E-commerce translation – a knowledge baseMikołaj Gołębiewski
Both the 20th and the 21st century have brought social and technological developments that have thoroughly changed the landscape of society, media, culture and business. The translation industry is no exception – thanks to the advent of cinema, television and Internet, whole new types of translation emerged, among which we can list audiovisual translation, video game localization and e-commerce translation. In today’s article, we would like to provide you with a certain knowledge base regarding the latter type.
E-commerce translation as a whole involves taking e-commerce content originally prepared in a source language and rendering it into the target language(s). Such content includes corporate websites, e-stores, marketing texts, product descriptions, category descriptions, adverts and user interface for e-commerce platforms.
What exactly is e-commerce translation?
In basic terms, e-commerce translation pertains to linguistic aspects of all that we associate with e-commerce. In the modern, globalized world selling platforms are becoming more and more international, as focusing on one market is an unnecessary restraint. Even the widely known Polish auction platform Allegro has introduced an English, Czech and Ukrainian interface.
Entrepreneurs know well that by giving consumers the opportunity to shop in their own language they significantly increase their selling potential. Even among nations such as Swedes, where the vast majority of the population speaks the current lingua franca – English – a large and important percentage still prefers to buy online on platforms that are translated into their language.
This includes not only the website as such but also product titles and their descriptions. Unfortunately, they’re often just machine translated which is no justifiable solution. Proper e-commerce translation entails using the services of a professional translator who is knowledgeable in the ins and outs of the market.
E-commerce translation, then, is related to the localization of the following:
- content of corporate websites;
- content of e-stores and online selling platforms, including:
- product titles,
- product descriptions,
- category titles,
- category descriptions,
- legal content and customer self-service,
- adverts, including graphics;
- keywords, involving the use of international SEO.
Let us take a look at the elements above in more detail.
Any company that wishes to go truly international needs to have at least two language versions of its website – the original one and English (save for firms based in the UK and the US, of course). Still, the more the better, as long as the additional versions aren’t translated poorly and don’t scare potential customers away.
The most obvious reason for entering a new market is the access to a huge group of new leads. While it’s certainly common for Internet users to order goods from companies that only have a basic, single-language website (since, for example, their prices are competitive or their offer is appealing), the impact of allowing shop-goers to browse the information about you in their own language is huge.
According to a survey conducted by Common Sense Advisory, almost three-quarters of consumers spend most or all of the time online on sites in their own language. A similar number reported being more likely to buy a product if information about it is available in their mother tongue. For about half of them, it is even more important than the price.
In general, it’s a good idea to translate more or less the whole content of a website, with the exception of tabs or texts that strictly concern an individual country or market. Still, in such cases it is advisable to localize such piece of content as well – which means adjusting it to another locale by large-scale rewriting.
Given that different texts may belong to various categories (such as marketing, technical or legal), there are theoretically two approaches to the endeavor of translating a website – we can either subcontract several translators, each specializing in one subject matter, or contact a translation agency which has at its disposal a team of linguists.
As far as logistics of the translation task are concerned, one huge challenge is exporting the content to be translated and then importing it back as a separate language version. While all this can be done manually, it is way more convenient to use dedicated software. As a large fraction of websites utilizes WordPress, we have prepared a guide helping to discern which WordPress translation plugin to choose.
Online store translation
A special kind of website translation is the localization of online stores. They may be both individual shops located on a company’s website and stores’ accounts on selling platforms, such as Amazon or Allegro.
Arguments for translating your online store are basically the same as is the case with website translation. Reaching new customers and inviting them to interact with us in their own language is a huge business advantage – remember, though, that it won’t bring you immediate profit by and in itself.
Still, probably every person that has their own store is at times a buyer themselves, shopping for various goods online. It only follows that providing our clients with the opportunities that we ourselves like to have is a reasonable step in broadening one’s reach.
The most common elements that usually undergo translation in the case of webstores are:
This umbrella term encompasses, among others, buttons, prompts, cart content and payment messages. All are important for a solid user experience but perhaps the most vital of them is correct localization of payment prompts.
