The Value of Localisation in Ecommerce

Every day, millions of people around the world gain access to the Internet. Current projections show that by 2030 the whole world will be online. This means that the opportunities to drive sales through ecommerce are growing exponentially, and businesses from every industry sector need to adapt their business model to reflect the methods customers want to use to buy their products.

Get ahead of the game

If you’re wise, you will add global localisation to the top of your priority list of business model adaptations. Your ecommerce presence needs to reflect the changing times and communicating to your customers in their language will keep you ahead of the game, and most importantly, increase your international sales revenue.

Some great examples of poorly executed localisation comes from global translation agency, Capita Translation Interpreting. They explained that Pepsi’s slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” is translated into Chinese as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. Coor beer has also failed when it comes to localisation, their slogan is “Turn it loose” which, when translated from Spanish, reads “Suffer from diarrhoea”. It’s obvious neither are likely to grab the attention of their Chinese or Spanish customers with their slogans!

Although the exact figures vary, research consistently confirms that customers prefer to buy on websites in their own language – even if they do speak English as their second or third language. That’s why localising your website is the single most cost effective way of increasing your client base.

Case Study Example

Our client, Lowepro, already had American and English sites for their customers to purchase their products which focused on currency variations. However, they knew from extensive research that French and German consumers needed to take priority and a localisation plan was put in place.

At the client’s request, our development team and internal translators worked on creating French and German versions of their popular US and UK sites. Headings, content and pages all had to be rewritten to cater to the different languages and dialects to ensure their French and German customers had a smooth user experience.

Every retailer will have its own set of requirements to localise the experience for global shoppers. Doing a complete localisation can be extremely costly and time consuming, as it requires ensuring every part of the site is locale specific. This includes the product catalogue, the content, the buttons and images, search results, payment methods, fraud checks, tax, and shipping. But if it is done well, the results can be extremely rewarding.

Important elements to consider when localising for ecommerce:

  • Adaptation of graphics, for example where maps are used or images contain text
  • Use of local currencies and time
  • Formatting of date and time, addresses, phone numbers and postal codes
  • Use of different business models
  • Names and titles
  • Weights and measures
  • Decimals and use of commas and periods in numbers
  • Search Engine Optimisation
  • Accept international payment method options
  • Exchange rates and taxes

Statistics to make you think:

  • Less than 5% of the world’s population lives in the US
  • There are 2.92 billion Internet users in the world
  • More than 80% of Internet users have made a purchase online
  • The fastest growing ecommerce markets in the world are Asia-Pacific, Middle East/Africa and Latin America
  • Global ecommerce generates $1.2 million every 30 seconds
  • B2C ecommerce sales hit $1.5 trillion in 2014 and are predicted to reach $2.35 trillion by 2017

It just makes sense that international customers want to be able to read a website in their language, see prices in their currency, and pay with their preferred payment methods. Research shows that only 40% of Internet users will visit websites written in a foreign language, and even then they will only do so occasionally.

In 2014, Common Sense Advisory published a report titled “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: Why Language Matters on Global Websites”. The report highlighted the relationship between buying decisions and language online. Buyers prefer to read reviews and descriptions of products in their native language, and they are more likely to make a purchase if they clearly understand the process involved. The linguistic ability of individual buyers does not seem to make a difference here: people simply do not like to buy stuff or source information from websites in a foreign language.

In short, if you decide not to translate your website, or key parts of it, into the language of your potential audience, customers will find an alternative.

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