Ecommerce is all about knowing your customers. In order to sell something, you have to understand who you’re selling it to and adapt to their wants, needs, and interests. And if you want to expand internationally, the only way to accomplish this is through localization.
Ecommerce localization involves much more than just translating your website into different languages – although that’s an important aspect. It requires you to research different cultures, consider every detail, and continually adjust your strategy for each market.
This isn’t a simple process, but it’s worth the effort. And in an increasingly globalized marketplace, it’s only becoming more important. If you want to successfully sell your products in multiple regions, localization is absolutely essential.
Here’s our ultimate guide to ecommerce localization, including crucial steps and expert tips to help you reach and convert customers all over the world.
What Is Ecommerce Localization?
Ecommerce localization is the process of adapting your website, content, products, pricing, and more for different regional markets. Although translation plays an essential role, localization goes beyond language. When it comes to ecommerce, you have to consider and customize every aspect of the customer experience.
Effective ecommerce localization requires you to view your company through different cultural perspectives. You have to put yourself in the shoes of people who may speak another language, use a different currency, and live on the other side of the world.
How do these differences affect their expectations and engagement with your brand? What are they searching for, which products appeal to them, and how do they want to pay? These are the kinds of questions you have to ask, even if the answers aren’t always straightforward.
What Are the Benefits of Ecommerce Localization?
The most obvious benefit of ecommerce localization is that it removes barriers to understanding. Your customers shouldn’t have to decipher a foreign language or a mess of machine-translated text, convert prices to their own currency, or struggle to understand unfamiliar formats.
It’s clear that most people prefer familiarity to the unknown. Plenty of research has found that customers prefer to use websites in their native language and are more likely to buy products with prices in their own currency.
Localization can also give your customers more confidence in your brand and streamline their experience. It helps you avoid offending people with insensitive content or trying to sell them things that they don’t want or need.
Finally, localization is a key part of global expansion. If you want to tap into international markets and increase your brand’s reach, you can’t just think globally – you have to think locally. The more specific your strategy is for each market, the more you’ll be able to grow.
When Is It Time to Expand Your Ecommerce Shop Internationally?
Expanding internationally might seem like an obvious choice, but it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. You have to be prepared to dedicate a lot of time and resources to localization if you want to find success in other markets. But if you do it well, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.
First, look out for signs that it’s time to expand. For example, if you’re getting a lot of inquiries about shipping to a particular country, you might be able to capitalize on that market. Use keyword research to see where customers are searching for products similar to yours, and look into the local competitors that you’ll be up against.
If you see demand for your products in a certain market – and you’re confident that you can handle the logistics of selling there – it’s time to take the leap.
How to Localize Your Ecommerce Shop
Once you’ve decided to expand to a new market, you should start thinking about localization. Here are some of the most important things to consider when localizing your ecommerce site.
1. Do Your Research
The first step of localization is to conduct thorough research into each target market. Before you start adapting your content and strategy, you need to fully understand the people you’re trying to reach.
Begin with the basics, like what language or dialect is most commonly spoken and what the local currency is. Next, try to get a clear picture of cultural norms as they relate to ecommerce in general and to your specific products or services. This could include considerations like religion, politics, and historical background.
You can find out a lot from searching online, but your best bet is to consult with someone who’s part of the culture in question. You might want to hire a localization expert who lives in the region. If you do, make sure to ask them specific questions that are relevant for your brand. Try to gauge local customers’ expectations and general perceptions of your niche.
In addition to cultural research, you should have your SEO team do keyword research for different markets. You can also use this analysis to boost your local SEO efforts later. Find out what search terms people are using so that you know which keywords to target. Take note of competitors – including both local companies and other international brands with a local presence – and see if you can find ways to offer a more localized buying experience.
2. Translate Your Content
Once you have a good understanding of your target market, you’ll likely need to translate the content on your website. Even if you’re expanding to a market that speaks the same language, you still have to consider linguistic differences. For example, if you’re expanding from the US to the UK, you’ll need to use UK spelling and vocabulary.
Whether you’re translating to an entirely different language or just another dialect, make sure to hire experts. You might be able to get away with using Google Translate or other machine translation tools, but the result won’t be nearly as good as the work of a professional translator.
The reason is simple: human translators understand context and subtext that computers don’t. Proper translation requires creativity and critical thinking. Plus, a good translator may point out other issues that you would’ve missed otherwise. For example, you might be using a US date format instead of a European one, or a 24-hour clock instead of AM/PM.
Localizing your content may also involve adapting things like sizing, dimensions, and units of measurement, plus any cultural references related to customs, holidays, or current events. Your translator or localization expert should carefully check all your product descriptions and informational pages to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
3. Create Localized Versions of Your Site
If you’re targeting multiple markets, you don’t want to have a completely separate site for each of them. You’ll need a different version of your URL for each regional audience. There are a few different ways to do this, including subfolders, subdomains, and country-code top level domains. The right choice will depend on your website’s structure.
Once you’ve established localized URLs, decide how you want to direct customers to them. Some ecommerce platforms have features that allow you to automatically redirect each customer based on their IP address or geolocation. You can also let them choose which regional site to visit through automatic prompts or dropdown menus.
To make the experience as intuitive as possible, it should be easy to switch between regional sites. If it takes longer than a few seconds to find the right domain, some customers will quickly give up and go elsewhere. To allow people to personalize their experience even further, you can allow them to select their preferred language and currency separately.
4. Personalize Pricing & Currency
It might seem obvious, but it’s incredibly important to show prices in the local currency of each market. Otherwise, customers will either have to do the conversion themselves or wait until checkout – which can lead to unpleasant surprises and abandoned shopping carts.
