Since its humble beginnings in the 1980s, e-commerce has grown exponentially. By 2020, some 14.5 percent of the global retail revenues will be generated via e-commerce, an amount of €3.4 trillion. DHL predicts that of this amount, €770 billion will be generated by the international e-commerce, that is, in different target markets. According to the "Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce Study 2017", 67 percent of the individuals surveyed have already purchased something online. 32 percent of the consumers purchase online at least once a month.
Though online shopping has become commonplace, it can be difficult to win over customers. The target groups are very demanding and will turn to one of the countless alternatives if they are not impressed, if they are not able to find a product immediately, or if the payment is too complicated.
One of the challenges companies are often confronted with is that their marketing content originates from different authors. Moreover, they may use various systems for the content creation, e.g. a PIM, CMS, or web shop system.
International e-commerce is characterized by many regional differences, which may cause difficulties where complex processes are involved. One of your priorities should therefore be to standardize your marketing content as well as your internal and external processes.
E-Commerce holds enormous potential. How can we tap this potential?
Search, Find, Fall in Love, Buy
To ensure a positive shopping experience throughout the customer journey, it is important to develop an overall strategy for the internationalization of the e-commerce activities.
Have you already started internationalizing your e-commerce? If so, you are likely aware of how tricky subject areas such as logistics, the legal situation in the target country, competitors, and localization can be. While the first three areas can be adapted on the basis of objective factors, the localization and the associated cultural features might be a bit more difficult to handle.
So what are the hitches of localization? What actually is so difficult about translation? Plus, doesn't everybody speak English nowadays?
In fact, "only" 1.5 billion people around the globe speak English. If you do not localize your website or your online shop, many potential customers will not even be able to find your products, as they mainly search in their local language. But even if they do find them, a survey conducted by Common Sense Advisory reveals that 60 percent of the online customers will not purchase a product or service if the website is not available in their native language.
Therefore, the first important step on the road to international e-commerce is the localization of your website and, if available, your web shop for your target markets. As a general rule, all marketing content that is available online should be localized. The information box shows which types of text might be involved.
Before entering a market, a comprehensive website audit should be conducted in order to identify all elements that need to be localized. Most of the information should be "transcreated". Unlike plain translation, the transcreation process takes cultural aspects and issues into consideration. As a result, the content of the target text might be quite different from the source text, though the topic is the same.
White paper recommendation
The Lengow white paper Whitepaper „Expand your E-Commerce Business Internationally“ von Lengow may also help you to get an initial overview of the challenges and solutions in international e-commerce.
Which content has to be localized?
- Product descriptions, item and category texts
- Multimedia content and images for the shop and marketplaces
- Advisor content, e-books, blog posts, customer magazines, newsletters with links
- Websites, landing pages, news, and product announcements
- Customer feedback and ratings as the basis for improvement and recommendation marketing
The Devil is in the Details
So we have established that translation is part of the localization process, but that localization actually involves more elements. These can be divided into four categories: cultural properties, customer communication, technical details, and payment aspects. To provide you with some ideas for your integrated internationalization strategy, we will briefly touch on each of these categories.
A number of factors should be taken into consideration besides the actual content translation:
The corporate terminology can be standardized and stored in a database in order to project a uniform image. Consistent corporate terminology is also beneficial for the search engine optimization (SEO).
Keywords should not simply be translated and used word for word, as they may differ from country to country—even in countries speaking the same language. For example, a textile company may decide to use the keyword "jumper" instead of "sweater" for the UK market.
Another aspect to remember: Though Google is the world's most popular search engine with a market share of 90.31 percent, different search engines are preferred in some countries. 68.78 percent of the Internet users in China use Baidu. In Russia, Yandex boasts a market share of 51.6 percent. 23.09 percent of Japanese users prefer Yahoo, and 17.02 percent of the Internet users in South Korea use Naver (StatCounter GlobalStats 2018). These differences also play a role in the search engine optimization, as the indexing criteria for these search engines may be different from those for Google.
Country-specific and cultural aspects need to be considered especially when using images, symbols, and colors. A recent example: For the 2018 World Cup, the beer producer Eichbaum printed the flags of all participating countries on its beer caps. This turned out to be a bad idea: The company faced a barrage of criticism from Saudi Arabia, where drinking is banned!
