Around half of all internet users bought something online in 2021. E-commerce website translation is the way that businesses around the world make sure that those users have a chance to buy from them.

But how exactly does e-commerce website translation improve your business? How should you begin the process of localising your site for different global audiences?

If those are the questions you need to answer, this article is for you.

What is e-commerce website translation?

E-commerce website translation involves more than simply converting the words on your site into a different language. The process includes adapting every aspect of your e-commerce platform so that it is completely natural for an audience that speaks a different language and was raised in a different culture to use.

To achieve this, you will need to assess and localise every part of your e-commerce website. Product descriptions. Units of currency and measurement. Marketing and instructional videos. Social media posts. Reviews. The checkout process. Your design. The images you use. How you appeal to local tastes, norms, and trends.

Every part needs to be adapted for each audience you are targeting.

Why is this approach important?

Check out Amazon’s home page for different regions if you want a good example of how this should work. The global giant didn’t grow from a small second-hand bookseller to its current world-dominating scope overnight. Much of its success is based on effective multilingual e-commerce websites.

The same is true of brands like IKEA. They made the buying process easy and natural for clients from different global audiences. Those individual audiences rewarded them by making purchases. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • The global e-commerce market was worth around £3 trillion in 2020
  • It’s expected to grow by at least 13.5% per year – possibly more because of shopping trends during the pandemic
  • 75% of consumers prefer to buy goods online in their native language
  • 92%+ want to buy online in the currency they’re used to
  • But English is spoken by only around 25% of internet users

How e-commerce website translation improves your business

1) You reach more clients

By adding culture-focused language versions to your website, your app, and your social media presence, you reach huge new audiences.

There are thousands of languages spoken around the world. But even if you only choose the five most popularly spoken languages on the internet – that’s Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish as well as English – you extend your reach by a huge margin.

Go to fourteen languages and you cover the vast majority of communications on the internet. Go as far as twenty-three and you cover the communications of fifty percent of the population of the entire Earth.

When you start to use research and data to support your choice of target markets though, you dramatically increase your localisation Return On Investment.

2) You can expand rapidly

It can take a long time to establish a brick-and-mortar sales location. Getting everything remodelled and set up exactly the way you want it to be, handling legal requirements, sending out local advertising. It all takes time.

It can take even longer to grow your business with only a single local audience. Start selling online before you’ve even ticked all the boxes (or put away all the cardboard boxes) and you can rapidly scale your business before you even open your doors.

3) You’re always in the right season to sell

When you sell to audiences around the world, there’s no such time as quiet time. Reach multiple markets and you can find consumers who need your products 24 hours a day.

What’s more, you aren’t limited to serving the big celebrations in your local region. In Singapore, you might have particular sales drives around festivals like Chinese New Year, Deepavali, or Christmas.

Localise your website for different languages and regions though and there’s no reason to stop there. Always thought your products would make the perfect match for a festival that isn’t celebrated locally?

Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US. Single’s Day in China. Valentine’s Day in the UK. El Buen Fin in Mexico. The list goes on.

But do take note that even your English-language website for Singapore will need to be carefully localised if you want to sell effectively to a UK, US, or Australian audience. Localisation is about more than language.

4) Your greater SEO power can beat the local competition

One of the major factors that leads to success in online sales is proper multilingual SEO. If you adapt your Search Engine Optimisation strategy to employ strategies known to be effective in each market, you can even start to edge out local competitors who aren’t so digitally focused.

Google is the preferred search engine in Singapore as well as in Europe, the US, and Canada. But in many other parts of the world, it’s important to play by the rules of whichever engine dominates the market.

5) You look as local as the locals

Without localising your e-commerce website, you’re going to struggle to match local competitors. After all, with so many internet users naturally preferring their own native language and currency, if your website doesn’t look and function in line with local norms potential buyers will quickly fall away.

But make every part of your shoppers’ buying experience on your site a natural one for them and you’ll remove all obstacles from the sales process.