In addition to localizing the currency, you might need to adjust the prices themselves. Selling the same products in different parts of the world will incur different costs, and you should account for this in your pricing strategy. For example, you might have to pay extra taxes or customs fees. To stay profitable, consider raising prices slightly to offset these costs.
If your international customers need to pay more for shipping, customs, or taxes, it’s usually better to build these costs into your base prices rather than adding them at checkout. In this case, make sure that you’re automatically showing customers the right prices for their region, and clearly explaining the built-in costs so they know exactly what they’re paying for.
5. Accept Various Payment Methods
Although payments are becoming increasingly globalized, there are still differences in how people prefer to pay around the world. Credit cards are common in most countries, but digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay have surpassed them in popularity in some places. And in certain countries, specific local payment methods reign supreme.
You don’t want to lose customers just because you don’t accept their preferred payment method. To avoid this, you should offer as many payment options as possible. The more choices the customer has, the less likely they are to abandon their cart at the last minute.
The easiest way to accept multiple online payment methods is by using Pay.com. All you have to do is select the methods you want to accept from your dashboard, and they’ll be automatically added to your checkout page.
6. Adapt Your Images
Accurately translating all the text on your website is only half the battle; you also have to consider the imagery. In general, your brand’s visual identity should stay consistent across regional sites; if you completely change the colors or logo, your site won’t seem legitimate.
But while maintaining the same overall style is important, it may be worth localizing certain images. For example, you might want to showcase products in a different way that appeals to the interests of local customers. Take into account regional trends and styles when choosing product photos, and don’t be afraid to test out different options to see what works best.
7. Offer Customized Support
In a perfect world, your customers would be 100% satisfied with your products and able to easily navigate your website with no issues – but in reality, there will always be problems. And when customers in different markets run into those problems, they should be able to get answers in their own language.
Make sure that you offer localized versions of FAQs and informational pages, as well as multilingual customer support via email, phone, and/or live chat. In addition, you should consider whether customers in different markets will encounter unique issues. For example, you might need to add extra information on customs costs for certain countries.
8. Localize Your Marketing
In addition to adapting the content on your site, you’ll also need to localize your ecommerce marketing strategy. This will require an in-depth understanding of how marketing works in each region.
Find out what local customers respond to. Which social media channels and search engines are most popular? How are brands expected to behave? You don’t have to conform to all these norms, but if you go against them, it should be an intentional choice.
Another way to localize marketing is by creating a custom calendar for each region, including local holidays that could impact sales. If most people in the country don’t celebrate Christmas, for instance, then the holiday shopping rush might not be relevant. But there are probably other times of year when people tend to purchase more.
Ecommerce Localization Best Practices
As you follow the steps above and localize each part of your ecommerce strategy, there are a few general guidelines to keep in mind. These best practices will help you stay on the right track throughout the localization process.
Ask for Help & Consult Experts
Although ecommerce localization will require a lot of work on your part, it’s okay – and often necessary – to delegate certain tasks. First, think about the people on your team who might have relevant expertise or knowledge. Maybe your marketing manager has translation experience, or one of your sales associates used to live in the country you’re targeting.
Beyond your own team, you’ll likely need to consult with external localization experts, native speakers of the language, and/or people who live in the region. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and hire specialists. In some cases, this is the only way to get the level of understanding you need.
Don’t Rely Only on Automation
Although machine translation and other types of automation can be helpful in the localization process, you shouldn’t rely on them completely. In order for these tools to be useful, they need human involvement. For example, you might be able to run your product pages through a translation tool, but you’ll need a native speaker to review and edit each text.
This will help you avoid mistranslations and errors that could be off-putting to potential customers. It will also bring an element of creativity and critical thinking into the process, which is crucial for effective localization.
Question Your Own Assumptions
Adopting a different cultural perspective isn’t easy. We all have implicit beliefs about what customers want and how the market works. But most of these assumptions aren’t universal; they don’t necessarily apply to every region, and in some places the opposite might be true.
Localization means constantly questioning your assumptions – even those that seem obvious. The more comfortable you get with considering alternative views, the better you’ll become at localizing your content and strategy.
Stay Flexible and Keep an Open Mind
Once you’ve realized that your own understanding of another region might be limited, you have to be able to adapt to new information. Make sure your strategy is flexible enough to absorb whatever you find in your research, and be open to new ideas. Something that seems illogical in the region you’re used to might be the most reasonable approach in a different one.
Learn from Your Mistakes
Localization is a significant challenge in ecommerce, and you’re bound to make mistakes along the way. When you do, recognize what you did wrong and use it to inform future decisions. Don’t expect to get everything right on the first try, and remember: trial and error can be one of the best ways to learn what works and what doesn’t.
The Best Way for an Ecommerce Business to Accept Global Payments
The ecommerce localization process has a lot of moving parts, but when it comes to payments there’s a simple solution. You can use Pay.com to streamline the checkout process for customers across the world.
Pay.com allows you to accept a wide variety of payment methods and offers global payment processing to make every transaction seamless. You can use our prebuilt checkout page or integrate with our API to add hosted payment fields to your existing website.
Pay.com also offers several other benefits for ecommerce, including top-notch security to keep payment details safe. We have Level 1 PCI DSS compliance and use 3DS2 authentication, so you never have to worry about ecommerce fraud or security threats.
The Bottom Line
If you want to expand your ecommerce business internationally, localization is a must. The first step is to research each new market and the culture of your target customers. Once you’re well informed, you have to adapt every element of your site and strategy – from creating different domains and translating texts to adjusting images and changing prices.
One essential part of ecommerce localization is the payment process. Customers in different regions want to pay in different ways, and you need to give them as many options as possible. Pay.com lets you accept multiple payment methods while optimizing the checkout process and keeping your customers’ information secure.