Localisation for your ecommerce store for international markets

12 steps to help global audiences discover, browse and buy from your e-store

With 59% of the world’s population now actively using the internet,1 the opportunity for online retailers to tap into new audiences is significant. As you plan your global expansion, there are several factors you’ll need to consider — including how to localise your ecommerce store.

Localisation is the process of giving your international customers a shopping experience that reflects the one they already get from retailers in their own country. For example, this could include adapting your images, graphics, payment options, or even your product descriptions and other text to feel more familiar and aligned with local cultures and contexts.2 This is especially important when you consider that over half of consumers say they prefer buying products exclusively in their native language.3 As of October 2018, localisation was also the third leading method by which international businesses chose to market their products in global markets.4

With that in mind, let’s explore 12 key steps you can follow to successfully localise your ecommerce store to new audiences.

1 Localise the language

English is the most popular language used on the internet, but it’s far from being the only one. Almost one in five of the online population use Chinese, with Spanish (7.9%), Arabic (5.2%) and Portuguese (3.7%) also relatively popular.1 In other words, try not to make assumptions about the language your customers speak or prefer. A good place to start is Market Finder’s insight page, which you can log in to find language breakdowns per market.

Next, you’ll need to ensure your content management system supports your languages. You’ll also need to design your store’s user interface so it’s localisation-friendly and supports variations in density, spacing, word length and text alignment.2 For example, content on Israeli and Arabic websites runs right to left. And German words are typically longer than their English equivalents, which can impact your design and layout.

Once you’ve identified all the different parts of your store that need localising, create a brief for your localisation experts that describes your requirements in detail. Read more about ensuring quality localisation here.

You might also find this resource useful if you need help choosing a localisation agency to work with.

2 Run quality assurance and local reviews

Ensuring your translations are reviewed for quality and local context will help you deliver a truly localised experience for your new audiences. Ideally, you should commission native language experts to carry out the necessary reviews — and check your store adheres to the norms and cultural preferences in each specific country. For example, red is a positive colour in India, but can represent grief and sorrow in South Africa.[^3]

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3 Localise your SEO

When taking your ecommerce store global, you may find the keywords you’re using in your domestic market don’t translate well, or are meaningless. If so, you’ll need to rethink your SEO strategy and practices. As a minimum, this could include having to change spellings or replace certain words. You’ll also need to pick appropriate meta titles, meta descriptions, keywords and content to ensure your online store can appear in local search engine results. You can read more about SEO best practices here.

4 Localise your checkout experience

As well as being quick and effortless to use, your checkout process should feel like a safer and familiar environment where shoppers are comfortable entering their address and payment details. For example, make sure your cart appears in the local language and reflects typical buying behaviours and cultures. Again, your localisation team will be able to advise you more on this.1

5 Offer your shoppers localised payment options

Half of customers are likely to abandon shopping carts that don’t offer payment methods they’re familiar with.1 While Visa, Mastercard and PayPal tend to be among the most common, there are often notable differences between countries and regions. For example, Bancontact is the most popular payment method in Belgium, accounting for over two-thirds of all online payments in 2018. In Germany it’s Sofort, while the Swiss prefer RatePay.2 You can learn more about various payment options via this guide.

6 Choosing the right domain name

When it comes to your domain name, there are two broad routes to choose from. You could either have a multi-regional website, with a country code top level domain (ccTLD) name, e.g., .ie, .de. or .fr. Or you could opt for a universal multilingual website, that serves up your content and products in more than one language via a single domain name such as .com. You’ll find more information about taking your website global here.

7 Offer localised and English versions of your store

llowing users to switch between languages via a language selection bar will help improve your site’s overall user experience. Some localised ecommerce stores automatically adjust their language based on the user’s IP address, geographical location, or preferred browser language. Whichever route you choose, make sure the process for users is smooth and simple, so everything is glitch-free.

8 Localise your returns policy

Whether from shoppers changing their minds or needing a different size, etc., product returns are inevitable. As well as making sure your returns process is effortless and easy for users to follow, you should also ensure it reflects local market trends and expected behaviours. For example, is free shipping the accepted norm in your new market? Will shoppers want a courier to collect from their home, or are they prepared to visit a post office or drop-off point?

9 Check you’re meeting local rules and regulations

There are many different rules to follow when taking your business international — all of which impact the development and localisation of your site. Top of the list are privacy laws. Essentially, you’ll need to create a privacy policy which makes it clear to customers how their data is collected, where it will be stored, and how it will be used.1 This is a sensitive area, so we recommend consulting with your legal team to ensure you’re abiding to each country’s laws.

10 Localise the mobile version of your ecommerce site

By 2021, 72.9% of online retail will be generated on mobile.1 As such, it’s vital to not only create a mobile version of your site, but also localise it to your new global markets.

11 Adapt your social media to local audiences

Nearly one in three (30%) of customers say they would buy through social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.1 If you’re planning to expand to international markets, make sure your social media pages are localised in-line with your website. That way, if customers jump between the two, they experience the same type of language, pictures, cultural references and customer support.

12 Delivering great customer support

Last but by no means least, a great user experience is also about offering shoppers helpful, timely and appropriate customer support whenever they need it. And if you’re venturing into new markets, it’s vital your support provision is localised and adapted to your audience’s unique needs, demands and expectations. You can find more about offering great customer support here.

There is a lot to consider when expanding your ecommerce store into new global markets. From localising your product descriptions to offering the right payment options and creating a customer support team, you’ll need to plan carefully and ensure you’re following best practice at every step. For more useful guides, tools and insights, head over to the Market Finder website where our team of marketing experts are ready to help.