Selling with e-commerce

How to localise your online market place

What you’ll learn

  • the difference between translation and localisation
  • the main areas that you should localise for an international audience
  • the importance of correctly mapping and categorising your products

  1. Understand the difference between translation and localisation

    Translation is simply changing content from one language to another. Localisation takes this one step further and modifies your content so it has greater appeal to your regional audience. Localisation is an important consideration even if you are selling on a marketplace that speaks the same language as your domestic market.

    Even though they speak English, the USA or Australia are as much foreign domains as any other country. Localisation for these markets will optimise your listings and potentially increase sales because customers are much more likely to buy products aimed specifically at themselves and their culture.

    Specialist e-commerce translators with good knowledge of different markets can help you localise the important aspects of your product listings to improve their visibility.

  2. Know where to target your localisation

    Search terms - make sure you understand how the local audience searches for products like yours in your local market and include localised terms and phrases in your product listings.

    Branding – Your brand or product name may not work in every country. This is particularly true with wordplay or references to local culture. At best it might be misunderstood, and at worse it could be taken the wrong way or even cause offence. Do your research when localising and make sure your brand and product names are fit for market.

    Language – make sure you are using local spellings for your product descriptions, when localising in the same language (for example: UK colour to USA color).

    Location/Seasonality – Differences in region, culture, weather and season (for example, popular sports) should be taken into consideration before expanding onto a new market.

    Measurements and sizes – In many new markets you will have to convert any measurements, weights and sizes. Even if you have a size conversion chart, you should make sure your primary sizes and measurements are those of the local market.

    Currency – To convert currency easily you can often use software provided by third parties or the marketplace you are selling on. However this can sometimes be unappealing to customers, because the final prices shown are of unfamiliar amounts (for example, a product selling in the UK for £19.99 could be shown as €23.36 when converted). It may be better to use your payment service provider for currency conversions. They will also be able to give advice on the right payment methods and may offer better exchange rates.

    Shipping and returns – Shipping rates, measurements and weights will all need to be converted, and you’ll also have to factor in and adjust for differences in time zones. Certain marketplaces require vendors to provide a local returns address. This could mean that if you want to start selling in various European countries, you’ll have to organise return locations in each of them as part of your strategy.

    Taxes - Legal and tax requirements that come with exporting goods to other countries will have to be considered. Do you have to pay tax in two countries? What are the customs requirements?

  3. Focus on localising product categories and attributes

    Online marketplaces use categories and product attributes to help customers find the products they are looking for. For example, categories could be Food and Drink, Clothing or Home and Garden, and attributes could be colour, size or price range. However, despite attempts to standardise categories across borders, there is still a great deal of variation from country to country.

    When you’re adding products to a new market, make sure you map the categories and attributes used in the UK to those used in your target market, as sometimes these can be different. Also look at the number of subcategories marketplaces are using and add your product to the correct ones. There are some online tools that can do this for you, but with inconsistent standards across platforms, you may decide to do this important process yourself.

    The main point to remember is that if you don’t ensure your products categorised and attributed correctly in your target market, they could in effect become ‘invisible’ to your customers and not appear in any search results.

Unless you have the expertise in-house, aim to find an agency with e-commerce-specialised native speakers who can provide localisation and optimisation for your content and maximise your sales potential.

International trade adviser

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