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A comprehensive guide to eCommerce localization

Olena Teselko

Global online shopping is huge and offers enormous opportunities for businesses to grow. Companies like Amazon, Alibaba Group, MercadoLibre, eBay, and others have all seen significant success after going global. 

Even though it's a crowded market, online sales are expected to hit $8.1 trillion by 2026, up from $5.2 trillion in 2021. 

However, to really succeed in new markets, businesses need to tailor their projects to fit in with local culture and language. In this article, we will cover localization challenges and ways to overcome them. Additionally, you'll find the necessary tools for eCommerce localization.

Section titled What is eCommerce Localization?

eCommerce localization involves adapting online stores to meet the unique preferences and cultural nuances of different markets. It involves tailoring content, design, and functionality to create a seamless and relatable experience for users in diverse regions.

Section titled What are the benefits of eCommerce localization? 

Section titled Global market access:

  • Increased reach: Localization allows eCommerce businesses to reach a wider audience by tailoring their content and offerings to different regions and languages.
  • Entry into new markets: Adapting to the customs and preferences of local cultures helps a business smoothly enter new markets, creating opportunities for growth.

Section titled Enhanced user experience:

  • Personalization: Localizing content, design, and user interfaces provides a personalized experience, making users feel more connected to the brand.
  • Cultural sensitivity: Understanding and respecting cultural nuances ensures that the user experience is sensitive to local customs, norms, and expectations.

According to a 2020 survey, 73 percent of global consumers prefer product reviews written in their native language while shopping online. Furthermore, 67 percent of those polled indicated allowing mixed language on websites. Meanwhile, 40% of customers stated they would not purchase from a website in another language.

Section titled Improved SEO and visibility:

  • Localized keywords: Adapting SEO strategies to local languages and search behaviors enhances visibility on local search engines, leading to increased organic traffic.
  • Higher ranking: Search engines often prioritize localized content, boosting the chances of higher rankings in regional search results.

Section titled Increased conversion rates:

  • Credibility and trust: Localizing content and offering region-specific payment options instills trust and credibility, leading to higher conversion rates.
  • Better communication: Clear and culturally relevant communication helps build stronger connections with the target audience, increasing the likelihood of conversions.

Section titled Most common eCommerce localization challenges

Although localization offers many benefits, it requires attention to detail and can negatively impact results if not handled properly.

Section titled 1. Translation quality

The accuracy and correctness of content translations are crucial for successful localization. Attention to nuances, idioms, and cultural context is key to preventing misunderstandings that could harm brand perception.

Section titled 2. SEO and keywords

It is essential to adjust search terms and keywords to local languages and search behaviors as it is not only a technical requirement but also a strategic necessity for effective SEO strategies. The strategies should not only consider language nuances but also align with regional trends and local search results to ensure visibility in search engines and relevance to potential customers.

Section titled 3. Cultural nuances

Adjusting a website to cater to different cultures is more than just translating the language. It's about considering various factors such as images, tone of communication, and even architecture that could be relatable to the local audience. This approach creates an emotional connection with the audience and fosters loyalty through relatable stories that resonate with their cultural identity.

Section titled 4. Customer support

Delivering quality customer service in local markets requires more than just fluency in the local language. It involves understanding the cultural nuances and context surrounding customer inquiries and issues. By responding in a way that aligns with local expectations, businesses can not only effectively resolve problems but also build trust and enhance the overall customer experience.

Section titled 5. Logistics and shipping

Efficient delivery is crucial to eCommerce websites. In order to compete with other vendors, it's essential to understand local distribution channels and customize logistics strategies to fit the local infrastructure. Consider storing at least a part of the produce in each region to ensure timely delivery.

Section titled 6. Design and user interface

Adapting design elements, color choices, and user interface to resonate with the local audience is vital for creating a positive user experience. This involves understanding cultural aesthetics, preferences, and even the significance of specific design elements, ensuring the website feels familiar and appealing to users in different regions.

Section titled 7. Content management for multiple locales

Whether you manage content across multiple locations from one central place or separately for each country, it's crucial to have a structured approach. This approach could include content governance, strict roles, and permission systems to ensure that only authorized personnel can access each market's content. By doing so, you can maintain a seamless content creation, updates, and translation workflow while reducing any errors. This is especially important if you hire an external team to manage content across target markets.

Section titled Strategies for successful eCommerce localization

Section titled Using robust content management systems with localization features

A modern CMS, especially a headless one, is the fundamental tool for businesses aiming to navigate the complexities of eCommerce localization.

Such eCommerce-friendly CMSs as Storyblok provide a centralized platform that streamlines the entire localization process, offering a range of features designed to enhance efficiency and ensure a consistent and tailored user experience across diverse markets.

We'll talk about CMS as a localization tool in more detail later in the article. 

Section titled Tailoring content to local preferences

Understanding local preferences goes beyond language translation. Many companies hire local agencies or establish a region-specific office to better serve the market. It is also a good idea to conduct surveys or run focus groups to test the relevance of your products, services, or local communication in the new country.

