How to Grow with eCommerce Localization

by Nicholas Strozza

Whether your company has already experienced some international growth or you’re starting to think about the localization of your eCommerce website and product information, the importance of proper planning is crucial. For eCommerce localization to become a successful marketing tactic for your business, you will need to take the time upfront to properly plan and prepare for it. The saying “do it right, or do not do it at all” really applies for this in my opinion.

You probably already recognize how difficult it can be to break into international markets. Not only is offering a product worldwide expensive from a shipping point of view, but attracting international traffic isn’t easy, either. You have to know your market, adapt your product to global preferences, and build confidence between your business and your customer. As eCommerce localization of your content becomes synonymous with success, it’s time to focus on growing your company internationally so you can be recognized as a worldwide product or service leader. When done correctly, eCommerce localization can accomplish this.

eCommerce Localization: Quick Facts

There’s no doubt that there is business to be done outside of our borders, and customers that can be reached with accurate eCommerce localization. Just how much? According to Internet Retailer, global eCommerce will increase to 16.4% in 2017 to $2.197 trillion, with website sales accounting for over 8% of total retail. The top market? Per Internet Retailer, China is truly growing. This should be a region to target if your marketing data is telling you that there is a need for your product in China.

According to Internet Retailer, China’s growth over the next 5 years is estimated to exceed $1 trillion in eCommerce sales by 2018, which accounts for it being the second largest eCommerce market (the USA being the first). Localization into Chinese should be done by a professional translation company that has actual native speaking translators in China. The geographical Chinese market you are targeting will determine which type of Chinese is most appropriate for your eCommerce localization. Chinese localization can either be Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese. A common misconception is that Mandarin or Cantonese are target languages to translate a website into. Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken Chinese. Traditional Chinese or Simplified Chinese are the written languages for eCommerce localization.

In addition to China, there are other marketplaces worldwide to consider for eCommerce localization. Brazil, Japan, Germany, France, and Canada are markets that are growing in eCommerce revenue. I can’t stress enough the importance of working with in-country translators for proper localization. If you’re going to invest in doing this, you have to do it the right way. If you are targeting Canada, you must localize your content into Canadian French. You can’t expect a Canadian French speaking consumer to appreciate and buy your product if it is not localized accurately for his/her market. Google Translate is an even worse option. Without having a professional translator work on your content, you are at risk for embarrassing translations that simply do not make sense. Especially if you are going into a new market, you may have one chance to make a lasting impression. The last thing you want to do is offend any potential client. Some of the largest companies in the world have made embarrassing localization mistakes because they did not do their homework when localizing their marketing materials. All it takes is finding the right partner and taking the time to fully research how to accurately get your message across.

eCommerce Localization: Baby Steps

One important thing to keep in mind as you work on growing globally: eCommerce localization is profitable in its own time, it’s an investment. You can’t expect a flourishing bottom line just because you’re branching out, nor can you expect the same number of clients, purchases, and profits internationally that you’re currently seeing domestically, at least not right away. While there can be many countries that are appealing to sell to, sometimes a phased approach works best. You need to crawl before you walk as they say! I recommend starting with the major markets in which your data is showing that sufficient interest exists for your product, and consider eCommerce localization to communicate with potential consumers in that geography in their native language as the first starting point.

eCommerce localization yields great results when done correctly, but it isn’t going to happen overnight. Have patience, prioritize, and take the time to make the right decisions.

One of my eCommerce clients, PuffCuff, sells in over 40 countries worldwide. Since Brazil was a large market for PuffCuff, for localization purposes their prioritization was to partner with Interpro to localize their eCommerce website into Brazilian Portuguese. This was the initial language of choice to appeal to consumers in this market in their native language. This also included translating text that appears in demonstration videos, in addition to product packaging. The Brazilian Portuguese website is now live, and provides detailed product and how-to-use information to Brazilian Portuguese speakers.

Brazilian-Portuguese website homepage

Building an International Team for eCommerce Localization

Your eCommerce localization marketing doesn’t end with accurate translations. You need international partnerships to grow your traffic, and you’ll want to recruit the right people to make sure your team has the best members possible, especially for global growth. Simply translating your content and product information into another language isn’t enough. You need to focus on your international marketing, just like you would on the domestic end.

As a client example, in addition to eCommerce localization for the PuffCuff website, one additional avenue for sales growth is through their Brand Ambassador program. The program entails having product representatives in several countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, promote the PuffCuff product and its benefits. Seeing actual demonstrations done in person can be very valuable, and multimedia localization for your eCommerce content is another great way to achieve this.

eCommerce Localization: YouTube

Oftentimes, “seeing is believing.” At least for myself, if I am making a product purchase, when I see it used in action I am more likely to have a connection with the product versus just reading about a description on the packaging. YouTube is a great avenue to have product videos reach millions of potential buyers. When looking to market to international audiences, a localization of the actual videos can be very helpful, whether this is done through voice over translation or actual subtitling of the videos. eCommerce localization for your multimedia can enhance your international sales and perception with multilingual buyers worldwide. International consumers can navigate YouTube in over 75 languages.

Amazon Translation for Your Sales Channels

retail translation

Using a sales channel like Amazon International Marketplace? Your success will stall if you’re not focused on making eCommerce localization part of your sales channel growth, especially with the reports that Amazon experiences a 22 percent year-over-year jump in international sales in recent years. Trusting a professional localization company will help you with Amazon translation for your global products to speak accurately to your current and potential customers that are native speakers. When done correctly, Amazon translation allows your product information to not only be culturally adapted to reach a wider audience, but it also keeps your brand consistent across all languages, building confidence with global buyers.

Additional eCommerce localization considerations

It’s also easy to forget about all of the little things that add up in eCommerce localization, like reference to metric values, foreign currency, and international shipping. Without mention of these things, your company may be global, but it will not be inclusive or as effective as it can be. A customer needs more than just text information in their language when buying a product—they want to feel as though you care about them and your relationship with them and their business. Often, this means changing shipping forms to make room for international addresses, taking a hit on your bottom line to offer competitive international shipping rates, and providing customer support in foreign languages.

Final thoughts on eCommerce Localization

No matter what end of the spectrum you are on as a business owner, if you are a global company trying to sell around the world, eCommerce localization is an important marketing tool to consider. The localization of your eCommerce content will benefit you at some point, whether it results in initial sales with multilingual speakers or an improved brand perception to those consumers who appreciate the fact that you took the time to accurately translate your materials.

For many business owners, eCommerce localization starts with thinking of it as another investment. Focus on it as a marketing tactic for your global audience. Our friends at Sticker Mule, a company that ships their products to 87 countries, have written a great article on how to build an international eCommerce company. Here at Interpro, we have partnered with Sticker Mule to adapt their marketing content and product information for other cultures so that they can seamlessly build a relationship with other countries.

Long story short, you just have to get started. It can be a difficult and daunting task, but with the right partnerships, you can successfully grow your company internationally. Consider Interpro as a resource to assist. We’ll be an extension of your team, and will only recommend to you what we feel is in your best interests.

Nick Strozza

Vice President, Marketing and Sales

"Working at Interpro allows me to be part of a talented team where we are collaborating together to exceed our client’s expectations for each project."