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E-commerce localization and the benefits it brings

E-commerce is very big business.

Some of the largest and most successful companies in the world are also e-commerce sites and their growth over the last few years has been nothing short of astonishing.

Amazon has been in existence for barely 30 years, but its founder Jeff Bezos is the richest man in the world. He has amassed this fortune through clever use of the online environment, by understanding what his audience wants and by staying at the forefront of developing trends.

E-commerce localization and the benefits it brings by t'works

In our last blog we looked at the swift rise of e-commerce and how online retail has now become focused on the ease of the shopping experience, regardless of where in the world the consumer lives. An e-commerce site that is culturally and linguistically adapted to the buyer, helping to create an effortless online experience, is more likely to result in an end purchase, and for that reason companies that operate globally pay particular attention to how their website fits a local context. Amazon included.

But what do we mean by localizing e-commerce content?

Every stage of your customer’s e-commerce journey must meet their expectations. What they see and read has to communicate with them seamlessly and effectively. They have to trust the company they’re thinking of spending their money with and believe that it understands their needs. They certainly don’t want to feel like any part of the process is hard work.

Localization becomes a vital part of this process as soon as e-commerce is targeted at new markets. Along with user-friendly web design, product adaptation, supply chain planning and so on, ensuring your e-commerce offering has successfully crossed cultural and linguistic boundaries means using translation and more importantly, localization. (See our last blog for how localization goes further than simple translation).

This Gepard blog post sums it up nicely:

‘eCommerce localization strategy consists of creating the utmost user-friendly experience for consumers from different countries and developing unique brand perceptions for each target audience due to language and cultural adaptation of websites and promotion campaigns.’

If your e-commerce offering is linguistically, culturally and geographically adapted to your audience, it’s more likely to be successful.

E-commerce webpage localization in detail

Let’s look at a few examples of how retailers pay attention to localizing their online e-commerce.

According to Wikipedia, the Taiwanese company, Giant, is the biggest bike manufacturer in the world. It is known for using the latest technology and materials for its bikes and sells to over 50 countries around the world, both though brick-and-mortar and online retail.

Its website reflects the diversity of its customer base and a quick click on the home pages of different countries on the same day is quite revealing. Subtle but significant differences can be seen.

On the Dutch site, bikes that provide a practical means of transport from A to B are promoted on the home page – unsurprising when we remember that bikes outnumber people in the Netherlands. Bikes in this flat and cycle-friendly country are often used for carrying more than just people and the Dutch prefer them to be practical, reliable and slow. Electric bikes sales are also increasing quickly.

Dutch language home page

Dutch language home page

On the Dutch site, bikes that provide a practical means of transport from A to B are promoted on the home page – unsurprising when we remember that bikes outnumber people in the Netherlands. Bikes in this flat and cycle-friendly country are often used for carrying more than just people and the Dutch prefer them to be practical, reliable and slow. Electric bikes sales are also increasing quickly.

Columbian home page in Spanish

Columbian home page in Spanish

Columbia is also renowned as a country of cycling enthusiasts, but with a somewhat different outlook to the Dutch. Columbians are passionate about cycling, but it’s the sport and road racing that really capture their imagination. With highly successful Columbian stars of professional cycling, there is a thriving amateur racing culture and we would like to suggest that Giant’s home page for Columbia mirrors this.

The road bike of the year takes pride of place here and costs a significant sum. An aspirational purchase perhaps? The Colombia home page doesn’t advertise the same practical bikes the Dutch are interested in.

The US English homepage

The US English homepage

In general the USA isn’t as obsessed with cycling as our other two nation examples. Americans have been slower to adopt bikes as a means of transport and as a sport it has to complete with more popular and more widely practiced sports. The US home page has a global feel and spotlights the professional cycling team that Giant has recently sponsored.

Adjusting payment options when channeling your e-commerce offering to suit different consumer cultures is especially important. This can clearly be seen on the ASOS website. ASOS is a British fashion online retailer founded in London in 2000 which ships to almost 200 different destinations and supports 10 languages on its website.