If a customer encounters a payment page that is riddled with typos or grammar errors, they may be well justified in suspecting fraud. Needless to say, this would drastically tarnish the store’s reputation.
Naturally, the above only applies to a company’s own shop on a dedicated website. If we’re making use of a selling platform, all this is taken care of by its owner.
Arguably the most important element which decides whether your customers are able to find your offer. It should be clear and informative, containing all the most basic attributes of the product.
Never apply keywords that don’t refer to your product, as the only thing it does is making the customer confused.
Product titles, too, should be translated by a human translator, as machine translation works in an automated manner, not taking into account context and different meanings of words. Consider the Polish title of an auction selling Among Us T-shirts:
The game’s title is translated verbatim even though normally it’s used in the original form everywhere in the world. Depending on whether we’re selling via our own e-shop or through a platform such as Amazon, rules on titles may be less or more stringent. There may also be variations of the title, such as a short or long version.
Arguably the second most important content – product description translation is perhaps even as essential as title translation. A well-written product description encourages the customer to make a purchasing decision, as well as informs them about the benefits that they will gain by owning a given thing.
Depending on the space that is allocated to a description (virtually unlimited if using one’s own website and dependent on guidelines in the case of selling platforms), it can be enriched with graphics, quotes or bullet lists (the latter being very common).
They should cover all types of products offered by a store and be precise. Once again, given that such titles are short and used words can have several meanings, it is imperative that a specialized translator should do the required work.
While not as frequent as the above elements, it is much more advisable to provide each category with a description. Why? It greatly helps optimizing and positioning your website in search engines. Such marketing texts should be translated by experts familiar with all the rules of SEO, who know exactly what they’re doing.
It may involve emails related to special offers, newsletters, transactions or shipping. As mentioned in the section about payment pages, all communications with the customer must be linguistically correct to induce the feeling of trust on the part of our recipients.
Legal content and customer self-service
As opposed to the types of content described earlier, these texts are less marketing in nature. Among them are Privacy Policies, Terms and Conditions, rules for returns, shipping information or FAQs. It’s evident that such legally-sensitive – or otherwise highly important for the customer’s successful journey – content must be treated with utmost care and not handwaved as a minute detail.
More often than not, an online store activity is conducted with the use of specialized software, thanks to which taking care of the linguistic side of the operation is manageable. Many such programs also offer the possibility of translating content and making the store truly international. At locatheart, we have taken a look at some of the most popular choices from the perspective of a translation agency. You may find this analysis and much more in our article on translating an online store.
Anyone who has seen a failed attempt at localizing an advertisement slogan (see our article on that topic) knows that it’s not a matter of simple word-by-word translation. Like few other types of texts, ads are often so deeply embedded in a country’s cultural contexts that mindless rendition of a source language word into the target language one is rarely a viable solution.
This notwithstanding the fact that adverts often employ idioms and wordplays which by definition can’t be translated literally. In many cases the act of ad localization can be considered transcreation.
However we feel about this, adverts and commercials are a huge part of today’s interpersonal communication. Brands talk to us via ads and at a very basic level we usually get their messages. Whether or not we make a purchasing decision depends on us, but without a doubt thoughtful advertising slogans become part of a given society’s culture (most often as memes).
It suffices to mention such catchphrases as “Just Do It,” “Because You’re Worth It” or “I’m Lovin’ It.” Some are translated into local languages (L’Oréal’s Ponieważ jesteś tego warta) but the tendency is to keep them in the original (Volkswagen. Das Auto).
In the context of e-commerce, a big part of how adverts reach their audiences is by way of intermediates such as Google. Companies may bid to have their ads displayed on the Internet and in so doing need to conform to Google’s rules, for example regarding the available length of text.
Employing a professional translator – or an agency – ensures that work is done by a person who knows about the guidelines and provides content that meets all the requirements. This is equally important when it comes to the use of keywords for search engines – more on that in the following section.
International SEO – translation
Nowadays, SEO is everything. Proper keyword optimization greatly aids a company’s position in search results, giving it the much needed visibility. Enriching valuable, quality texts with relevant keywords may often be the key to success.
