Talk the Talk by Localizing Your E-Commerce Site

Go beyond language translation and create truly localized e-commerce experiences.

In every corner of the globe, customers expect high-value, highly localized e-commerce experiences. No matter where you’re anchored, you’re no doubt elbow-deep in the Experience Era — where retailers compete on experiences first.

To excel, retailers need to deliver on often sky-high customer expectations, creating authentic, high-value customer touchpoints. When that involves a global audience, authenticity has an additional layer — customers want to feel like they’re standing on their turf, speaking their language, and trading in their currency. Anything short of that falls short in meeting basic customer expectations and could mean you’re leaving conversions on the table.

The rising demand for localized e-commerce experiences

As global commerce and shipping expand, the demand for multilingual, localized engagement and support will only grow in importance. In a recent study from W3Tech, more than half of the top 10 million websites online consider English their primary content language — yet just 20% of the world’s population speaks English. Even then, it’s considered a secondary language to many.

In other words, if you have a website with a global audience, there’s a good chance your website isn’t speaking their language. This is especially true — and especially challenging — in multilingual territories like Quebec, Switzerland, Singapore, and India, where multiple languages are spoken. Also critical — domestic territories with high immigrant or temporary populations. Miss the mark from a language and localization perspective and the customer journey starts off on the wrong foot.

Multilingual sites are a start

To support global customers, some e-commerce businesses have turned to translation APIs to reach international customers. However, today’s global customers demand highly personalized and authentic experiences, which require a different level of translation.

It’s OK to start relatively small by tackling unstructured content such as landing pages, homepages, offers, banners, and other marketing materials first. The finite number of these assets — hundreds of landing pages as opposed to thousands of items in a product catalog, for example — makes this an attainable goal that will gain a quick win for marketing teams. It may also lead to proof of concept when making a business case for investing in your entire site.

A second step is to work with IT counterparts to adapt browser settings that enable geolocation detection to automatically detect a shopper’s language preference (but also include a clear “change language” navigation tool in both the header and footer of every webpage). These simple elements let shoppers easily change the language back to the site default if preferred, giving them the power to choose the language they are most comfortable with to complete their order.****

While automatic location detection is a nice way to give customers language options, it’s just the start. To be truly successful on a global scale, enterprises must make considerations not just for language but also for payment options, localized addresses, shipping times, rates, and taxes.

Localize your site for a global experience

Think, for example, about the vast differences in payment and shipping options across the globe. The U.S. market is dominated by credit cards but the same doesn’t hold true for many European countries, according to Statista, where debit cards, online payment systems, and invoices account for the majority of payment methods online. Similarly, Asian markets rely heavily on digital payment systems such as Alipay and WeChat Pay.

Brands doing business cross-border also need to make considerations for taxes and duties so orders can be processed in a compliant fashion. For example, there are e-commerce solutions that build in shipping options such as prepayment, customs, taxes, and duties upfront — a legal obligation with international trade agreements.

To save time and resources, many e-commerce brands opt to integrate digital marketing platforms with localized payment gateways, either built-in or third-party gateways. This enables brands to use locally preferred methods to collect payments for a more authentic and seamless customer experience.

Mitigate the risk of fraud without losing customers

Beyond that, online retailers must consider global fraud and related risks. Eighty-four percent of businesses say if they were certain about the identity of a customer, they could better mitigate risk. Further, respondents agreed any existing fraud reduction measures were the product of reactive rather than proactive initiatives.

This is where innovative brands can truly stand out from the crowd. Every global enterprise must be prepared to analyze risk for current and potential customers abroad. This level of fraud management involves forensics and data science to weed out high-risk orders based on IP addresses and purchase patterns and history, making it easier to differentiate between expats placing orders in a foreign country and scammers seeking their next score.

Developing risk profiles is the ultimate proactive step toward international fraud protection. The objective here is to do fraud profiling after products are ordered but before products are shipped, because once that happens preventing fraudulent orders becomes more difficult. It’s also a good idea to have mechanisms in place for valid customer orders that are unintentionally rejected. Something as simple as a customer follow-up form that allows them to confirm they are trying to place a legitimate order can lead to more orders and revenue coming from customers who would have previously been turned away.

In the Experience Era, giving customers around the world an excellent e-commerce experience requires not only the tools they need to navigate your site comfortably, but also all the localizations to ensure they can check out and receive shipment in a timely fashion. Producing this kind of experience will be an integral part of expanding your brand into highly competitive global markets. Fully localizing your e-commerce experience will ensure you speak your customers’ language no matter where they are.

Peter Sheldon is senior director of strategy for Adobe Commerce Cloud — a comprehensive set of services designed to help e-commerce brands get to market faster, grow globally, and engage shoppers at every moment — in any language.