. 

This can cause a problem when it comes to converting eCommerce sales, as 92.2 percent of customers prefer to shop in their local currency. Furthermore, one-third of customers are likely to abandon their carts if a local currency option is not available.

Amazon's currency selection option.
Amazon gives customers currency options.

It’s also good to research popular payment methods in each country and give local customers the option to use them. For example, in China, customers tend to use WeChat Pay and AliPay rather than traditional debit or credit cards to make purchases. (Note: Jilt’s parent company, SkyVerge, makes a number of WooCommerce plugins that enable you to handle payment options that are popular all over the world.)

Examples of localization

Localization has long been important to large companies as they branch out into international markets. Airbnb, for example, supports an astonishing 62 languages on its website, making it accessible to more than four billion people in their native language.

Other huge players in the global market, like Amazon for instance, offer different landing pages for users depending on where they’re visiting from and what language they’re browsing in. 

ASOS offers quite a few languages and currencies.

British online retail giant ASOS is another example of a company that gets localization right. They operate a 100 percent eCommerce business with 60 percent of sales coming from abroad. This global success can be attributed to a localization strategy which caters to seven key languages and accepts 19 different currencies. 

However, it’s not just the big global players and brands who can benefit from content localization. In fact, many more small- to medium-sized businesses are using localization to stimulate their growth into international markets as well.

Our team at Weglot recently worked with French eyewear brand Jimmy Fairly. They noticed 19 percent of their sales were coming from abroad, however, their website was only available in French. They decided the best way to continue to build on their international eCommerce growth would be to localize their site.  

Jimmy Fairly's translated testimonials page.

They used Weglot to translate their website into English, German, and Italian (and to have any new content added to the site automatically translated as well) to great effect. Within a month of translating their site to English alone, their international sales quadrupled. And overall, their international revenue is now up 1,000 percent and their international conversion rate is up 600 percent.

Key takeaways

When you localize your website’s content, you’re prioritizing the customer experience—and, as a result, you establish better relationships and build more trust. Localization can open up your business to previously untapped customer groups and bring about a significant increase in sales and profits. 

There are three main ways you can localize your eCommerce site to open it up to a more international audience.

  • Translate your content. You should translate things like product titles and descriptions, social proof, email marketing, and SEO-focused metadata in order to significantly improve the shopping experience for customers who don’t speak your native language.
  • Translate images and media. Localized imagery will help you better target customers in other countries—and can help you avoid using an image that’s culturally insensitive.
  • Adapt your checkout. Offer currency conversions and multiple payment options to make the transaction process smoother for international customers.

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