By Monique Nguyen
If your website or e-commerce site is live and online, then anyone with an Internet connection can access it. Does this make it global? No. The Internet does not recognize geographical barriers; however, customers do recognize language and cultural barriers.
To go (or grow) truly global with e-commerce, you have to localize the whole shopping experience, including user interface, product descriptions, payment and shipping communications, customer feedback and any associated marketing campaign.
At the recent e-commerce event, eTail Canada, people gathered in Toronto to talk about the online experience and growing globally. Today, 76% of the Canadian market are now shopping online, according to The Canada Post. This is quite a significant figure, as Canada is very unique and diverse in terms of culture and geography. A lot of the population are living in or near city centers and feel very loyal to traditional bricks and mortar. Retailers are taking notice and know that they need to be local online and even in Canada, that may mean more than one language.
According to research by eMarketer, China and the US are the world’s leading e-commerce markets, with 55% of global Internet retail sales in 2014. The UK, Japan and Germany are the next largest e-commerce markets with sales figures in 2014 at $82 billion, $70.83 billion and $63.38 billion respectively. Canada is ranked at number 8 at $24.63 billion and 17.4% increase from 2013 figures.
E-commerce has been rapidly expanding over the past years. There is also continued strength of bricks and mortar retail and a mixed model of buy online and pick-up locally at the local storefront. Only 6.5% of US retail sales are expected to come from the Internet transactions in 2015. The UK shows the highest proportion of e-commerce sales with online spending accounting for 13% of total retail sales.
One thing that is certain is that each country is unique in its e-commerce requirements and retailers and etailers alike must address the differences and uniqueness of each local market in both experience and language within their e-commerce experience. To get started in the truly global eCommerce market, it makes absolute sense to have globalization and localization experts involved at the planning stage. Welocalize works with a number of large global brands, many of whom have a successful e-commerce presence.
Based on this experience, here are five key localization factors that are important for any global business doing e-commerce:
- E-commerce localization is not just localizing a company website. The main company website is significant brand presence. It is only one of many components in the e-commerce chain. It is very important to localize the main website, according to research firm Common Sense Advisory, where they reported 75% of buyers prefer to buy in their local language.
- Consider all touch points. Create value at every point in the etail experience. Every touch point has to be targeted at the local customer. It has to be personal. For it to be personal, it has to be understandable in the consumer’s native language. This applies for micro-marketing sites, often used as part of a promotional campaign. If your customer clicks on a Spanish marketing micro-site, then the main e-commerce site they land on must be in Spanish too. And if they want to ring customer service, they must be able to get support over the phone or at a minimum online in their native language.
- Use your language service provider as a consultant at the planning stage, not just as a translation provider. A good global language service provider (LSP) will have expert local knowledge and market intelligence that will help you decide where to target your e-commerce efforts. They should help you set up test groups to measure the customer experience.
- Do not forget URLs, SEO and social media! Be searchable, you want people to find you so must localize relevant URLs and SEO keywords. Social media is a huge topic in the e-commerce space. Many etailers use social media content to assist with product development. The sheer volume of social media content can be vast and expensive. Consider using translation automation tools to localize UGC to save time and money. For social media, linguistic quality levels can be lower than high impact marketing content. Machine translation (MT) allows you to manage higher volumes for smaller investments.
- If your brand does not translate, transcreate! Simply translating or localizing your digital brand may not be enough. For certain local markets, you may need your LSP to work with you to transcreate the brand and associated content to make the biggest impact in a language or geography. This involves writers and designers who will reinterpret your brand for specific local markets following your guidelines.
One key thing gained from attending eTail Canada is learning that the online shopping experience must be personal and there is nothing personal about someone communicating with you in a language you do not understand.
If you are looking at your e-commerce experience or have questions about localization of e-commerce contact, drop me a line.
Based in San Francisco, Monique Nguyen is a Regional Enterprise Sales Director at Welocalize.