Why localization is crucial for e-commerce

How to maximize profit on international markets

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The web is saturated with English content. This often leads e-commerce companies to build their platforms with the presumption that potential customers “probably speak English”. However, what if we can show you that when you localize your marketing and sales materials to suit the preferences of international audiences, it will have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Ever since the late 1990s, researchers have been curious whether localizing online content could significantly sway the purchasing decisions of potential buyers. One of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind was conducted in 2006, when they meticulously analyzed the responses of over 2400 consumers. Respondents were queried about their purchasing habits and preferences, contrasting their experiences when visiting and buying from websites in English versus their native languages, across a wide range of product types. The research focused on Europe, Asia and South America, encapsulating eight economically significant, non‐Anglophone countries with large populations and a mix of nationalities.

E-commerce businesses will find it beneficial to know that:

  • A significant 76% of individuals who shop online prefer to buy products with information in their native language.
  • Interestingly, this tendency persists even among those who are fairly comfortable in their knowledge of English (58.8%). Nearly three-quarters or 72.1% spend most or all of their time on shopping websites presented in their own language.
  • The more valuable the item, the higher the likelihood of a potential buyer wanting to read about the product and complete the purchase in their native language.
  • Several non-native English speakers encounter difficulties in finalizing their online purchases due to a lack of customer and transaction support in the language they are most comfortable with.

In light of this information, the critical question businesses face: what practical steps should the company take to swiftly and affordably localize e-commerce content and operations? It's likely you've already estimated how much it would cost to use popular translation services like Google Translate, which charges $20 per 1M characters. Considering the extensive range of items, descriptions, reviews, and comments that need to be translated, it can be a hefty sum.

However, there is an alternative service that offers a far more cost-efficient solution which is easy to use and which allows to promptly assess localization effectiveness. For businesses with smaller translation volume, Lingvanex Cloud API is an attractive option at just $5 per 1M characters. For organizations dealing with larger, ever-increasing volumes, Lingvanex On-Premise Translation Server can be the optimal choice, providing a fixed price for your desired number of languages.

In order to assess the effectiveness of localization, businesses can initially focus on a single language and a specific, quantifiable sector. After translating their product catalog with the use of Cloud API, they can observe the customer response. If necessary, subsequent modifications can be made to the translations, such as retraining of language models or including specific product names in the glossary. This approach allows businesses to progressively experiment with different languages, compare, analyze, and determine what localization strategy is most beneficial for them.

In our experience with both small and large e-commerce enterprises, we have seen first-hand the results of localization. Take, for example, a small business that specializes in the production of safes. With straightforward documentation at hand to guide them through the set-up process, they localized their online shop within an hour and the same day saw an upturn in their metrics.

As for a large e-commerce business that we were asked not to disclose the name of, we can say that among their competitors in the Middle East and South-East Asia they were the first to localize their website. It helped the company to appear in the top online searches on Google and other platforms, as they could offer potential customers items in their native language. Now we are happy to say that for the last several years their business has been growing exponentially. Among our clients is a large e-commerce enterprise (they requested anonymity) that led the way amongst their competitors in the Middle East and South-East Asia by localizing their website first. This decision increased their visibility and helped to rank highly in online searches on Google and other platforms. By giving potential customers the chance to interact with their products in their native language, they set themselves apart from the competitors, and we are pleased to say, have been growing exponentially ever since.

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