Ready your store for international customers with ecommerce localization
With the internet changing the way people shop, fashion and lifestyle brands gain new ways to reach consumers and expand their business across the globe.
However, online consumers’ expectations and demands change as well.
No matter where the goods will be shipped from, online shoppers seek products that are either more affordable or not available in their local markets. But consumers want web stores in their native language, to buy in local currencies and use their favorite payment methods. It’s challenging for brands to meet those requirements and deliver a smooth experience. This is where ecommerce localization comes in handy.
What is ecommerce localization?
In a nutshell, ecommerce localization lets you tap into international markets and boost sales by tailoring your services individually to every market. Think of it as adding a local flair across your online store. It’s much more than translation, which simply changes the text from one language to another. Localization weaves cultural sensitivity and local preferences into the process. This empowers you to build engaging relationships through cultural connections with your international consumers.
In practice, ecommerce localization means you adjust all elements of your storefront, from product images, descriptions, through prices, payment gateways, to shipping options and taxes. As a result, you speak directly to consumers, help them navigate your store, and get information fast to create a positive brand experience. This way, your sales voice is brand-authentic and your offer appeals to the target audience.
Most common languages used on the internet in January 2020. Source
Read more on internationalization of ecommerce websites: Solving the 7 challenges of cross-border ecommerce with a headless platform
You can apply localization to many areas of your business. In this article, we’ll focus on the most important ones for the online store of your direct-to-consumer brand.
Why ecommerce localization is worth the investment
As you expand your ecommerce business, localization will be one of the pillars of your strategy. Well executed, it requires planning and constant updates, but the effort and investment will pay off. Here are the major benefits of adapting your online store to different markets:
Wider customer base. You’ll tap into a larger audience and reach more consumers from more locations. It’s simple mathematics.
Revenue growth. Your company can access (literally) millions of new customers by solving language barriers and conversion headaches. Studies show that price localization encourages business growth. By letting consumers pay in their currencies, they feel more comfortable and you build trust in your brand. It’s a win-win.
Competitive edge. Ecommerce localization offers you leverage to stay ahead of the competition. You will strengthen your presence, make your products accessible to a wider audience, and reach new untapped markets.
Higher visibility. Search engines look for content relevant to user queries to show them the best results. Localized domains with languages, currencies, and content adapted to different markets will increase search relevance and improve your SEO strategy. Ultimately, your store will show up in search results and get more traffic. BLEND’s survey suggests that “16 of the top 50 brands attract more than 20% of website traffic from external countries.”
Streamlined logistics and shipping. Localization reduces shipping costs. When working with local suppliers, your orders travel fewer miles, so delivery times are shorter and more predictable. And, once you localize your supply chain, your costs will be lower because you don’t have to pay export tariffs. This also improves overall sustainability efforts as your goods will travel shorter distances.
Improved customer experience and support. Online stores with localized menus, product descriptions, and FAQs, make it easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for. This enhances customer experience and reduces the number of support requests and issues.
Stronger connections with customers. With localized stores, you can better cater to consumer needs. They are more likely to stick around when your site content is engaging and easy to access.
24/7 availability in local markets. With your ecommerce store present across multiple markets, you will make your brand more available to consumers, who can buy from you at any time, from any time zone around the world.
Steps to ace ecommerce localization
The scope of ecommerce localization is complex and depends on fashion and lifestyle brands’ specific needs. Here are a few steps every brand should follow to simplify the process:
1. Do market research
Whether you start localizing your assets or improving existing ones, do market research. It’s crucial to identify which products are likely to sell well and which require more attention in terms of SEO and marketing campaigns. To do so, view the search queries for those products in a particular market via your online store’s analytics dashboard.
Next, dive into segments to learn about on-site activity and conversions. Once you spot high conversion rates in one location, it’s easier to determine if that region is worth investing your time and efforts.
Then, examine how you measure up against competitors regarding products and services to get insights into what strategies work in a specific market. Identifying demand, quality, and delivery times for your product is critical.