Moreover, you need to consider the layout and navigation structures. Buttons may need to be resized to accommodate different word lengths. For right-to-left languages, the menus and logos may need to be moved to the other side.
Other details that should not be neglected include the contact information, business hours, and measurement units. When questions arise, a potential customer from Mexico would hardly be willing to call a German telephone number outside his time zone.
Furthermore, campaigns should be planned under consideration of local holidays and various seasons around the world. After all, why should an Aussie buy a winter jacket in December?
Three steps to find the right keywords:
- Translate your most frequently used keywords as well as their synonyms in order to maximize the catchment area.
- Research the keywords of your local competitors with tools such as SEMrush or the Google Keyword Planner.
- Compare the popularity of your keywords with that of your competitors' keywords and select the most relevant keywords.
Apart from website content, customers are often also offered real-time communication, e.g. via the customer service or social media. You can improve the customer experience by communicating with your customers in their native language. In this way, the entire customer journey will be a success story. This can be achieved in various ways:
- Native speakers provide the customer service in the respective local languages of the target groups. If you decide to offer customer service from your own country, take the respective time zones into consideration and hire bilingual staff. The logistical overhead is higher in the target country. On the other side, the communication routes are shorter and better adapted to customer needs.
- The customer service is also offered in the local languages of all target groups. The support staff in the country where the company is based use machine translation for comprehension, while the answers are written by a professional translator. This means longer communication routes. This solution can be used if the company considers the first option to be too costly.
- English is determined as the communication language. Inquiries are processed in the country where the company is based. The disadvantage is that some inquiries cannot be processed if the customer's knowledge of English is poor. This has a negative impact on the customer journey, which could result in lower sales figures.
While the content localization is important to gain the customers' trust, the technical localization of the website is vital for a higher ranking in search engines. The keyword localization was already covered under point 1. However, other factors also play a role:
- Top-level domains influence the SEO. For example, the website www.company.fr would achieve a better ranking than www.company.com/fr or www.fr.company.com.
- Backlinks from popular local websites are more effective in contributing to the visibility of the website than those from other regions and languages.
According to Lengow, more than 62 percent of the consumers who refrain from purchasing from international online shops are concerned about the security of payments. Therefore, it is important to help customers overcome such fears, e.g. by quoting prices in the local currency and by offering various means of payment.
Using the local currency increases the revenue and is even mandatory on some marketplaces, such as Google Shopping. However, this may also involve risks. For example, the exchange rate can fluctuate severely during an economic crisis, resulting in a loss for the company.
Means of payment
Credit cards are not the preferred means of payment everywhere. In 2016, only half of the payments were made by credit card. In Germany, customers prefer to pay against invoice. Other countries prefer methods such as PayPal, Alipay, iDeal, etc. Furthermore, due to the increasing popularity of mobile shopping, the means of payment should also be suitable and adapted for mobile devices. Moreover, fewer payment steps increase the revenue. For example, some sites make use of a "one-click" payment solution.
Translation Management System
Content Automation the Easy Way
To make sure the localization is successful, there is a need for technically and linguistically proficient translators who are familiar with common e-commerce vocabulary. On the other hand, software can help to keep track and achieve a successful market entry. To minimize the translation/localization overhead, it is advisable to use a translation management system (TMS) such as the Across Language Server. This application offers numerous functions to standardize and reuse previously translated content. A translation memory and a terminology system are the two main components.
Content creation is a complex process that involves numerous internal and external actors. With the help of a TMS, you can manage your data in a centralized and structured way and make sure they are always up to date. This approach saves both time and money.
Additional functions such as a project management tool can help optimize and automate your translation processes.
Companies often maintain their product descriptions in a product information management (PIM) system, which in turn is directly connected to the online shop. Seamless data exchange is possible with the help of interfaces that enable direct transfer of content from the PIM system to the TMS and automatic assignment to your translation service providers. In this way, the content can be delivered faster in the target languages. The shorter time to market has a positive effect on the sales.
How to be Successful in E-Commerce – with the Right Translation
For further information and tips for successful international e-commerce, we recommend the corresponding white paper "Successful e-commerce - with the right translation". We wish you every success with high-quality multilingual communication.