Localization strategy

Ecommerce Localization: A Guide to Driving Growth Across Markets

International ecommerce is complex, and the barriers to entering the global marketplace are many. Learn how localization can help you lift them.
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The staggering global shift to ecommerce in recent years has forced businesses of all types to reevaluate their ecommerce strategies. Consumers hold the power, and they demand a seamless, personalized customer experience (CX) tailored to their specific needs and preferences across multiple touchpoints.

For companies that need to succeed in more than one region simultaneously, staying in the game and breaking through the clutter of sellers clamoring for attention in every online marketplace requires careful planning.

A solid localization strategy for your ecommerce business will look at everything from the IT workflows and multilingual customer service to marketing and UX localization—and this guide will take you through every aspect you need to consider.

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International ecommerce: the big picture

When companies sell their products or services online across borders—from their domestic market—this is ecommerce on a global scale. Global ecommerce sales keep rising every year, with 2021 reaching 2.14B digital buyers and $4.92T in sales, and a projected $7.38T in sales by 2025.

This much opportunity comes with plenty of challenges that businesses need to surmount if they want their international ecommerce efforts to be successful. The barriers to entry are high: International ecommerce is a completely different beast from domestic ecommerce, and it’s not enough to simply translate your website or app into another language.

To stay relevant and competitive, companies must deliver an exceptional customer experience (CX)—across multiple touchpoints—that adapts continually the user journey to meet the needs of specific markets. The key to unlocking ecommerce success at a global scale is ensuring an outstanding global shopping experience, and that comes down to ecommerce localization.

What is ecommerce localization?

Ecommerce localization is the process of adapting online shopping experiences—from ecommerce websites and shopping apps to customer support and marketing campaigns—to the specific cultural preferences of users in different markets.

Ecommerce localization includes:

  • Content localization
  • UI localization
  • UX localization—such as adapting payment methods, shipping options, functionalities, user journeys, and more
  • Customer service localization—offering support in local languages
  • Marketing localization, etc.

Simply put: Ecommerce localization is what ensures that you can do business in multiple markets without running into cultural barriers. When your target market can understand and engage with your ecommerce platform, they’re more likely to make a purchase, come back for more, and recommend your products or services to others. The opposite is also true: If users feel that you don’t get them and their needs, they’re only one click away from choosing a competitor who does.

A company that doesn’t take ecommerce localization seriously is likely to face issues such as:

  • A high number of customer service issues
  • Shopping cart abandonment
  • Low conversion rates
  • Poor customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS)
  • Reduced website traffic

The biggest players in ecommerce have long understood the importance of ecommerce localization. Amazon, for example, has invested heavily in a Rural India strategy that includes, among other localization efforts, building a logistics network from scratch to target the 800M customers—with disposable income—that live in rural areas and are hard to reach both geographically and linguistically.

Amazon’s ecommerce localization efforts in India include:

  • Modifying its app to work with inexpensive smartphones
  • Adding hundreds of thousands of Indian language product descriptions
  • Creating videos for those who can’t read
  • Opening physical Amazon learning centers for customers who aren’t used to online shopping
  • Accepting cash on delivery
  • Setting up warehouses closer to rural areas
  • Enlisting small stores as package depots to reach customers in far-flung areas

These localization efforts have been paying off handsomely for Amazon India, with 49% revenue growth in 2021. However, ecommerce localization isn’t just for big businesses with deep pockets. Companies of any size can unlock global growth in their ecommerce efforts if they get ecommerce localization right.

The ingredients of a seamless global shopping experience

The ecommerce landscape is more complex and competitive than ever before, which means that the bar for what constitutes a “good” ecommerce experience is also higher. Customers today expect a seamless, personalized, and omnichannel ecommerce experience—no matter where they are in the world.

Moreover, there’s the challenge of keeping your brand messaging consistent across multiple markets while meeting local requirements. Consistency relays an inherent degree of trustworthiness, fosters brand loyalty, and conveys reliability—all of which drive sales up—while fulfilling local consumers’ demands helps you stay ahead of the competition.

To deliver a seamless ecommerce experience in every market while staying true to your brand, consider the following guiding principles:

Understand your target customers’ preferences and possibilities in each market

Each locale (a set of parameters that defines the user’s language, country, and specific preferences) has its own ecommerce landscape and consumer needs, so it’s crucial to be well-versed in the nuances of each market and tailor your ecommerce experiences accordingly.