The title of this section is a bit exaggerated, as in fact keywords should not be directly translated – at least not blindly. While it’s useful to take the initial market’s keywords as a starting point – and perhaps even translate them for planning purposes – the only smart way of preparing a list of a target market’s keywords is by researching them.
There are tools that help find out the popularity of a given phrase in a specified location – one such piece of software is Google Keyword Planner. Only by studying the situation in a market that we wish to reach can we truly localize our set of key phrases. Then, it won’t be a one-to-one, head-to-head set that differs from the original only in terms of language, but rather a useful resource in and of itself.
At locatheart, we combine our expertise in both translation and international SEO, having helped various important clients. Particularly successful was our Amazon keyword research for an e-commerce agency, whose case study might be an interesting read.
Use e-commerce translation services and build your business online
We have already mentioned some benefits that business internationalization may bring to your company. Let us recapitulate those and more.
By using e-commerce translation services and building your business online:
- You gain access to more markets and new customers – which means more money.
- You aid your international conversion by persuading some of the thus far reluctant foreign leads.
- You gain credibility. More happy customers means more positive reviews – and so on. By going international you keep propelling your business.
- You give your brand coverage. This point expands on the previous one. If your product is recognizable internationally (by having at least the English version), you are way more likely to be seen by industry portals or periodicals. Remember: if video games such as Kingdom Come: Deliverance or S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (created, respectively, by a Czech and Ukrainian developer) weren’t marketed in English, they probably wouldn’t have been as successful.
- You bring your solutions to a wider group of recipients. Surely, what matters in commerce is sales but nonetheless the satisfaction from having your product (be it a board game or state-of-the-art vacuum cleaner) widely used in different parts of the world certainly can put a smile on your face.
The list is certainly not exhaustive. If you want to read more about the benefits of translating your business online, read our article on content translation.
What’s the ROI of translation & localization services?
If we’re talking about translation and money – or more strictly, about the profitability of the former – one of the metrics that comes to mind first is return on investment. As we spend money on localized content, we expect this action to bring us some financial benefit. So, what does the situation look like in this regard?
It’s certainly difficult to calculate the profit brought about by sharing translated content. Even the most terrific translation won’t redeem a poor product or service. For that reason, we can say that translation in itself does not generate ROI but rather is a prerequisite for achieving noticeable profit.
To learn more on how translation “activates” the potential of a business to reach new customers – as well as how no translation is an annoying obstacle – read our article on localization ROI.
What is the state of translation at your company?
Now that you know what exactly e-commerce translation consists in – and how you can benefit from it – you might wonder if it’s relevant for your business. If you’re asking yourself that question, then it probably is! In this section, we’d like to expand on the topic of what the translation process looks like from the client’s perspective.
As entering foreign markets is a huge challenge, it should be approached methodically. Therefore, we would like to encourage you to think about translation processes used at your company.
Do you need a lot of translating? Is one person responsible for translations? If there’s a whole department, does it have its own procedures? Are past translations stored in a database? Do you usually use the same service provider or does it change on a case-by-case basis? Would you prefer cooperating with an agency or a freelance linguist?
We write about these aspects in an article on our website – it’s highly informative and contains a questionnaire for a systematic review of your enterprise’s situation!
Translate your business for new markets like a pro
If you decide to leverage the power of e-commerce translation, you surely would like to know how to start – step by step.
In general, the initial step would be to select the content that needs translation. Not everything has to be localized – some parts of your website or store can very well be left in one language version because, for example, they only serve one particular audience.
Then, it would be vital to choose a language service provider (LSP). It may be either a freelance translator, or a translation agency such as locatheart. Note that in the latter case there’s no need to separately look for reviewers and/or proofreaders – agencies usually offer whole service packages.
But on what grounds should we choose a translator? As with most things in life, we should probably balance between quality and price, adjusting both to our needs and resources. Still, in matters so delicate as linguistic correctness, it pays to choose the more solid option. In order to have any idea about pricing and fees, we must also know how professional software can be leveraged to both the linguists’ and clients’ benefit.
