3 Simple Steps to Localizing Your Website

4 minutes

Konnichiwa. Willkommen. Hello. Do you know what greeting to serve up to your website users? If you’re not speaking their language, you may be missing out on a considerable amount of sales.If your website is not localized, you’re not doing nearly as much as you could to engage your customers and close sales around the world. So how can you go about starting the complex process of localization? What do you need to prepare? Here are three key steps that every website localization project must consider.

Identify Your Target Market(s)

Tackling every country in the world at once can be daunting—there are over 200 countries and territories, after all. It’s better to start small with a few markets where demand is high for the products you sell. Embarking on a focused localization plan will improve your likelihood of success, and once you’ve successfully localized for these markets, you can use the lessons learned from the process to succeed in other countries as well.

To figure out where your products will get the greatest traction, you can take a look at a few pieces of information. First, look at your existing traffic and sales. If you have many existing customers or website visitors from a particular country, you may want to consider translating your website into that country’s preferred language. Second, where is your product category most popular? Our Yearly Digital Commerce Benchmark includes information about the most popular software products in different countries: services, privacy and utilities are popular in Argentina, for example, while the Czech Republic prefers security, utilities and audiovisual tools. If you make a video editor, you might localize for the Czech Republic before Argentina.

If you don’t have enough data to make an informed decision about where to focus, you could simply start with the “hottest” languages in the world of ecommerce (besides English), ordered by growth in online sales and internet penetration in each country:

  1. Chinese
  2. Japanese
  3. German
  4. French
  5. Korean
  6. Portuguese
  7. Russian
  8. Spanish
  9. Hindi
  10.  Arabic

Localize Your Product Pages

Even before localizing your app or service, start with product or landing pages first, then test and expand to the whole website. Getting content translated is fairly easy: just copy and paste into Google Translate. But you’ll get what you pay for: automated (and especially free) translation won’t reflect the full nuance of your products and services, and will also lack cultural context. So a translation agency or freelancers are a better option. No matter what approach you take, you’ll need to QA your translated content with native speakers before launching a single page. The agency might have this service built in, but it’s good to double check that.

Build time for review and localization into your process: you will be surprised by how many subtleties of language you take for granted that are difficult to translate. Additionally, make sure to truly localize your content, not just translate it, by accommodating for differences between countries like units of measurement or currency differences (covered in payment localization as well).

This includes localizing for your product offerings: if you don’t offer 24/7 support in a language, don’t promote 24/7 support in that region (or specify what languages are available).

Redesign for Languages and Local Access Methods

 Different languages take up different amounts of space on the page and may require different visual layouts. German has famously long compound words that take up space and can make line breaks a headache, while Chinese or Japanese characters may take up far less space than even English words, causing your layout to look sparse. Take the time to look at how your translated text sits in layout and make visual adjustments as needed. As you work, keep in mind that colors have different connotations in different cultures: do your research and consider setting up different color schemes for localized sites if needed.

As you localize, recall that some languages (like Arabic and Hebrew) are read right to left; your site may require further redesign to accommodate that direction. Finally, consider how users are accessing your site in different countries: some locations may have slower internet connections or different browsers, while other countries such as India are overwhelmingly mobile-first and require stellar mobile optimization of your site. Find out how people in that country browse and ensure you can meet their needs.

Another aspect to consider is time and date, as formats vary throughout the world. Make sure you take these into account by using universal formats for the code and flexible tools for displaying the right format for the right geography.

These are three relatively simple steps, but each part of the localization process can give rise to many additional complexities. Make sure to stay focused throughout the process, work with language experts and thoroughly review and test your localized site to make sure that your localized website will help, not hurt, sales in a region.

One point to remember is that while shoppers may be OK to browse in a language other than their own, when it comes to actually buying online, they prefer to do that in their local language and view prices in their local currencies. The good news is that, while you need to take care of your website and content localization, for the buying stage, you can leverage your commerce provider who should offer order localization for several geographies. For example, 2Checkout supports more than 30 languages, 130+ display currencies, 45+ payment methods.

Stay tuned for more posts on localization, clearly an important part of the overall customer experience.

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