You can ask yourself: What payment methods are popular? Do they have access to rapid shipping and logistics options? What are the ecommerce regulations in that country?

Audit your UX

Comfort, familiarity, and ease of use aren’t universal qualities. Make sure you use culturally appropriate design, imagery, color schemes, user journeys, and other elements that appeal directly to your target customers.

UX localization is a key element in delivering outstanding ecommerce experiences—regional norms, expectations, thought processes, and language are all factors that affect how your customers perceive your brand, products, and marketing. Hence, it’s important to localize your ecommerce UX accordingly.

Localize your pricing

What costs the same in one market might cost more or less in another—and that’s something you need to factor into your ecommerce pricing strategy.

Whether you go for cosmetic price localization—a straightforward conversion from one currency to another—or adjust prices according to market-specific factors—such as taxes or shipping rates—make sure your pricing is adequate and competitive in each market.

Provide locally relevant information

Ecommerce shoppers expect to find locally relevant product information, e.g., product specifications, reviews, availability, and more.

If one of your products is only available in a certain market, for example, let your customers know, or exclude it from your ecommerce site in that area.

Offer multilingual customer service

The level of support ecommerce customers receive will influence their entire ecommerce journey. Being able to speak to a real person in their language of choice reassures ecommerce shoppers, boosts brand loyalty, and lowers the likelihood of abandoned carts or negative reviews.

Complementing your multilingual customer support with chatbots and other AI-powered ecommerce support tools can take things to the next level.

Create marketing content that resonates with users locally

Your marketing collateral and website copy should ideally be localized to match the cultural, linguistic, and technological expectations of your target markets.

For example, local holidays might be a good time to run ecommerce promotions, and images depicting locally recognizable landmarks or people can help foster engagement.

Build trust at a local level

If you want to outcompete other ecommerce businesses in a given market, you need to build your credibility there, especially if you’re up against local ecommerce titans.

One way to do this is by collaborating with local influencers or industry associations, e.g., through ecommerce events or product reviews, to boost your ecommerce brand’s presence and visibility in the market.

Optimize post-purchase customer engagement

After delivering a successful ecommerce experience, make sure that you continue engaging with customers across channels, e.g., via email marketing campaigns, social media, etc.

Doing this in the local language and ensuring that you’re using culturally appropriate tones will show that you truly care about the customer’s experience.

Conduct multilingual sentiment analysis to monitor performance across markets

Keeping a finger on the pulse of your ecommerce performance is essential for making smart marketing and UX decisions.

With multilingual sentiment analysis tools, you can track ecommerce metrics (e.g., product popularity, user engagement, and customer satisfaction) across local markets in real time and make timely adjustments to boost ecommerce sales globally.

Adapt your sales channels to local ecommerce dynamics

Ecommerce sales channels may vary greatly across markets. For example, in Argentina, customers are used to purchasing from businesses via WhatsApp and Facebook marketplace.

Complementing your ecommerce platform in this manner can help you engage and convert ecommerce customers in this market more effectively, and the same logic applies to preferred ecommerce sales channels in other markets as well.

The benefits of localization in ecommerce

We’ve looked at what ecommerce localization is and what boxes to tick to succeed in global ecommerce. Let’s now go over some of the benefits ecommerce localization can bring to your business.

A seamless global customer experience

An optimized ecommerce localization workflow has translators working in tandem with developers as soon as content becomes available—instead of following a separate localization process to the company’s existing development workflow. This is called continuous localization, and implementing it can deliver a consistent ecommerce experience to customers worldwide.

When the rapid-delivery nature of ecommerce transfers to the localization workflow as well, the continuous creation, localization, delivery, and maintenance of product content assets across markets becomes a possibility. A solid ecommerce localization strategy leans on centralized data, automated processes, and the timely addition of human expertise to ensure that customers are consistently receiving a top-notch user experience regardless of their location and language.

Streamlined global merchandising planning

Ensuring that the right product is available to the customer at the right place, at the right time, and in the proper language requires a robust ecommerce localization workflow.