This requires much more than simply directly translating the words your users read. You need to go deep and properly localise every aspect of your sales funnel.

6) You maximise conversion rates

Having a version of your website in a different language is one thing. Consumers who speak that language may be able to at least understand what you offer.

But fully adapt your site – in the form of a fully localised e-commerce platform – and you can leverage the conversion rate-boosting tactics that are proven to work in specific regions.

Because you might have mastered the marketing strategies that work with your domestic Singaporean audience. But when you go abroad, you need to adapt your approach. If you do, you will maximise your conversion rates.

7) You boost your brand’s reputation

E-commerce website translation gets you found by more customers, motivates them to buy by using a carefully adapted localised sales approach, and makes sure the entire process of buying from your website is completely natural for someone from that particular audience.

On top of the big boost in sales this leads to, there are the reputational improvements to consider. All the famous, highly profitable modern brands have a multilingual presence for more than purely practical reasons.

Reaching out to your customers with a properly localised sales strategy and content. Talking to them in the language they understand – both literally and figuratively. They show how much you are willing to commit and go out of your way to reach consumers in this region. That’s effort that will be rewarded with big increases in consumer trust and public image.

The phrase “going the extra mile” never meant so much as when you’re talking about reaching out to audiences on the far side of the world.

E-commerce website translation – tips and where to start

1) Choose the right markets to expand to

One option is to use a broad brush when choosing languages and cultures to localise your e-commerce website. Simply select new audiences by the number of speakers on the internet.

But if you want to maximise your ROI from e-commerce website translation, you’ll want to give your expansion plan some proper thought. Consider:

  • Using tools like Google Analytics and Market Finder to locate potential places to expand into.
  • Using equivalents in markets where Google is not the search engine of choice (China’s Baidu, in particular, allows you to collect a huge amount of useful data on potential consumers).
  • Is there already a proven, sizeable demand in a given market? Are people already using your services despite them being difficult to access in a non-native language?
  • Locating the many organisations based in Singapore with the brief of guiding the international expansion of businesses.
  • Working with partners – like your Language Service Provider (LSP) – that have experience with projects of this kind.

2) Research the local competition

Determining the best markets to target for new localised versions of your e-commerce site through online research and data is a smart move. Your next should be to see what local and international competition you’ll be facing if you do expand there.

How are your competitors here appealing to potential consumers online? Do they have a strong online presence? Are there multiple smaller competitors? Or one global e-commerce brand riding roughshod over the rest?

You should also explore the specific languages your competitors have localised their site into for this audience. Again, your LSP should have native-level experience in your specific target markets to help you make the decision.

3) Institute a proper framework and workflow

Having a multilingual e-commerce website can feel like you’re juggling a lot of balls at once:

Multiple carefully chosen target audiences. Each audience potentially speaking multiple languages, some of which may be dialects of other languages. Different content for each audience. Updates that need to be rolled out for products across multiple versions of your site.

That’s why it’s so important to establish a proper framework and workflow for your localisation efforts. You need a management structure, a system for which assets will be localised centrally and for different regions, a scheduling process for content creation, a budgetary plan, and more.

Otherwise, you are going to become bogged down, confused, and waste all of the huge opportunities for profit that localising your website for different audiences offers you.

4) Adapt more than the words on the screen

Although the process is commonly called e-commerce website translation, you really need proper localisation – to adapt every aspect of your website to local tastes and norms – if you want your efforts to appeal to new regional audiences.

