Cross-border eCommerce expansion is complicated. There are regulations to meet, partnerships to build and supply chains to establish. You also have to localize your eCommerce store.
Localization isn’t just a synonym for translation. As Nataly Kelly, Vice President of Localization at HubSpot, explains: “By the simplest definition, localization means adapting a digital experience for users who speak other languages or live in other countries.” You don’t just translate your product descriptions — you need to translate the entire user experience.
Fortunately, that’s not as complicated as it sounds. Here are four best practices DTC stores need to follow to succeed with localization.
Localizing Your Store’s Language
One of the most important aspects of localizing a website is tailoring the content to your new audience, writes content marketer Lilach Bullock. It’s not just enough to translate everything word for word, however. Most of the copy will include local phrases and expressions that won’t translate neatly into another language. That’s why it’s crucial to use a professional translator, she says.
“It takes an expert linguist to deliver content that reads as though it was written in the target language. This is where professional translation services come in. When you translate Spanish to English, for example, it’s essential to translate Spanish colloquialisms not just directly but into equivalent English phrases.”
Your site’s language isn’t the only thing that needs to be localized. Currency prices, weights, measurements and clothing sizes all need to be translated, Jonas Ryberg, Senior Vice President, Chief Globalization Officer at Pactera EDGE writes. Not only must they conform with local customs, but they also need to meet local trade regulations. Your customer service information should also be translated, he adds. That means using local phone numbers, local carriers and local address formats.
There are several ways to localize your store’s language, says Director of Global Accounts at Globalization Partners International, Peter Betts. One option is to use computer-based translations to speed up the process, but Betts doesn’t recommend it. Using human translators isn’t as expensive as you think, either. Even if you have thousands of SKUs, much of your content will be repeated. That means only a small number of words or phrases will actually have to be translated.
You can create a system to make the process more efficient and cost-effective, writes Adrian Cohn, Director of Brand Strategy and Communications at Smartling. Simply start with the most popular products and go from there. “That way, top content will be ready for global customers as quickly as possible and other content will follow suit.”
Localizing On-Page SEO Efforts
You’ll need to be found in your new market to be successful, says the team at Acclaro. That’s why you need to take international SEO into account when translating your website. It’s important to spend time looking for keywords in your new market rather than translating the ones you use already. Like expressions, many keywords will change depending on the market.
Even markets that share the same language can have different keywords, points out WebInterpret’s Senior Content Marketing Manager Karolina Kulach. “For example, Brits and Americans both speak English, but each nationality may use different keywords in search engines and different words for the same product,” she says. “For example, English shoppers may browse for ‘trousers’ while Americans may browse for ‘pants.’ If you consider the keywords used by British customers only, U.S. buyers may not be able to find your products if they use different search words.”
A nuanced view of consumer linguistic preferences is also critical, she adds. The German translation for cellphone is “das handy”, but German consumers may use other terms in the searches, such as Android, iPhone or smartphone.
There’s also the technical side of SEO you’ll need to consider, writes Craig Witt, Chief Revenue Officer at Ventiv Technology. That includes submitting the localized versions of your sites to search engines, including country-specific search engines like Yandex in Russia and Naver in South Korea. It is also important to create a multilingual sitemap and to translate “under the hood” information like metadata, image alt tags and page titles.
Localizing Tax and Shipping Information
The regulatory headaches that are part and parcel of cross-border expansion will need to be localized, too.
“If you thought taxation was a pain in your native country, just wait until you start selling in a variety of different locations,” says 2Checkout’s Cosmin Deftu. Different tax laws and how those taxes are displayed in each country may mean that your prices will have to change depending on your consumer’s location. In the U.K., unlike the U.S., for instance, prices are always displayed inclusive of tax.
Shipping promises and information will also need to be localized, especially if you are shipping directly from your country of origin instead of using a local warehouse for fulfillment. You’ll also need to communicate how the products will be shipped, any risk of delays and whether the consumer will need to pay duties themselves, says eCommerce consultant Pulkit Rastogi.
“Let [the customer] know if the shipped product will be delivery duty paid (DDP), meaning the custom duty and taxes are included in the final checkout price, or delivery duty unpaid (DDU), meaning the customer is liable to pay any local sales tax or import duties,” he explains. If it’s the latter, you’ll need the consumer to confirm they understand and are satisfied with the arrangement prior to shipping.
A good cross-border eCommerce platform can make the process easier. Several solutions will take into account factors like customs, taxes and duties when displaying product information, Senior Director of Commerce Strategy at Adobe Peter Sheldon writes. Companies can also save time with localized payment options.
Localizing Payment Methods
The eCommerce buyer journey — and payment methods, in particular — will differ from country to country, says Bureau Works Founder and CEO Gabriel Fairman. “In East Asia, for instance, mobile payment systems are very popular, but they are not the same ones that are familiar in North America and Western Europe,” he writes. Whatever the method, accepting payments using the preferred solution is essential.
Product prices should also be localized, says Elena Morin, Marketing Director at Sourcepoint. Forcing consumers to look up exchange rates can be a deal-breaker, yet local pricing is often overlooked. Don’t just quote the latest exchange rate, though. Consider localizing the price itself based on the purchasing power of your new market.
Success with local payments starts with research, writes Dorota Pawlak, Owner and Managing Director of Polish Localisation. “From buying habits, decision making processes to preferences and available payment methods – every single item plays an important role.”
Fail to research at your peril. There are plenty of examples of big companies failing to enter new markets because they were not familiar with local payments. This was the case when eBay tried to enter Poland, offering only PayPal and credit card payments — both of which weren’t popular in the country. The moral of the story? Make sure to include local banks and other payment options, as well as those from international providers.
An All-in-One Solution for eCommerce Localization
Taken in turn, each of these best practices can be time-consuming and tricky to execute. That’s why many eCommerce companies turn to a cross-border Business as a Service platform to handle every aspect of cross-border commerce. From setting up an international sales platform to localizing the store to assuring regulatory compliance, a good cross-border partner can help you sell globally without the risk.