For example, ecommerce merchandising teams in different markets may have unique needs that require the preparation of local product content assets or specific landing pages. By having a centralized ecommerce localization platform that lets merchandising teams localize, edit, and publish ecommerce product information in a matter of hours or days, ecommerce businesses can reap the benefits of effective and efficient global merchandising planning.

Consistent global brand messaging

A crucial aspect of nailing down effective localization is ensuring that your brand message is consistent across markets. Consistency can foster brand loyalty because it relays an inherent degree of trustworthiness and reliability—which drives sales up. By contrast, inconsistencies in branding can be confusing and frustrating for ecommerce customers, causing your brand to lose credibility.

Driving brand consistency is primarily an operational task. When you enable complete continuity between departments by centralizing everyone’s efforts in one place—e.g., through an ecommerce localization solution—, all stakeholders work with the same and most updated data. When you combine this with automation, brand consistency comes as a natural consequence of reducing human error, keeping everyone aligned, and boosting efficiency.

Improved customer satisfaction across markets

A satisfied customer is a customer likely to return and make another purchase—which is exactly what ecommerce businesses want. But that’s not all—satisfied ecommerce customers also share their positive experience with friends, colleagues, and family members—which can lead to an increase in overall sales.

When you penetrate new markets, ecommerce localization becomes a vital part of achieving the same levels of customer satisfaction that your customers at home enjoy. Most customers expect immediate customer care in their native language—evidence shows that this would make them more likely to repurchase from a brand.

Steady increase in international sales

Finally, ecommerce localization can deliver a steady increase in ecommerce sales by tapping into new markets and new customers. By making content available in local languages—and complementing these efforts with international SEO best practices to increase discoverability—businesses can effectively expand their customer base.

At the same time, ecommerce platforms pose a significant challenge because of the many types of content they combine: Marketing messages, informational descriptions, and user-contributed assets all need localization whether you’re a small e-tailer expanding into new markets or an e-retail giant with thousands of ecommerce pages.

The key to not ending up with a fragmented or poorly localized ecommerce site is to arm yourself with the right technology. Let’s explore the benefits of ecommerce localization solutions.

How localization technology can power ecommerce expansion

Localization technology simplifies the complex ecommerce content management process, giving businesses access to all the tools they need to localize ecommerce content consistently and in a timely fashion.

For a localization-friendly ecommerce tech stack, you need a solution that can seamlessly integrate with your preferred software and cover all localization needs across your organization from the beginning.

Some features to look for in a localization solution to integrate into a localization-friendly tech stack that will help you get to market faster and achieve better results include:

  • Translation memory: It’s a database of previously translated and approved content that you can use to save time and improve consistency when translating new content. The high level of repetition that’s typical of ecommerce content ensures that translation memory eases the localization process, reducing costs and shortening turnaround times.
  • Term bases: It’s a single source of approved terms that help you keep all terminology in one place so you can reuse it in future projects. This has a number of benefits, from reducing the need for human oversight to being able to quickly search for brand-specific terms.
  • Content integration: The agile nature of ecommerce content means that you need a localization solution that can easily and automatically synchronize content with ecommerce systems throughout the localization process. This minimizes disruption and reduces errors and delays.
  • Design integration: A localization tool that connects with design software like Figma or Sketch lets you upload content directly from the design tool and push translated content back to the design environment. This saves a lot of time, as designers no longer have to spend hours copying text back and forth.
  • Project management: A good ecommerce localization solution offers robust project management tools, from assigning tasks and tracking progress to managing deadlines or sending notifications to project stakeholders. When you’re able to see all moving parts, you can easily identify potential bottlenecks and quickly mitigate delays.
  • Quality assurance: The normally high volumes and short turn-around times associated with ecommerce localization can negatively impact quality. A good ecommerce localization solution should therefore provide automated error-detection tools like spell check, grammar check, inconsistent terminology, missing translations, and more.
  • AI-powered machine translation capabilities: Thanks to the latest advances in machine translation technology, you can speed up content delivery by leveraging the power of AI-powered machine translation for ecommerce content. Especially useful for low-visibility, user-generated content, and quickly perishable content—like chatbot responses or product reviews—or when you have hundreds of product descriptions that need to go live quickly, this technology eases the localization process providing a much-needed boost in efficiency.
  • Reporting and analytics: To gain insights into the performance of your ecommerce localization project, look for ecommerce localization solutions that offer detailed reporting and analytics tools. This includes data on translation quality, project turnaround times, or translator productivity. You can’t improve what you don’t measure, so make sure you have access to as much data as possible to help you make decisions and achieve your business goals.