For instance, even large and well-established brands such as McDonald's or KFC not only localize their communication but also their product line. Did you know that KFC had to change its name to "PFK" (Poulet Frit Kentucky) in Quebec, Canada, to reflect a combination of linguistic considerations and cultural influence? Meanwhile, McDonald's offers country-specific meals in addition to its iconic burgers. In Japan, for instance, you can find Teriyaki Chicken Filet-O on the menu, and in Korea, there is a snack named Tomato Cheese Crusts. 

case of KFC changing name for localization

(Photo Olivier Therriault)

Section titled Leveraging various translation methods

Businesses often use a combination of professional translation services, machine translation, and content management system (CMS) translation features to ensure that their content is accurately translated for local audiences. 

Professional translation services provide a human touch, ensuring that the translations are nuanced and contextually appropriate. On the technical side, machine translation, powered by artificial intelligence, offers speed and efficiency, enabling large volumes of content to be translated quickly. 

CMS built-in features, such as field or folder translation, provide a centralized platform for managing translations within the content management system. This helps businesses streamline the translation workflow, maintain consistency across various locales, and tailor content to meet the linguistic preferences of each target audience.

Section titled Implementing region-specific payment options

Understanding regional payment methods and local currencies ensures a smooth checkout experience for customers across the globe. For example, in some countries, people prefer to pay in cash after receiving goods, while in others, consumers have adopted digital payment options or even cryptocurrency. 

Section titled Adhering to local laws and regulations

Compliance with local laws and regulations is paramount for successful eCommerce localization. This includes understanding data protection laws, tax regulations, and other legal requirements in each market.

Even such things as return and exchange differ from country to country, as well as customer perception of these services. 

Section titled Using AI translation for local search rankings

Smart translation tools such as Google Translate and DeepL have made language translation quick and highly accurate, making them ideal for local SEO in eCommerce. These tools are a game-changer for businesses expanding globally. 

In addition, innovative AI-based SEO tools can do keyword research, helping with local search engine optimization. This helps businesses optimize their online content to rank better on local search engines. As a result, eCommerce stores can enhance their online visibility in each region, ensuring that your products or services appear where people search. 

Section titled Best tools for eCommerce localization

Section titled Robust eCommerce CMS

The content management system for eCommerce is a foundation for localization. For example, Storyblok is well-suited for multilingual and globally targeted eCommerce websites, as it handles content in a structured and dynamic way.

Structured content management:

Storyblok allows for the creation and management of content in a structured manner. With a modular approach, you can build and organize content elements that can be easily translated and adapted for different locales. This structured content management simplifies the localization process, ensuring consistency across all versions of the website.

Multilingual support:

Storyblok provides robust multilingual support, allowing you to create content in multiple languages within the same platform. The platform comes with field, folder, and Space level translations. This facilitates the seamless translation of product descriptions, marketing copy, blog posts, and other website content. Each language version can be managed independently, enabling efficient localization without the need for separate systems.

Real-time collaboration:

Collaboration is streamlined with Storyblok's real-time editing and collaboration features. This is particularly beneficial for eCommerce teams working on content creation and localization. Multiple team members, including writers and translators, can work simultaneously, ensuring a smooth workflow and quicker localization turnaround.

Localization workflows:

Storyblok supports customizable workflows for content creation, review, and approval. This is essential for managing the localization process efficiently. Teams can define roles, set permissions, and establish clear workflows for translating and adapting content to different languages and regions.

Preview and visual localization:

The visual editor in Storyblok allows users to preview content in real time, making it easier to visualize how the localized content will appear on the website. This visual aspect is especially valuable for ensuring that design elements, images, and overall aesthetics align with the cultural preferences of the target audience.

Integration capabilities:

Storyblok can integrate with various eCommerce platforms and technologies. This ensures that the localized content seamlessly integrates with the eCommerce system, including product catalogs, pricing information, and inventory management. The integration capabilities contribute to a cohesive and synchronized eCommerce experience across different language versions.

Version control:

With version control features, Storyblok allows you to track changes made to content over time. This is beneficial for eCommerce localization, enabling teams to review and revert to previous versions if needed. It ensures that content updates and changes are managed systematically across all localized versions.

Section titled AI-based SEO tools

Platforms like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and SERanking utilize AI algorithms to identify relevant keywords, analyze competitor strategies, and offer recommendations for improving search engine rankings. They help businesses adapt their content to align with regional search behaviors, ultimately driving more targeted traffic and increasing online visibility. 

Section titled Localization Platforms

Dedicated localization platforms like Lokalise and Phrase provide centralized hubs for managing multilingual content, offering features such as translation memory, collaborative workflows, and version tracking. These tools often provide integrations with popular CMS platforms, including Storyblok, to facilitate a seamless localization workflow.

Section titled Personalization tools

Such platforms, as Optimizely, can be used for localized personalization, as they include AI-powered recommendation capabilities. They can adapt to local market dynamics, analyze user data to offer tailored product suggestions and support integration with content management systems.