How to ensure language quality in e-commerce?Anna Żbikowska
Why shouldn’t you dismiss linguistic quality in e-commerce as insignificant? Because everything you post on your website speaks volumes about your brand. And by everything we mean EVERYTHING – from banner texts and UI strings to subject-matter content.
So… What if you run an international business and need content in a language that you can’t make head or tail of? How can you be sure that a given linguistic agency will deliver a high-quality translation? Is mere translation even enough when it comes to language quality in e-commerce? What are the red flags to watch out for and how to make sure the linguistic layer of your website is of superior quality? We’ve prepared a couple of tips.
What does linguistic service assessment involve?
You turn to professionals from a linguistic agency and ask them to estimate how much it will cost to translate your website content. You receive the quote and… your eyes nearly pop out of your head. Then, you smoothly proceed to look for a cheaper solution. Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you have probably been involved in several cooperation ventures that didn’t end too well. Before we explain the reasons for those failures, we need to debunk a handful of myths.
Myth 1: Translation consists in substituting words in one language for words in another language.
If that was true, machines would have already taken over translation services, and let’s be honest – we all know what kind of linguistic pranks translation engines can play. First and foremost, translation is an attempt to project a wealth of experience from one culture onto another. Obviously, the whole process involves following rules of the target language, which – more often than not – forces translators to tinker with word order or the entire sentence structure as such. This approach guarantees that the text remains user-friendly – no matter the version.
Entrust your content to professionals who adopt a holistic approach to translation – they understand the recipient through and through, and are more than able to adjust the style to specific needs and mindsets.
Myth 2: Translation alone will do the job.
Wrong. The truth is that preparing a high-quality language version is a longer and more complex process. Before a translator even begins their core work, they have to learn – a lot – about the service or product the source text describes. This entails in-depth research on the brand as such, as well as on its voice and respective target groups. At this stage, a lot depends on you, the commissioner – preparing a detailed brief for the linguist might prove immensely helpful in bringing about the desired effect. You need to bear in mind that each market is governed by its own rules, which means, for example, that there’s a need for separate key-word analyses. Key words determine how much your website ‘clicks’ with Google’s algorithms and, by extension, how high your listing appears in search results. If you’re entering an entirely new market and don’t know which SEO processes might prove the most effective, let us know. We’ll be happy to give you some advice.
Once the translation of website content is ready, it is subject to editing and proofreading. Why? To err is human, and each text needs a fresh pair of eyes to reach its full potential. Before you decide to sign a contract with a chosen agency, make sure it also provides editing and proofreading. Forgoing these two additional services may sound pretty tempting – after all, it would reduce the overall cost – but in the long run, it might backfire and bring more harm than good.
When should linguistic quality in e-commerce raise doubts?
What can help you identify the most glaring red flags is a careful data analysis. In 2019, PayU carried out a survey on why customers forgo shopping in foreign markets.
Among thirteen listed reasons, as many as nine are related to localisation. How is it possible? Let’s skip three factors, as they seem to have little to do with localisation as such: shipping cost, customs duty and shipping time. The fourth factor, i.e., ‘I prefer to buy local products’, is a slightly more complex one – a skilful adaptation can make the customer feel as if they were buying a local product, but we mustn’t go overboard with it as to not mislead the buying party.
We’re left with nine reasons.
- I don’t trust the site’s security
- Currency translation increases the cost
- I don’t trust cross-border retailers
- The website is not in my native language
- I can’t estimate the final tax and duty costs
- I can’t find the product I want to buy
- My preferred payment methods are not available
- The retailer didn’t accept my currency
- I’d like to consult the customer service
As many as three points from the above list are directly related to the linguistic quality of a website.
The website is not in my native language
Irrespective of the service you choose for your website – be it translation, adaptation or transcreation – the content must be rendered in your target group’s mother tongue. And it’s not only because many people don’t know (or don’t know well enough) foreign languages. According to Unabel’s survey carried out in 2021, approximately 66% of respondents consider receiving services in their native language to be crucial.
