In an increasingly connected world, the international market presents vast untapped opportunities for eCommerce and online retail businesses. 

Never before has it been possible to shop and sell on the global scale we have access to today, and as an eCommerce business, if you're only operating in your home nation, then you're missing out on a huge opportunity to grow, expand, and profit.

After all, global eCommerce sales are expected to grow over 56% in the next few years, reaching trillions of dollars in sales, and this can't be understated.

However, marketing and selling to other cultures and communities worldwide is, of course, easier said than done. There are local language barriers, cultural differences, and so much more, but these are all 'overcome-able' obstacles thanks to effective eCommerce localisation. 

This process involves more than simple translation: it requires an intimate understanding of target market preferences, cultural nuances, and local regulations. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore eCommerce localisation's significant role in successful international expansion. 

From breaking down the benefits to detailing strategies for overcoming potential challenges, we aim to equip you with the necessary tools to transform your eCommerce store into a thriving global business.


Understanding eCommerce Localisation: More Than Just Translation

Before diving into the hows and whys, it's crucial to define what eCommerce localisation actually means and how it extends beyond simple translation.

In essence, eCommerce localisation is the process of adapting an online store's content and user interface to cater to different international markets. It involves translating the website's language and modifying elements like currency, time and date formats, and measurement units to align with local norms and standards.

Basically, it's doing everything you can to adjust and adapt your store so that if someone accesses it from another country, they have full, comfortable, and streamlined access to everything you have to offer.

Of course, once you take the time to start diversifying your eCommerce site, the world is quite literally your oyster, and there'll be no country or culture off-limits when it comes to selling your products and services.


Localization vs Translation

While translation is a critical part of localization, it's merely one aspect. 

Localisation includes translation but goes further to incorporate cultural adaptation. This means considering local idioms, customs, societal norms, and even legal requirements, ensuring the eCommerce experience feels natural and intuitive to the target audience.

For example, a simple translation of your eCommerce site might not account for local humour, idioms, or cultural references, some of which could even be unintentionally offensive and risk harming your reputation. 

Localization, on the other hand, tailors these elements to resonate with the local market effectively, fostering a deeper connection with potential customers.


Why is localisation important?

The best aspect of investing your time and resources in eCommerce localisation is that it allows your business to effectively reach and communicate with customers in different geographical locations, boosting brand awareness and reputation in these new markets. 

There are a few ways to think of this.

Firstly, by engaging with these markets at all means, you can tap into places your competitor's may not have even considered. After all, less than 15% of the world speaks English, meaning a massive 85% of the global population out there could love what your business has to offer.

However, that's just the beginning.

You could just put all your content into Google Translate and hope for the best, but again, this risks incorrectly translated content that'll push away potential customers and could even damage your reputation as a reputable business.

Instead, actually taking the time to localise everything properly, this process shows respect for your customer's culture and local language, making them feel valued and increasing their likelihood to engage with your brand.

All of this comes together to improve the overall user experience of your website, leading to higher customer satisfaction rates, increased conversion rates, and, ultimately, more revenue. 

Long story short, localisation is a necessary step for any eCommerce business aiming to expand globally and thrive in the international market.


The Challenges of eCommerce Localisation

Transitioning your eCommerce business to a global platform can be exciting, but it also comes with a unique set of challenges. With awareness of these challenges, you can not only set out to avoid them but can address them there and then without them costing you time, money, and other important resources.

This is the best way to ensure your localisation process is as smooth and as productive as possible.

Addressing Language Barriers

Although English is widely used on the internet, it's important to remember that it's not the native language for many online shoppers, and it's only because you spent time in the English-speaking part of the Internet that it seems this way.

And just like it would be a challenge for you to navigate a Japanese website, non-English speakers find it difficult to navigate your eCommerce store.

Translating your site content from your own language into your customer's native language is a significant first step, but accurate website translation alone is not enough.

You need to ensure that your content captures and maintains the original tone, style, and context to effectively engage your audience in a way that they not only understand but resonate with on a deeper level, just like your existing content should with native English speakers.

