How a Global eCommerce Business Can Create a Localized Buying Experience

This article offers tips for eCommerce businesses on how to create a localized buying experience when they are operating on an international scale.

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Localization is a must for eCommerce businesses operating on an international level.

According to a 2014 study by Common Sense Advisory:

  • Approximately 72 percent of shoppers prefer to buy products in their native languages, and
  • 60 percent rarely or never transact with websites that provide English-only content.

For businesses operating on a global scale, this means the more local-language content on a website throughout the customer experience, the greater the likelihood that the user will complete a transaction.

Stephen Schoening, head of marketing at translation management company PhraseApp, says this is because consumers have a higher trust in information that is in their native language, and they feel more comfortable navigating products in their own language.

But what exactly is localization?

Localization is more than simply language translation. It is adapting all of the key content of a website — text, photography, currency, logistics, branding, design — to cater to specific regional audiences.

Localization is about creating a native experience that recognizes “local consumer buying habits, accounts for local cultural cues, adapts to regional technical requirements, and delivers on the highly-personalized promise of a modern online marketplace,” says John Norton, business development manager at Moravia.

In essence, websites should be customized to create a seamless, localized buying experience for customers across the globe. Localization, notes Chelsea Ramage at Interpro Translation Solutions, gives businesses the ability to reach a wider audience and build trust with customers.

Localization is a big undertaking and a potentially long-term project, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

Below are four tips for creating a localized buying experience online.

1. Perform Extensive Market Research

Researching audiences that are interacting with a site is the first step to successfully creating a localized buying experience.

Most businesses are already tracking online data and user behavior. Organizations need to take the next step, then, and analyze that data to understand where the customers are and which languages they speak — the prime indicator for which languages need to be the central focus of localization efforts, explains Helmut Juskewycz, CEO at translation company LingoHub.

Another key element for research is to identify which products will perform best in the local markets to know which ones should be the key focus during initial localization efforts. To do this, Peter Betts, director of global accounts at translation company GPI, suggests companies should look into the volume of search queries for specific products in local search engine results.

When performing market research, organizations also need to know cultural nuances, such as

  • what is popular in a region,
  • what appeals to the local population,
  • what are the popular shopping days and
  • what digital marketing channels are they using.

By understanding cultural and regional nuances, companies put themselves in a better position for a smoother market entry, notes Juskewycz.

women in traditional dress -- Localized Buying Experience

2. Decide Which Content to Localize

After the market research is complete, companies must then decide which content needs to be localized, and then prioritize that workload. The essential elements for localization are likely going to be the same for most companies.


Most people will immediately leave a website they cannot read. That is not to imply that all websites need to be available in all languages. That is what the market research is for — to determine which languages are essential to an organization’s success on a global scale.

Still, a shop’s content needs to reflect the prefered language(s) of its customers.

Currency, Symbols and Payment Preferences

When customers are shopping online, they want to see prices in their local currency.

Karolina Kulach, a marketer who specializes in global eCommerce, writes that companies operating on an international scale need to present prices in local currencies, even if they can’t accept the payment in that currency. This provides the customer with the price without them having to take the extra step of using a currency converter.

Milos Matovic at Ciklopea suggests that companies display prices in two or more different currencies, especially in areas where both local and foreign currency are used.

But it isn’t just the numbers that matter in currency. The symbols are also key to presenting currency in the local format. Some currency symbols are listed before the price ($ and £) while some are listed after (€). Also, decimal marks vary by culture — some separate with periods while others use commas. It is important to get this localized information correct for successful transactions.

Preferred or acceptable payment methods also differ by country. Companies need to understand and plan for online paying habits of local customers to avoid transaction fulfillment problems. Juskewycz’s article supplies an infographic that highlights the local payment preferences for key online shopping countries.


A site’s design can have as much impact on successful localization as accurate translation. When designing a site, companies need to pay particular attention to these elements of design:

  • Color. Color has various meanings from country to country, Shutterstock explains. For example, yellow is associated with happiness, warmth, optimism, caution and cowardice in Western cultures. In Germany, it represents envy and in Egypt is conveys good fortune.
  • Images and icons. Robert Laing, founder and former CEO at translation company Gengo, notes that it is crucial to consider attention to details, cultural sensitivity and risk assessment when selecting images for localized websites. Why? Because images and icons have different meanings in different cultures, they can lose their meaning across cultures or they might not make sense to people in some countries, Terena Bell explains at HowDesign.

3. Understand Local Laws and Regulations

When doing business internationally, it is important to understand local regulations as they apply to doing business in a different countries and how those regulations affect website development and localization.

When it comes to eCommerce website development, the most important laws to understand are local privacy laws. Most countries with privacy laws have rules in place that govern how a business handles information that can identify a person.

Many jurisdictions require companies to inform their audiences how their information will be used on a website through the use of a privacy policy. Attorneys for legal documents company WebsitePolicies suggest privacy policies contain the following:

  • An introduction that gives details about the organization
  • Explanations of the type of information the organization is collecting
  • The method of data collection
  • Information on how the information will be stored and where

The article by WebsitePolicies also lists a large number of countries and their basic privacy policies for reference. Be sure to thoroughly research local laws and regulations regarding consumer privacy and data protection before localizing site design.

Japanese translation -- Localized Buying Experience

4. Hire a Translation Firm

Don’t skimp on translation costs. Getting linguistic nuances and colloquialisms wrong can tarnish a company’s reputation.

Nikkita Walker, content marketing manager at digital strategy company Bear Group, offers these tips for working with translation companies:

  • Make sure to have a content manager who consistently delivers updated or new content to the translation service.
  • Select a translation service that specializes in your company’s markets.
  • Translate each piece into multiple languages so the content can be posted simultaneously.

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make when localizing website content is to have it poorly translated. By hiring a translation firm, organizations reduce the risk of inaccurate language translations.

Localizing the User Experience Keeps Businesses Competitive

eECommerce businesses that are expanding on a global scale have to localize to remain competitive. By doing so, these businesses create a better shopping experience for their customers — and position themselves for sustained sales growth as a result.

Images by: aruba2000/©123RF Stock Photo, Els Fattah, nito500/©123RF Stock Photo

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