Offering consumers a positive digital shopping experience can have an impact on your customer experience (CX), loyalty and sales. And if you sell your products internationally, remember that your foreign customers have the same expectations as your domestic ones: They want great customer and user experiences.

If you try to cut corners, you risk falling behind your competitors. On the other hand, if you provide your international buyers with an online shopping experience that is indistinguishable from their usual native experience, you may start seeing increases in revenue in no time.

Language Isn’t the Only Barrier

Providing a great experience for your foreign customers starts with language and translation, but that’s just the beginning.

As your international customers go through the purchase journey, they’re faced with many hurdles. If your prices are listed in your domestic currency, they will have to convert the prices into their own currencies. And if you sell shoes, they will have to do conversions for sizes. They must also take the cost of shipping into account when they compare your prices with those of suppliers in their own countries.

If you sell products overseas, you will have to undertake a translation and localization effort to overcome such barriers, so that the purchasing process for buyers from other countries is straightforward and your customers enjoy a smooth shopping experience.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: 4 Tips to Help International Websites Be More Profitable and Deliver Better User Experiences 

Lost in Translation

A few years ago, The Telegraph reported that U.K. exporters faced an ecommerce language barrier in doing business with customers in other European countries. According to the Telegraph, while English is the most commonly used second language, internet users said they were much less likely to use their foreign language skills for ecommerce than they were for general browsing.

In other words, most people prefer to shop for products in their own language — the one that they fully understand and use most efficiently. You get a sense of the scope of the problem that presents to ecommerce companies when you consider that more than 6,500 languages are spoken by 7 billion people worldwide and the European Union itself has 24 officially recognized languages.

The 2011 Telegraph article was reporting on the findings of a Flash Eurobarometer report titled “User Language Preferences Online,” which was based on a survey of 13,752 internet users across 27 EU member states conducted by Gallup on behalf of the EU’s Information Society and Media Directorate-General. In one of the study’s key findings, 42 percent of the respondents said they have never bought online in a foreign language.

Moreover, nine out of 10 of the respondents said that, when given a choice of languages, they visit a website in their own language, and 19 percent said they never browse in a foreign language.

It’s clear that Internet users aren’t always as keen to try out their foreign language skills for ecommerce activities as they are when carrying out an online search for information. Even though international buyers may be willing to visit sites in English, they’re less likely to make a purchase in English.

So if you’re an international ecommerce seller, translate content for your international customers — but don’t go overboard.

You may have a misguided belief that buyers pay special attention to the linguistic correctness of product descriptions. As a result, you may feel tempted to invest time and money in human translation and perfect, even poetically beautiful, translations of your listings.

This may not be the best way to spend your money. Will your potential customers really appreciate the literary value of your listings? Will they demand word-for-word accuracy? Unlikely.

Your customers want great product offers and product information presented in a clear and succinct way. Most of them want to find what they’re looking for at a glance. So it’s more important to have product attributes listed in the clearest possible way. You really don’t need to prove that a bunch of linguists help create the content you produce.

If successful ecommerce translations are your goal (with “successful” defined as translations that help increase your sales), don’t waste your time and resources on breathtakingly correct listings. Translate to make it easy for your customers to do business with you and to grow your sales.

Related Article: A 5-Point Checklist For Finding a Translation Management System

Ecommerce Localization Goes Beyond Translation

If you want to maximize the number of international orders placed at your checkout, translation is just the beginning. Your foreign customers must feel at home with regard to other aspects of the experience on your site as well. For example, they will want to see familiar payment methods, currencies and sizes.

A broad term for the process of making your site accessible to people from other countries is “ecommerce localization.” Ecommerce localization encompasses all aspects of preparing your online store for increasing international sales. The objective is to provide international customers with an online shopping experience that is indistinguishable from their normal native experience. If you do that successfully, you can compete on a level playing field with local competitors.

A localized experience involves the following:

  • Translations of content and multilingual customer service and support. If you offer foreign customers information and services in their native languages, you increase their comfort level, make the experience more convenient for them and save them the hassle of using third-party translation tools.
  • Size conversions. Provide conversion tables to enable your customers to see the measurements they recognize. For example, if you sell clothes, remember that size 8 in the U.K. may be 4 in the United States and 36 in Germany.
  • Currency conversion. Present prices in various currencies (even if you can’t accept payment in all of them) so that your customers get an idea of the price without having to do the conversions on their own.
  • International payment methods. Do some research on the most popular payment methods in various countries. If international customers visit your site and see unrecognizable payment methods, they may grow concerned about security and abandon the shopping cart.
  • Culturally appropriate design. Take the cultural design preferences of foreign customers into account. You’ll increase the credibility of your product and improve the shopping experience if you do. Even the basic task of translating the text on your website may necessitate design tweaks. For example, some German words may be slightly longer than the English ones.

You must also consider local marketing and search engine optimization (SEO). When customizing your strategies, be careful in markets that share the same language. 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. 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.

When translating your offers, consider keywords used by buyers. A linguistically sound translation may not include the keyword that buyers enter when they browse for products. For instance, das handy is the translation of “the cellphone” from English into German. However, Germans may not use the term das handy when shopping for a smartphone; instead, they might use “Android,” “iPhone” or “smartphone” and so forth.

A big data analysis can help you determine which keywords are searched for most often in particular categories, and which ones generate the most sales.

Keywords are especially important in listing titles. There may be restrictions on the number of characters you can use in titles (eBay sets the limit at 80, for example). Let’s say the English title is 80 characters long, but its German translation amounts to 120 characters. Which words can you drop and yet still maximize conversion?

In such cases, remove redundant words and expressions that have no impact on conversion. That includes less informative words, emoticons and any marketing terms that buyers don’t use in searches — terms like “brand new” and “wow,” along with things like “***TOP***,” graphical elements like parentheses and slashes, and ♥♥♥.

Related Article: Don't Confuse Ecommerce With Digital Experience

Optimizing Your International Shipping

You should optimize your international shipping offers, too. Try to address various customer expectations by doing things like offering multiple delivery options. Customers who expect the lowest price should be happy with standard untracked postage. If they need an order urgently, they’ll look for an express delivery.

Sellers need to think about different buyer needs and provide multiple delivery options to address those needs. It helps to offer a better user experience because the experience matches the customer expectation.

Additionally, don’t forget about tracking. The prospect of parcels arriving late or getting destroyed in transit can be a big source of distress for your customers, especially in the case of orders being shipped from abroad. The risk seems even more daunting when packages have to travel across borders.

Interestingly, if a shipment is late, the biggest source of distress may not be the delay itself but the uncertainty of not knowing what’s going on with the package. To be on the safe side, ensure good tracking of the parcels you dispatch and provide a list of all tracking events. It is more important to provide accurate information than it is to focus on transit time.

Thousands of Loyal Customers Await

Successful ecommerce localization will remove barriers for your international customers and help you sell more products abroad. It will add value to the customer experience you offer and increase your chances of finalized purchases. The expected results of localization efforts include better product discoverability, conversion rates and customer satisfaction, which goes beyond the mere translation of your content and offers.

There are probably (tens of) thousands of international buyers you could turn into loyal customers. However, you must help those buyers find your online store and your product pages and give them a customer experience they will enjoy.

Learn how you can join our contributor community.