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Utilize Multilingual Capabilities for Global eCommerce

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International eCommerce is a pivotal aid for driving business expansion beyond borders in the 21st century. The core challenge with optimal international eCommerce implementation is relevant formatting and content generation for each particular region served by the application. From a logistical perspective, it may be difficult to take advantage of multiple language capabilities; being able to constantly update, revise and cater the multilingual facets of your eCommerce can be a daunting task.

To achieve a unified result across your international eCommerce operation, a fundamental requirement is the ability to efficiently manage the related workflow and approval processes. This ensures that your selected languages are constantly updated, and the content is translated accurately. Another aspect to consider is maintaining a reasonable flow of information for all of the different international locations or regions where the international site operates.

Because of the heavy logistical challenge tied to this practice, a number of international eCommerce businesses won’t actively pursue a high-quality level of implementation for multilingual capabilities. The outcome tends to be market domination by local eCommerce platforms, until a competitor enters with a high enough resource capability and overall input into the particular region or locale.

This phenomenon is actually quite reasonable, especially when examined from a customer’s point of view. In general, whenever someone visits a site, they expect a naturally flowing experience that’s relevant to their respective language and culture. Only on occasions where users really don’t have another option will they settle with an eCommerce platform that doesn't match the aforementioned criteria. Most customers will then turn to whatever solution is functional, in spite of not making much sense culturally or linguistically.

Another thing to keep in mind is how the multilingual aspect of international eCommerce is ruled by the law of diminishing returns. In other words, a business must determine how competitive they need to be in each particular market, because at some point the marginal gain won’t be worth the extra investment. However, in order to really make an impact on most of the really well-developed markets, an eCommerce application will have to be highly competitive and quite deeply invested. An exception to this rule would be a very specific and catered market, where less investment could achieve a lot of traction in the international arena.

Discover Your Business Needs

Evaluating the Available Multilingual Solutions

The most suitable option for your eCommerce application and the extent you will choose to apply it depend on a number of factors. What typically makes the most sense is to employ a crawl, walk or run approach, according to each particular region. To support a basic to medium strategy, some satisfactory translation engines like Google Translate can be turned on for a very low cost. Of course, the results will not be the same as careful translation by a human who really understands the nuances of the dialect and the context for those translations.

Despite this, enabling a simple tool like Google Translate or similar budget option is actually very effective for functionality. Admittedly, it's not perfect and generally won’t be more competitive than a well-entrenched local eCommerce platform. But that off-the-shelf translation engine will allow for a low cost, yet functional, implementation of international eCommerce with multilingual capabilities.

It’s an observable reality that most markets are constantly engaged in a commercial battle to overtake competition, and generally provide more value within that particular market or region. By extension, it’s important for the multilingual capability to be able to scale into a more robust offering, even if you choose to start out with Google Translate (or equivalent) for the majority of countries.

Incorporating Industry Best Practices

Prioritizing the Translation of Content Elements

For an international eCommerce application, the first logical capacity is the ability to do things like translate all of the labels, static texts, maybe the menus and even some of the product information. Perhaps it won’t be deemed necessary to translate literally every speck of content on the site. You might rather leverage an API to translate the majority of the content, without the user having to use Google Translate, so that they would get more of a seamless experience. Actual human translation may only be used for the standard calls to action, the buttons and some of the key application components. Those require a high degree of adherence to each language, dialect and local context within the international eCommerce platform.

The main idea is that you go after the most critical pieces of the translations, where users are going to get the most traction. But you deliberately choose not to do all of the “more detailed”, possibly low payoff, translation work for everything else. Instead, you opt to phase from a Google Translate type of implementation, where the user is interacting with a relatively clunky but technically functional translation, to a far superior standard of translation for key items. The following are examples of content types that could be translated professionally:

  • Buttons
  • Calls to action (CTA)
  • Menus
  • Titles
  • Important pieces of product and category data

The remaining content, such as the text within product descriptions, could be lengthy and difficult to constantly translate as new products come in. This kind of content can just pass through an API for either Google Translate or an alternative mechanism, which repeats the process every time a product gets modified.

After passing through the API, the content gets automatically updated for each language. There’s no human involved, so nobody is specifically looking at all of the nuances for that language, dialect or region. But the outcome is still functional in respect to the detailed content and also very high fidelity within the buttons, calls to action, labels, tool tips, etc.

As mentioned before, a lot of the product data itself could be manually translated as well, like the product titles. Such practice has potential to get very far because a lot of people are simply going to look at the imagery. A large percentage of users view some of the title information, and then they quickly skim through the content; they're not necessarily reading it in detail. From a multilingual capability aspect, manually translating key elements that don't cost nearly as much as doing everything can make the platform much more competitive.

Most Advanced Approach

First Class Option for Multilingual eCommerce

The most advanced approach is a full-on set of translations as part of a complete multilingual implementation. Additionally, there must be workflows for that content, the ability to essentially assign or potentially distribute the workload, and then be able to have an approval process to control how content is published and made available on the site.

Another possibility would be to set up a way of leveraging external standardized ways of translation. A common approach is using resource files or import/export templates that follow industry best practices for translations, which are then utilized to import the content back into the application. So, you export content for a third-party company to perform the translations and then import data back into your system.

As the international eCommerce application grows while your business continues to thrive and flourish, we would recommend the assembly of a direct translation team that would be responsible internally. That is usually the most effective choice in the long run, ensuring the utmost fidelity in terms of content quality.

The goal is a really robust workflow, involving a detailed publishing and approval process with distributed workload across the different regions and languages. On top of this, it’s also beneficial to consider the desired type of branding and cultural expectations within each region. Many cultures are diverse and perceive different kinds of branding, presentation and styling as more or less attractive. As a result, it's vital to factor this in with a complete multilingual implementation.

How Can Clarity Help

Clarity International eCommerce Experts

We certainly encourage you to spend some time exploring our site and discover detailed topics related to the deeply faceted multilingual capabilities of international eCommerce. Some of the articles below offer additional resources and more thorough presentations of multiple related aspects. We also encourage you to reach out to our team of friendly and knowledgeable experts. Our specialized staff will be happy to provide a complimentary discussion and consultation about any upcoming adjustments or new project work that you wish to undertake for your international eCommerce application.

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