We have selected 6 contrasting payment windows but in each case the ways to pay reflect the individual countries and alter currency and methods accordingly. Although these differences seem minor on first viewing, ensuring that your client can quickly click on their favorite credit or store card, or online payment system is almost certainly the difference between making a sale or not.

Adjusting payment options eCommerce
Adjusting payment options eCommerce
Adjusting payment options eCommerce
Adjusting payment options eCommerce
Adjusting payment options eCommerce
Adjusting payment options eCommerce

Language differences can also be nuanced. The distinct variations in English all around the world are perhaps not a barrier to communication in person but in the context of e-commerce they must be considered. It is generally insufficient to use a ‘global’ English when you are hoping to tempt online shoppers into making a purchase.

The most obvious case in point in the contrast between US and UK English. Most English speakers in these two countries are well aware of the differences in vocabulary and expressions, and the proliferation of shared culture means that in general these differences are negotiated without much trouble.

Take this into an online e-commerce environment however, and the stakes are much higher. Consumers want to concentrate on how the product will enhance their lives, not on how to decipher lexical subtleties.

Using the eBay site as an example, we can clearly see the attention to linguistic detail in the women’s clothing section. In the US version articles are listed as pants, sweaters and rompers whereas on the UK site they are trousers, jumpers and playsuits. It’s perhaps a cliché, but no one wants to get their pants and trousers mixed up!

ebay US version

US Version

ebay UK version

UK Version

There are many other aspects to e-commerce and all require thoughtful localization. For example video, mobile applications, data privacy, customer service and branding to name but a few.

E-commerce localization benefits

These successful online retailers have all paid particular attention to the localization of language and culture and created e-commerce experiences adapted to local markets. We have taken only basic examples but they illustrate the level of detail high profile companies use in making sure their e-commerce content answers the demands of consumers in diverse locations.

But you don’t have to be a top international brand to reap the rewards of e-commerce localization. The benefits for any business on any level are significant.

E-commerce localization paves the way for your company to build a global brand without the traditional tools of international expansion. Once the decision is made to go online in a new market and all e-commerce content has been adapted to that market, your company is ready to sell internationally without the need for investment in retail premises or commercial leases.

Increasing your reach is further boosted by the online 24-hour access e-commerce affords. No waiting for stores to open or for your day off to arrive before you can shop. Customer interaction can take place at any time of the day through a localized website and customer service platform.

Scaling your business online can be achieved more quickly and easily than through establishing traditional retail. A clear localization strategy can be repeated in varying languages and cultural contexts and help rapidly grow your international e-commerce effort.

Paying attention to localizing SEO is also highly beneficial. Keywords adapted for local markets and optimization for local search engines, will help boost your site’s overall search rankings.

Localized social proof in the form of user reviews, social media, case studies and so on, provides evidence for your potential customers that your brand is reliable, authentic and worthy of their hard-earned cash. Simply providing website text in another language won’t cut it here. Making all consumer content function in a local sense is crucial.

As soon as you enter another market you can leverage local holidays, festivals and customs to further adapt and promote your company’s e-commerce. Understanding a particular market’s retail opportunities can be achieved through careful research and use of marketing localization. It can provide a nice uptick in sales.

Most significantly, not taking advantage of e-commerce localization could leave your business stranded. E-commerce is here to stay and ignoring its potential to grow your company’s revenue could be a considerable missed opportunity.

t’works knows about e-commerce localization

t’works is an internationally positioned language service provider whose eight affiliate companies are all in their own right successful, well-established and highly renowned. This means t’works combines the strengths of the local, personalized translation agency with the resources and shared expertise of a large global organization.

Lexcelera, our Paris-based affiliate, provides global multilingual communications services to hundreds of clients worldwide. The team at Lexcelera is specialized in the provision of e-commerce localization and this praise from a long-time customer and respected, international brand, testifies to their competence,               

As e-commerce manager for the Etam Lingerie brand, I regularly call on Lexcelera to translate our e-commerce content from French into German.

I particularly appreciate the quality of the translations provided, the speed with which the services are delivered and the fluid communication between our two companies.

I recommend this company because Lexcelera’s services meet our expectations in terms of budget, quality and methodology.’

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at t’works if you would like further information about our e-commerce localization – or any of our other language services. We’re always happy to hear from you!

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