This means going further than translating the words you use. Just some of the aspects of your e-commerce platform that need attention and adaption for local taste include:

  • Product and service selection – are the products you sell suitable for this market? Local tastes might make some products inapplicable.
  • Slogans, product and brand names – think about all the occasions you’ve come across humorous translation errors on the part of global brands. Ford tried to market their “Pinto” in Brazil, unaware that this was slang for small male genitalia. If you were in China, KFC telling you to “eat your fingers off” may have put you off eating in one of their restaurants. Some slogans and names to be creatively translated for new markets.
  • Domain names – many search engines prioritise returning search results from domain names with the same country extension – e.g. “.sg” – over sites based further afield. This means you need to consider subdomains or language-specific subfolders in your top-level domain.
  • Images and imagery – images that seem natural and positive to an audience in one region, driving sales and supporting your brand image, may be unappealing or even offensive in others.
  • Currency and units – a consumer who wants to buy something like a pair of shoes will be quickly put off from your site if you offer prices in a currency they’re not used to and sizing charts that don’t correspond with local norms.

5) Focus on multilingual SEO

Optimising your SEO for a new market requires extensive research and an adaption of your usual approach.

Of course, proper keyword analysis for your new market is vital. Your new audience is unlikely to search for the direct translation of your domestic search terms. You can’t expect to get good results unless you discover what local people actually search for when they’re looking for products and services like yours.

Again, look into data that you can garner from locally favoured search engines. Baidu is especially good at providing data.

But Baidu is also a good example of why it’s important to adapt your approach. Because this search engine also ranks forum posts highly among search results. This means that when you’re targeting the China market or others that prefer the Baidu search engine, forums need to be a bigger part of your SEO strategy.

Researching and targeting the social media platforms preferred by your new audience is a vitally important part of your new SEO and online marketing strategy for your e-commerce website too.

6) Don’t neglect to translate your reviews

On average, most consumers will spend around 15 minutes consulting reviews and read an average of ten or more before they make a purchase online. This means enabling access to online reviews you receive from speakers of other languages can be very important indeed.

Relying on Google Translate for any aspect of your e-commerce website localisation is always going to be a costly mistake. Even for relatively straightforward content like reviews.

If you want to automate the process, you need a custom Machine Translation engine that has been properly trained on in-domain bilingual data by an LSP that specialises in Machine Translation engine training.

7) Remember to provide multilingual customer support too

As soon as you start selling your products in a new market, expect to start getting enquiries in the new languages you are targeting. Again, this is not an area where you can use your usual support team augmented by the terrible translations something like Google Translate provides.

If you sell to your clients in their own language, they will expect to be able to email you and get a natural, native response in their own language too.

Shipping updates. Order confirmations. Product information requests. Providing this kind of pre or after-sale support is vital if you want to make sales and retain your audience for future sales.

Remember too that this customer support might need to be provided at a time that’s outside of your usual business hours for customers in different time zones.

Why you can’t afford to skimp on e-commerce translation

Localising your e-commerce site in-house is only really possible if you have native-speaking linguists who are intimately familiar with the specific markets you are targeting.

Using well-meaning bilingual team members or generic Machine Translation tools like Google Translate always returns poor results. It’s not unusual for half-hearted box-ticking exercises like this to cost a company more in terms of lost clients and reputation damage than it gains them in revenue.

This is especially egregious when the potential ROI from professionally executed e-commerce website translation is so high.

In all cases, working with a Language Service Provider that has proven expertise in e-commerce localisation will pay dividends. With experts like native linguists, multilingual DTP specialists and others in-house, an experienced translation agency will be able to ensure your e-commerce platform is properly adapted for each audience you target.

E-commerce platform localisation – the takeaways

Understanding the ways e-commerce website translation can improve your business in terms of reach, expansion speed, sales opportunities, and local SEO and conversion power on top of brand reputation is good. But making sure you use a cohesive process is vital.

You need to carefully research the right target markets, have a framework in place, adapt everything – including your SEO, reviews, and your customer support provisions as well as your site’s language, imagery, and more – and use professionals with local experience if you want to generate the huge revenues e-commerce localisation makes possible.

Ready to reach a bigger audience with your e-commerce platform?

Let’s talk. Asian Absolute already helps businesses in Singapore and around the world reach global audiences in more than 200 languages.

Discuss your expansion plans with an expert, cost and commitment-free. Or get a free quote on your e-commerce website translation at any time.