I can’t find the product I want to buy
There are several possible scenarios that can shed some light on the issue. The website might have been left untranslated. Or it might have been translated – and correctly so – but the process didn’t involve an in-depth analysis of tags and key words (and, by extension, their localisation). Example: A Polish clothing company that sells lower-body garments wants to enter the American market. Its employees describe their products as ‘pants’. Next, they proceed to expand to the British market – but there, customers look for ‘trousers’. Unfortunately, there are no “trousers” on the website – only “pants”. Let’s remember that SEO is something much more than just ensuring a high position in Google search results. It’s a complex process of website optimisation that also includes custom search tools – and their efficiency depends heavily on what descriptions and key phrases you provide.
I’d like to consult customer service
As many as 66% respondents declare that they would use services of a different brand than the one initially chosen if it offered customer service in their native language. Multilingual telephone customer service is astronomically expensive and – most probably – barely profitable. Providing customer service via email is much more beneficial – both queries and answers can be translated. In such cases, however, customers need to be informed not only about the procedure itself, but also about the estimated response time. Chatbots are yet another attractive option, as they – if properly programmed – can solve a lion’s share of problems that customers confront on a regular basis.
And last but not least, we can rely on customer self-service – meaning that we can provide customers from all over the world with high-quality support articles and visuals in their native language.
What is more, it’s definitely worthwhile to conduct regular audits of all language versions available on the website and to analyse conversion rates. It may turn out that for some markets the number of queries or website visitors is significantly lower. Sometimes, the root of the problem lies not in business management, but on the linguistic side of things. It could be that:
- chosen key phrases are far from being the best possible, and the website is ranked very low in search results;
- the translation of website description (i.e., meta description) or category names is incorrect and discourages customers right off the bat.
The reasons behind the failure can be diverse – and multiple. To identify any shortcomings, analyse your competition’s portals and compare the results with the outcomes of the audit of your own website.
Expert’s tip: Do you use Google Analytics to measure your efficiency? Pay attention to the bounce rate – it shows the number of recipients that left your website without taking any action. Such a behaviour can stem from linguistic issues, but technical problems might be at fault too (e.g. slow page loading or an unintuitive design).
How to prevent low linguistic quality of content?
I’ll quote a rule that applies chiefly to driving: ‘Always follow the principle of limited trust.’ You want to enter new markets. You order translations of your website content into languages you can’t speak. You can’t be sure you’ll receive high-quality texts. You can, however, try to identify several important factors that testify to the agency’s professionalism.
What should you pay attention to?
- Does the agency want to discuss the project’s intricacies? Does it inquire about the context? Does it ask for reference materials? If so, it’s very likely to approach the task with due diligence.
- Does the agency want to sign a contract and try to establish rules related to error management (e.g. introducing corrections within a set time frame) or meeting deadlines (e.g. agreeing on contractual penalties for any delays)?
- If you’re entering new markets, you need the support of an agency that is experienced in key word analysis and SEO-related content optimisation. Remember that your foreign recipients might require a different approach and an entirely new marketing communication strategy.
As a customer of a linguistic agency, you can also conduct an in-house audit of the received translation and ask for any necessary changes.
If you want to avoid unnecessary stress and stop worrying if your website rivals those of your competition, opt for an experienced language agency that boasts a rich portfolio and prioritises quality. At locatheart, we know what challenges you’re facing and we can help you meet them all. We offer such services as translation and localisation of websites, as well as language audits.
Authors: Anna Żbikowska and Agnieszka Wąsowska
- PayU, ‘Sprzedaż transgraniczna w e-commerce’ (10 Jul. 2019), https://poland.payu.com/blog/sprzedaz-transgraniczna-w-e-commerce-dlaczego-warto-sprzedawac-produkty-w-innyc/, accessed 26 Nov. 2021.
- Unbabel.com, ‘Highlights: The Unbabel Global Multilingual CX Report 2021’ (25 Oct. 2021), https://resources.unbabel.com/guide/highlights-the-unbabel-global-multilingual-cx-report-2021, accessed 26 Nov. 2021.