Best practices for localizing your online shop

When it comes to ecommerce localization, there are a few best practices that can help you succeed in expanding your business to new markets in the most effective way. Here are some tips to get you started:

Conduct market research

Before you start localizing your ecommerce content, it’s important to conduct market research in the target markets you’re interested in. This will allow you to understand the language and cultural preferences of these new audiences so that you can adapt your ecommerce strategy accordingly.

Prioritize content based on your business goals

As you plan your localization project, take a strategic approach and focus on the content that will generate the most ROI for your ecommerce expansion efforts. This could include high-visibility product descriptions, marketing copy, or content that needs to rank highly in search engine results. For less critical content, leverage machine translation—and then decide whether you’ll use the raw output or run it through a human editing process.

Invest in multilingual SEO

As we hinted above, the best catalog, prices, and product descriptions in the world mean nothing if nobody can find your website in a given market. To make sure you’re reaching out to as many potential customers as possible, it’s important to invest in multilingual SEO.

Localize your shopping cart

Make your cart and checkout page appealing and easy to use for your international users by localizing them to display the appropriate currencies, locally preferred payment methods, and relevant and accurate shipping and tax rates based on each customer’s location.

Format dates and times correctly

Part of localizing ecommerce content involves adapting to local standards. This includes properly formatting dates and times in accordance with the country or region’s conventions. For example, in many European countries, the day precedes the month when writing out a date, e.g., “4 August, ” while in the US and Canada, it’s written as “August 4.”

Make sure you comply with local regulations

A major challenge of international ecommerce is keeping up with the different regulations and requirements of each country. What do local data protection rules dictate? Are you required to collect a sales tax? If so, what’s the rate in this particular country? What are the rules for importing and exporting goods? By investing time and effort to research these requirements, you’ll be able to better serve your international customers and stay on the right side of the law.

Provide regional customer support

We’ve mentioned how providing customer support in the local language and through local channels can improve customer satisfaction levels. And it goes beyond that: You also need to consider time zone differences, busier periods, and local holidays. By providing regional customer support that’s tailored to your target audience, you can show international customers that you value them and are committed to providing a great ecommerce experience.

Use representative photos and pictures

An image is worth a thousand words, which is especially important when you’re marketing to an international audience. Make sure that the images on your ecommerce store are representative of your products and provide context for your customers in different regions or markets. For example, having a picture of white people enjoying a snowy ski resort might not go over well in a tropical country with a low percentage of Caucasian residents.

Localize your social media

We live in the age of social media, and ecommerce businesses need to make the most of this powerful marketing tool. By localizing your social media content, you’ll be able to engage with customers in a more personalized way, which can help increase brand loyalty. Consider adapting your Facebook posts, tweets, and Instagram captions so they resonate with target audiences around the world. A profile per market might be necessary for some platforms, or you might consider a global profile with regional content sub-feeds.

Say hello to a new localization experience

When it comes to ecommerce localization, the Phrase Localization Suite is your best technological ally. It’s a complete solution that allows ecommerce businesses to easily and affordably reach global markets, connect with local customers, and drive growth and success across borders.

Integrating Phrase into your tech stack to manage your localization projects will let you:

  • Centralize your ecommerce localization efforts to increase productivity, quality, and revenue.
  • Foster real-time collaboration on a single platform to ensure a seamless, accurate, and on-time translation and localization workflow for both in-house and external stakeholders.
  • Allow you to submit content for translation in familiar file formats that you’ve been using in your ecommerce endeavors from day one.
  • Choose from out-of-the-box integrations with your preferred ecommerce, content, or product information management platform (e.g., Magento, WooCommerce, Sitecore, Adobe Experience Manager), or lets you build a custom integration via an API.
  • Combine well-established translation technology with AI-powered machine translation capabilities.
  • Provide a holistic approach to data security and encryption through an information security management system.

With the Phrase Localization Suite, the global ecommerce landscape is within your reach.

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