We write about this and more – including concrete calculations – in our two-part guide on how to translate your business.
How we take care of e-commerce translation at locatheart based on the example of fashion industry
We deal with every project like with an important yet doable challenge – and working on e-commerce content is no exception. Whether it’s dietary supplements, webinars, compensation services, sports equipment, shoes or lingerie – our team includes specialists who know the ins and outs of a topic.
Fashion is a kind of industry that will always be among people’s top needs. After all, everyone wears shoes and clothes, and apart from absolutely apocalyptic scenarios, most people care about looking elegant and being chic. Therefore, investing in new markets by means of fashion translation is a safe way of increasing your company’s revenue.
If your business is in the fashion industry, you might be particularly interested in getting to know our approach to this field of localization.
We would like to emphasize that we haven’t always been the top experts in the industry. We had to assemble a team of linguists for only a fraction of current markets we now translate into. This experience has allowed us to gather the necessary know-how for searching for trustworthy collaborators. With the help of our top subcontractors, we developed demanding test tasks that verify candidates’ skills.
We always maintain a good professional relationship with our translators and editors – as trust is the basis of mutual success
Apart from an experienced team, we also benefit from the use of state-of-the-art software and databases. In the world of fashion, consistency is the key – after all, who wants to try all possible synonyms to find that perfect piece of garment? – and appropriate tools help us achieve just that. Over the years of cooperation with our clients, we have worked out numerous style guides, conventions and solutions that now govern our projects.
All this has been done for the best possible client satisfaction.
If you’d like to read more on the topic of language/translation in fashion industry, check out our article that deals with that subject in more depth.
Entering foreign markets thanks to e-commerce translation: the example of South Korean e-commerce market
After reading the previous parts of this article, you probably know all the reasons why entering new e-commerce markets is profitable for any company. You are prepared to try this endeavor in your firm and have good knowledge of where to begin and what steps to take.
However, you might still not be 100% convinced, given that we haven’t shown you all that in practical terms. It is, then, time to do just that.
In Poland and other European countries, we have been witnessing a growing interest in Korean culture, cuisine and products for quite a long time already. Still, the converse is also true – Koreans love Western goods, which have huge presence on the local market.
We may think of Korea as a small country (its area being roughly equivalent to Kentucky) but in reality, it’s a huge market waiting to be reached – let us just remind you that there are over 50 million South Koreans. Ignoring these potential customers is just like giving up on the whole of California (or even more so).
Some important facts about Korea in connection with e-commerce:
- 92% of Koreans use the Internet.
- Even among those aged 60+, the number is over 50% (in the US, it’s merely 30%).
- By 2023, 94% of Koreans will likely be using e-commerce platforms.
- 71% Korean consumers are more eager to buy a product it if has been recommended in social media.
- 86% of Korean women check online reviews before buying an item.
This does look like a market worth fighting for. Still, there are several obstacles to beat before a company may celebrate its success on Korean soil. Firstly, Koreans mostly use their own selling platforms, such as Gmarket or Coupang. Secondly, while the vast majority of Westerners use Google to search for products, Koreans mostly look for them in Naver.
Even a quick glance at the website immediately shows that marketing is done differently in Korea than in America or Europe. Therefore, it’s particularly important to have a localization partner who understands the specificity of different markets and works with linguists who are native speakers of their respective languages.
If you wish to learn more on Korean e-commerce translation, take a look at another of our articles.
Want to expand your business internationally? locatheart will help you with e-commerce translation
We have, hopefully, provided you with an exhaustive overview of e-commerce translation. We have looked at its types and applications, explained how to guarantee a great start in this area and provided some real-life examples to validate our claims. You are welcome to take a look at other articles on our blog – and knowledge base content from our website – to learn even more about translation and the linguistic industry in general. After all, is there anything so real as words?
Still, not only do we recommend taking a look at more of our content – we also invite you to contact us if you plan reaching new markets and need a trusted e-commerce translation partner!