Understanding Cultural Nuances 

Cultural differences are another challenge in eCommerce localization. 

What works in one culture may not necessarily resonate with another. For instance, colour symbolism varies widely across cultures. 

In Western societies, white often symbolises purity and innocence, whereas, in some Eastern cultures, it's associated with mourning and death. 

Understanding these cultural nuances is crucial in designing a localized eCommerce experience that resonates with your target audience.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

Each country has its own set of laws and regulations regarding eCommerce, and your business needs to ensure you comply with these rules to avoid penalties and maintain your reputation. 

This could involve adapting your privacy policy, adjusting shipping and return policies, or complying with local data storage requirements. 

All part of the localisation process.


How to Get Started on Your eCommerce Localization Journey

So, with the benefits and challenges of eCommerce localisation clear, it's time to start thinking about how you can approach this seemingly mammoth task. 

Surely it can't be a case of changing every single piece of content you have into every single one of the 6,500+ languages the Earth is home to? Do you know how much time and money it would cost to go on such a venture?

Of course, you don't need to be that extreme. The best approach is to start simple, start with what you know, and then work on expanding your business by reinvesting in yourself and your localisation efforts over time.

This process may last years, but let's take things one step at a time. Here's a complete lowdown on the best steps to kickstart your eCommerce localisation journey in the right way.

Step #1 - Define Your Target Market

The first step is to define your target market. 

Which countries or regions are you interested in? Which countries are interested in what you have to offer? Do you already have connections in France, for example? When you look at your analytics, are you getting a lot of hits from Germany?

The worst thing you can do here is to simply pluck a country or culture from the air and say you're going to start focusing on them. Instead, it's time to get strategic and to think about what the best market is for your business that will get the best results for the most sustainable investment.

Understanding your target market involves researching your demographics, consumer behaviour, and cultural nuances of these regions. It would also help to analyse the level of competition, international sales statistics, and market saturation in your chosen regions.

Step #2 - Understand Local Laws, Culture, and Regulations

Once you've identified your target markets, the next step is to familiarise yourself with the local laws and regulations in those regions. This includes understanding import/export laws, tax regulations, data protection laws, and any other regulations relevant to your business.

After all, you don't want to spend a ton of time localising all your content only to realise you've missed something super important, and you need to start from square one. 

Get everything you need to know in mind first so you know what it is you need to do and to hit what standard.

Step #3 - Localise Your eCommerce Website

Armed with everything you need to know, now it's time to start the localisation process.

The most mammoth task here is localising and translating your content. It will include everything from blog posts and web page content to your product descriptions and social media posts. Everything on your online store that people may interact and engage with.

You can either do this yourself or within your team if you're fluent enough in a language, or you can hire translators to help.

The best and most accurate way to approach this is using a professional localisation service, like Wolfestone, who can handle everything on your behalf, using their decades of experience to ensure the job is done correctly and you have nothing else to worry about.

As discussed earlier, this is more than just literal translation - you also need to consider local cultural nuances and adapt your content accordingly. Working with a professional localization service can help ensure your content resonates with your international customers.

You'll also want to ensure your website can take local payment options from the countries you're operating in, is secure to the legal standards (also check data privacy laws in that country), and is accessible in general.

You may also need to translate your product material, including the labels, packaging, manuals, and internal product documentation!

Step #4 - Set Up International SEO 

While there's no doubt the localisation process will take some time, you must simultaneously start working on your international search engine optimization to ensure your website is getting picked up in the countries you want to operate in.

This includes conducting keyword and market research to ensure your content reflects what people are searching for in other countries, setting up ad accounts, and finding other eCommerce sites you can potentially connect with for backlinks.

You'll also need to set up a localised URL structure and use "hreflang" tags to signal the language and geographical targeting of your pages to search engines.

Step #5 - Adapt Your Marketing Strategy

Quite simply, your marketing strategy will need to be adapted for each target market. This can involve using local influencers, adapting your social media strategy to local platforms, and creating culturally relevant marketing campaigns.

