Localizing texts for eCommerce is a translator’s task
When does Localizing texts for eCommerce apply?
You’ve just started an online business in America that is booming and want to expand to a European market; then, you need localizing texts for eCommerce
What would that involve? On the surface, it may seem that all you need to do is translate the text of your website, and you’re good to go.
Yes, translation is essential when branching out into international e-commerce, but you need to go a step beyond that.
Barriers to international markets, avoidable localizing texts for eCommerce
To put things into perspective, let’s flip the scenario. Would you need localizing texts for eCommerce?
Picture yourself as an online shopper. Let’s say you’re shopping online for shoes. You finally find the perfect pair of boots you’ve searched for on a Spanish company‘s website.
You read the description: “100% pure leather, 5cm heel.” Hmm…5cm. What would that be in inches? “It doesn’t matter,” you decide.
The heel in the picture looks about right, so you move on and click on the drop-down menu to select the size. 36, 37, 38, 39…? What are those in American sizes? The boots cost 59.99 €.
You look up the current exchange rate and get your calculator out to figure out the cost in dollars. Finally, you think, “Forget it. This system looks complicated.”
That is what you don’t want to happen if you’re the owner of that company.
Yes, the content was translated into the target language, but, culturally speaking, we run into some barriers here.
Some elements were neglected: measurements, sizes, and currency.
An international customer does not easily understand this content.
This situation is where localization comes to the rescue.
What exactly is localization?
While “translation“ and “localization“ are terms we sometimes use interchangeably, localization takes translation one step further.
It tailors a product or e-commerce website to the target culture, ensuring that the content is easily understandable to the customer.
We use localization to bridge cultural gaps to make a foreign website virtually indistinguishable from a local one.
If executed correctly, this strategy should make a customer in Spain as comfortable shopping on your American-based company website as they would be shopping on a Spanish-based company website.
Localizing texts for eCommerce strategies
Localization for e-commerce is multifaceted and involves both linguistic and visual elements.
You not only have to take a look at the text of your website but also consider how culturally appropriate it is in the target country.
Let’s start with the linguistic aspect, perhaps the most visible.
Suppose you are marketing your American company in England. At first glance, you might think that there is no need to translate your website since the target language is still English, and you would be partially correct. Yes, the word is the same, but cultural differences would call for slight variations in spelling and vocabulary.
For example, in this case, localization might involve changing the spelling of “organization” to “organisation” and swapping the term “pants” for “trousers.” Yes, a Brit would still be able to understand American English, but these small changes would make the customer feel much more at home and more likely to buy your products.
The dilemma of idioms for an eCommerce
Peeling back the layers of language even further, we come across the dilemma of idioms.
The writing puns you included in the text of your website may not translate easily to other languages, so you must find a highly qualified translator who is well-acquainted with both:
- the source and target languages
- as well as the cultures
An American-raised translator who has lived ten years in Madrid, for example, might be the right candidate if you’re looking to expand to Spain. Someone like this would understand the nuances of both languages and cultures sufficiently to identify equivalent idioms that don’t translate word-for-word.
Digging even deeper, you need to consider the images and marketing strategies you use on our website.
Since this layer is not linguistic, it would be invisible to someone who is strictly a translator.
Still, the images and tactics you use also affect how your website is culturally appropriate.
For instance, incorporating individualism as a theme in your slogan might be a hit in Western cultures but could be off-putting in more collectivist, Eastern cultures.
Likewise, you need to ensure that the images you post on your eCommerce website are not offensive to the target culture.
Top international eCommerce companies
Among the top international e-commerce companies out there, we find Google, eBay, Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook.
Analyze how these international powerhouses have used localization, apply those same tactics, and watch your business grow.
Amazon is reported to have the highest revenue worldwide, and it started as a small online bookstore.
Who’s to say your company can’t take off the same way?
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