Reach out to your sales and customer support teams to learn about consumer challenges, requests, and inquiries to reveal gaps in the markets you plan to address. Data about your prospects’ and customers’ habits and preferences will expose cultural differences. The better you know your audience, the more effectively you can personalize your store.
Market analysis is essential because local interest also depends on economic readiness, seasonality, and even traditions. For instance, different countries create different sales spikes, such as Singles' Day in China, Les Soldes in France, and El Buen Fin in Mexico. Mapping these will allow you to run effective promotional campaigns and determine whom to reach for maximum profit at any given time of the year.
2. Build consumer profiles
The main objective of a localization plan is to determine who you’ll target. Different regions may have different buyer personas. For each market you want to expand on, it’s necessary to segment your audience and build customer profiles. When defining your target audience, consider the following:
The more precise these profiles are, the higher the chances your marketing campaigns will reach consumers interested in your products.
3. Plan your ecommerce localization project
To make your international expansion successful, create a solid localization plan. Planning lets you effectively manage all the activities and resources needed to establish or improve your fashion brand’s local and global presence.
First, prioritize products that are a good fit for a particular market, because not all of them will work in every region.
Second, define the scope of ecommerce localization to estimate how much time and resources it will take to set up. This includes cross-team efforts and business finances.
During planning, define the following points:
The languages you’ll offer
The digital assets you want to localize
The professionals that will be responsible for localization (in-house or outsourced)
The order in which the different sites will be localized
Next, schedule content workflow, from content creation, through translation and localization, to publication.
4. Localize experiences across the entire consumer journey
Great consumer experience matters during every stage of the consumer journey, from awareness to post-purchase. Many fashion and lifestyle brands take brand awareness for granted and focus localization efforts on-site content.
Experts from BLEND outlined a localization strategy around the four Ps of the customer journey. This covers:
This approach enables you to create a great shopping experience and gain influence in local markets. It also supports brands in shortening sales cycles as it removes frictions from the buying process. We’ll follow BLEND’s approach and present you with ways to use localization in each stage of the buying process.
This stage covers the content found through web search that consumers come across before entering your store.
To drive sales and build lasting relationships with visitors in your markets, you need to localize the language and content of your store. SEO can improve your brand awareness and market positioning and inform how to adjust your strategy for each market. Assess which markets and languages deliver the highest traffic, rankings, and conversions to prioritize and allocate your resources.
Search terms require localization. Translation isn’t enough, because people think and search differently. A key phrase in one language may have a different equivalent in another, or a popular product in one region might be unknown in another.
An effective multilingual content strategy involves identifying keywords and phrases that will drive your sales and reputation in markets different from your own. Use SEO techniques in all language versions of your store.
Also, as a fashion and lifestyle brand, align keywords to seasons and weather in various regions. Optimize content campaigns for phrases like sunglasses, swimsuits, and flip-flops in warmer countries like Spain. In colder countries like Norway or the UK, target terms like waterproof, raincoat, and fleece jackets.
Marketing content and branding
By using consumers’ language and relevant keywords in your ads, marketing emails and calls to action you improve targeting and your authenticity. You won’t worry that consumers didn’t understand your message.
And what about branding? Since it is unique and expressed through images, your store's copy and different materials, you can’t literally translate everything. Instead, communicate your brand’s values, spirit and attitude in the consumer's language.
This phase is about guiding your consumers through your web store. The scope of localization at this stage includes site design with the following:
Online store navigation
Navigation impacts your search ranking and the amount of site traffic that comes your way via organic searches. This is because Google spots descriptive labels and ranks your store based on its relevance to the search query.
Navigation also affects conversion. Good navigation makes it easy for consumers to find the type of clothes, accessories, or product information they’re looking for. But, if consumers struggle to use your online store they won’t get to checkout.