Step #6 - Localise Customer Service

As you start to onboard new customers, you'll start getting new queries and customer requests from said countries, and you need to ensure your customer service team is on-hand and ready to handle this new workflow.

Quite simply, this means remembering to localise your customer service. This includes offering customer support in the local language and understanding local customer expectations and behaviours.

Step #7 - Monitor and Adapt

And finally, take the time to monitor the performance of your localized website and marketing campaigns and be ready to adapt your strategies based on your findings. 

The world of international eCommerce is constantly changing, and staying flexible and adaptable is key to success.


The Power of AI in eCommerce Localisation

As a business, you must keep up to date with the latest advancements in technologies, services, and strategies, ensuring you can keep up with the market trends and your competitor's movements and stay relevant in this ever-changing landscape.

And, of course, AI is dominating the airwaves as of late.

You've probably heard about the power of AI technology, especially when it comes to conducting business efforts, and may be wondering if it can help with the translation process, whether that comes in the form of saving you money, helping you carry out the localisation process faster, or both.

While it's true that this groundbreaking AI translation technology can help, there are certainly some considerations you need to be aware of.

Enhanced Translation Accuracy

Modern AI-powered translation tools can translate content with impressive accuracy. They use machine learning algorithms to continuously learn and improve from their mistakes, leading to increasingly accurate translations over time.

However, the process is not error-free, and there are still instances where AI is getting it wrong. What's more, AI can't understand context or cultural differences. Models like GPT are simply word prediction models that work insanely fast. Therefore, context is not even on the radar.

Currently, the best approach is to use AI translation to carry out the bulk of the work and then have it looked over, edited, and refined using an expert.

Streamlined Compliance

If a new law or regulation was stated in 2022 or beyond, this won't be in GPT's dataset and won't be reflected in your content. Again, it's important for an expert to guarantee the authenticity of the results.

With those two points in mind, it should be clear that while AI cannot replace the human touch in understanding cultural nuances and local regulations fully, it's an invaluable tool in the localisation process. 

It can handle bulk translations, identify patterns, provide insights, and ultimately save businesses valuable time and resources, and it's well worth looking into as a way to enhance your localisation journey.


Future of eCommerce Localisation

AI technology is evolving rapidly, and with it, so is the future of eCommerce localisation. As machine learning algorithms become more advanced, we can expect AI tools to provide even more accurate translations and better understand local cultural nuances.

Furthermore, with advancements in natural language processing, AI might even be able to automatically adapt marketing messages to better suit local audiences.

While it's impossible to predict the exact future of eCommerce localization, one thing is certain: AI will continue to play a significant role. Businesses that successfully leverage these technologies will be better positioned to offer a localised shopping experience, engage international audiences effectively, and stay competitive in the global market.

Taking these steps can help you lay a solid foundation for your eCommerce localization journey. 

Remember, the goal is not to simply sell your products in a new local market but to create a localized shopping experience that resonates with your international online shoppers. With the right strategy and a combination of human expertise and AI technology, this is undoubtedly achievable.

Final Thoughts: Taking Your eCommerce Business Global

Entering the international eCommerce space is not without its challenges. However, with a well-thought-out localisation strategy and a blend of human expertise and advanced AI technologies, you can successfully navigate these complexities. 

The key is to not only translate your content but also to deeply understand your international customers' cultural nuances, preferences, and behaviours.

Localising your eCommerce business is a significant commitment, but the potential rewards are immense. Tapping into new markets can fuel your business growth, diversify your customer base, and increase your global visibility.

Remember that localisation isn't a one-size-fits-all approach - it needs to be tailored to each specific market you're targeting. And while AI has indeed revolutionised many aspects of business, when it comes to localization, a hybrid model that leverages both technology and human expertise can provide the best results.

Ready to localise your eCommerce business?

If you're ready to expand your eCommerce business internationally, we at Wolfestone are here to help. 

We offer expert localisation and translation services that consider every detail, from cultural sensitivities to local regulations. Together, we can bridge the language gap and connect your brand to your global audience. 

Get in touch with us today, and let's take your eCommerce business to the next level.