Ecommerce Localization: Foreign Language

International ecommerce sales: the language barrier finally overcome

English may not be the language of preference for ecommerce activities. To be precise, English is often not the preferred language when it’s not the shopper’s native language.

More than 6500 languages are spoken by 7 billion people worldwide. If you want to sell more products abroad, ecommerce translation & localization is needed to remove barriers for your international ecommerce buyers who speak different languages.

In this article you’ll learn about:

  • The importance of ecommerce translation & localization
  • Ways of making the purchasing process for buyers from other countries straightforward so your customers can enjoy a smooth shopping experience.

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Is English the preferred language in global ecommerce?

According to an article published in the Telegraph a few years ago, UK exporters faced an ecommerce language barrier in doing business with customers in other European countries. It may seem surprising considering the fact that English is the most commonly used second language.

But what about non-English speaking online buyers browsing for products?

Most people prefer to shop for products in their own language: the one that they fully understand and use most efficiently.

This may explain why back in 2011, UK exporters might have felt lost in translation.

There are probably thousands of international buyers you could turn into loyal customers. However, you must help those buyers find your product and serve them a smooth buying experience.

Global ecommerce vs. world languages

More than 6500 languages are spoken by 7 billion people worldwide. Hence, no wonder that English-only websites reach less than 25% of Internet users worldwide.

The European Union itself has 24 officially recognized languages. The most widely spoken language in the EU is German (16%), followed by Italian and English (13% each), French (12%), then Spanish and Polish (8% each).

Only 54% of Europeans are able to hold a conversation in at least one foreign language. This means that almost half of all Europeans speak only one language.

According to research carried out by Eurobarometer on 13,700 users across 27 EU member states:

42% of the respondents have never bought online in a foreign language. 56.2% of consumers say that obtaining information in their own language is  more important than the price.

So yes, it’s a fact that English is the most commonly used second language. Yet internet users are not always as keen to try out their foreign language skills for ecommerce purposes as they are for other activities, such as online search for information.

According to the Gallup survey on language preferences:

  • 9 out of 10 Internet users said that whenever given a choice, they preferred to visit a website in their own language
  • 19% never browse in a foreign language
  • 42% never make any purchases in languages other than their own.

What is interesting is the fact that although international buyers are willing to visit sites in English, they’re less likely to make a purchase on these sites. This means the widespread use of English does not come to your rescue, you have to think global and take care of the multilingual side of your site.

language barrier international ecommerce infographic

How to overcome the language barrier?

The ecommerce world of today has overcome the language barrier by developing translation and localization services that help to adapt a website to a foreign local market.

However, translation is the beginning. To ensure a smooth buying experience for international shoppers, you need to consider much more, such as currency and size conversion, communication with foreign buyers, local advertising & so on.

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What should international online sellers consider when translating & localizing their listings? They should:

  • Localize, adapt and optimize their website.
  • Choose the languages that their website should ‘speak’.
  • Make sure that their website, product search and check-out process are adapted to the local market.
  • Aim to make their shop look as local as possible.
  • Take into account their product, trends, marketing opportunities, business’ long-term goals and key drivers of ecommerce.

You don’t have to offer an unlimited number of linguistic options yet it is worth considering the languages spoken by the key ecommerce marketplaces such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain or China.

According to Revenue Wire, to make use of 90% of business opportunities online, companies must provide carts in at least 13 languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Dutch, Arabic, Russian and Swedish.

What should be localized?

Localize the following elements of your website:

  • Language: increase the comfort and convenience for your foreign customers and save them the hassle of third-party translation tools. Use language that is simple, informative and sounds native to local consumers.
  • Currency: present prices in different currencies even if you can’t accept payment in all of them. This information will give your customers an idea of the price without having to make an extra effort and resort to a currency converter.
  • Payment method: do some research on the most popular payment method in a given country. This will instill trust in your foreign customers. If they see payment methods they’re not particularly familiar with, they may be wary about security.
  • Design: check the cultural design preferences. Not only will it increase the credibility of your product, but it will also improve the shopper’s experience. You may have to make some adjustments when you translate a website, for example some German words may be slightly longer than the English ones so you may have to tweak the design a bit.

Conclusion

The highly competitive ecommerce world of today requires online sellers to be able to provide their buyers with the best possible shopper and user experience. This also applies to your international customers. Make this extra effort and localize your product listings to benefit from global sales.

Inspire your customers with a feeling of confidence and trust: this is strongly related to being able to communicate in their native language.

Don’t assume that everybody speaks English as they may lose interest in your offer due to the extra linguistic hassle. For more information about ecommerce translation & localization, contact our cross border specialists.

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