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Optimize Your eCommerce Translation Budget and Cover More Markets

Most ecommerce buyers prefer to purchase in their own language. Not a revolutionary concept, right?

But there’s a way to target your ecommerce website translations smartly so that you preserve precious translation dollars while covering more countries than you may have thought possible. This article will explain how.

(Note: As background, we covered the lead-up to this article in a related post on international engagement.)

According to a Common Sense Advisory study of 3,002 ecommerce buyers across 10 non-English speaking countries, 60% buy on English language sites “never or rarely,” while another 28% buy only “some things in English.” That’s as many as 88% of non-English speaking buyers who prefer to shop in their native language.

Want more proof? CSA found that 73% of Japanese ecommerce buyers preferred buying from sites that were in their native tongue. 61% of French purchasers felt the same, as did 58% of Germans and 54% of Chinese.

Accepting that native language content is arguably the ideal strategy in any foreign language market, it may not always be affordable. We get that. 

“Respondents were 74% more likely to purchase the same brand again if the after-sales care is in their own language.”

And having to drop an important country from translation consideration because of cost means you may have to choose between France versus Germany or China versus Japan where your ecommerce website content will appear in all-English. Not a preferred choice.

The good news: Common Sense Advisory has identified key areas of ecommerce web content where you can best target your translation dollars with a hybrid strategy, and afford to cover more countries in the process.

Here’s what they found:

• For similar products, 75% of respondents prefer to purchase from sites that have product information in native language. Product information was associated with pre-sales decision making.

• For post-sales support, 51% buy only from sites with the user instructions or owner’s manual in native language.

• Prospects expect product information in their own language during the decision-making process although they are more accepting of post-sales support materials in English because these are thought to be needed only if there is a problem.

An examination of the effect of brand awareness produced interesting findings as well:

• 66% of respondents would prefer to purchase from a global brand with a good reputation (even if not all content is in native language) over a little-known local brand. However, this interest drops off significantly as respondents’ English language skills decline.

• The brands which are best positioned to capitalize on this phenomena are well-known consumer brands whose products need little instruction related to how they should be consumed. Examples include apparel, personal care products, electronics, food, etc.

• Brands who should strongly consider translating their content are those that are less-known in foreign markets or those serving business-to-business markets, technical and medical fields, or other complex areas.

In relation to repeat or follow-on sales, the CSA report had some of its most important insights:

• Respondents were 74% more likely to purchase the same brand again if the after-sales care is in their own language.

• This was true across all levels of English proficiency, and particularly relevant for industries that rely on recurring sales or where the lifetime value is higher than the return from a first sale.

• Translating product manuals and user guides is far less expensive than staffing call centers in multiple languages – particularly in high-wage markets such as Germany or Japan.

The main takeaway is that you don’t need to translate everything to be successful with your ecommerce in foreign markets. But by targeting your translation dollars to key stages of the customer journey, you can afford to cover more markets than you may have thought.

Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: How Translation Affects the Web Customer Experience and E-Commerce Growth was written by Donald A. DePalma, Vijayalaxmi Hegde, and Robert G. Stewart, February 2014, published by Common Sense Advisory.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Linguistic Systems has delivered high-quality translations in 120+ languages for 50 years. Trust us with your next translation project.