Are translations important in international e-commerce?

Updated: May 27, 2019

This  subject comes up very often when we talk to businesses planning selling abroad. Not that they can’t imagine it will improve results if the shop is translated, but will it be worth the investment?

The answer is not the same for every webshop, but the real question to ask yourself is the same for all webshops.

  • Is our webshop a safe and trustworthy shop and do visitors believe, that we are a serious player in their country?

The visitor’s experience of your webshop often determines if they will buy or not. Things that can add to a positive impression are among many other things translations. But you can also add to this experience by offering local payment methods, a local address and customer service in local language and this is why the right decision sometimes is not to translate.

So…back to the question, should you translate your webshop?

YES: If you are in competition with  translated webshops offering the same products and if you don’t have an important competitive advantage such as lower price,  free return etc. the answer would be yes. All else being equal, most costumers would go for the translated webshop.

NO: If you are one of few online resellers offering the products, if the visitors feel secure browsing your webshop and they understand enough to decide which product meets their needs without a translation, then you can have a market share without a translation.

If your competitive environment is more diverse, you should consider the following questions:

  • How much money does a product bring in?

  • What is the average translation price per product?

  • Do you have a small group of products bringing in the main part of your revenue?

  • Do you have a group of products generating traffic or requiring a deeper and/or more technical description?

  • Are there important local marketing channels and do they require local language?

  • Do you expect to be able to attract SEO traffic (the more competitive industry, the less organic traffic can be expected)?

Knowing the answers to these questions you can start calculating the needed increase in volume of a product to justify the translation. You can also consider to start translating a group of products. Pick a group that you expect will be searched most for in the local language to attract organic traffic and use the same products in a Google shopping feed (in general foreign languages in Google shopping feeds is in general not accepted, and in any case not as efficient as having a translated feed).

From a SEO perspective translations are important, but the share of SEO traffic in most webshops is decreasing and SEO work should be considered a long term investment. We don’t often see SEO traffic alone justify a translation.

Where to start?

  1. Find your top 5 online competitors in the country you consider

  2. Compare their webshops with your own webshop on the “safe and secure shopping experience”

  3. Make a list of things you could do to to improve your webshops “safe and secure shopping experience”

  4. Prioritise and get to work

MakesYouLocal can assist in this proces, from doing the actual localisation and translation task, to help find and describe the competition.