Stronger’s localized navigation menu. Source
As a fashion brand, you use lots of images in your e-stores to show and promote your products. These pictures should evoke a positive emotional reaction in consumers and help them identify the brand.
To make that happen, localize site images and adjust them to specific cultural contexts.
Moreover, use custom color palettes and graphics to align store design with your local audience. Or style models differently, based on seasonal or festive events, to get the most out of localization.
Read more about the importance of quality photos for your direct-to-consumer brand in: Fashion photography for ecommerce beginners: tips and tricks to boost sales
Since the consumer journey spans across multiple devices, make your localized web store mobile-friendly. Here, the biggest concern relates to the web store copy because words in languages, like German, tend to be longer. That means you’ll need to chisel the copy so it will be readable and effective on smaller screens.
Often brands just translate product descriptions which might hurt your conversion. These short texts play a major role in search results and brand awareness, so their localization is crucial.
If you prepare products for local markets, descriptions of your fashion items need more than localized keywords. For an excellent shopping experience, present clothing items and shoes with local sizing, translate details about fabrics and materials.
And if you’re targeting entirely different markets, consider using an alternative product that will be a better fit for particular markets.
Nudie Jeans’ localized basic product description. Source
Nudie Jeans’ localized detailed product description.
Consumers tend to make buying decisions based on reviews and the opinions of others. Add localized social proof and product reviews that build your credibility and trust.
When you localize user reviews, endorsements from credible experts or stamps of approval, make sure they look natural and appeal to a given market.
Keep in mind that product recommendations bring more traffic, since some search engines, including Baidu, even rank them in search results.
This is the make-or-break stage in the consumer journey where currency, payment options or shipping play major roles. A localized cart is a must. It ensures transparent pricing, convenient payment methods, and smooth checkout.
Payment methods and gateways
The online market gives multiple payment options such as credit cards, e-wallets, transfers, “buy now, pay later,” and gift cards. However, the payment methods and providers vary depending on the country. Most consumers want to buy in their own currency, with their favorite payment methods and payment service provider (PSP) they know. For ecommerce brands with cross-border ambitions to suit these preferences is no easy feat.
It’s critical to let consumers choose the payment gateways they trust, or else they may abandon their carts. Global brands look for an easy way to combine various payment methods such as Adyen, Klarna, PayPal, Qliro or Stripe for the best local payment solutions in every market.
With Centra as your headless ecommerce platform, you can simplify transactions by routing payments based on the customers' location, which ultimately improves conversion. You’ll be able to use a local bank account with your PSP to lower your fees and get a better authorization rate—also known as an approval ratio or auth rate—the percentage of your transactions that successfully pass through the authorization process with an approval.
Banks tend to charge hefty fees for currency conversions and international transactions, which in turn provokes higher levels of shopping cart abandonment. You’ll avoid this problem by adapting currencies to a domestic market.
As an ecommerce platform vendor, Centra empowers you to sell products in local currencies in every market. This makes transactions as fast and as frictionless as possible to avoid abandonment.
Ideal of Sweden applies localization based on visitor IP addresses to display local currencies. Source
International shipping and delivery
When consumers receive their orders on time, they will be more inclined to become loyal customers. But this is not easy to achieve. International shipping and delivery is challenging with all the logistics, customs, supply chains, compliance regulations, and product returns.
The easiest way to ship to the world is from local warehouses. You can even group multiple warehouses to fulfill deliveries to the same market. Some ecommerce platforms offer integrations with third parties to fulfill orders according to configured allocation.
An inventory management system will help you manage multiple warehouses globally. Modern ecommerce platforms often possess integrated order management systems, so you can track orders, sales, fulfillment, and inventory for timely deliveries.
The majority of post-purchase activities will be handled by your support and marketing teams. The quality of services offered after transactions will pave the way for future relationships with consumers and encourage further sales.
Customer care and support
Solving consumers’ problems improves satisfaction rates and trust in your brand. You’ll make your chat, help sites, and FAQ pages more useful to international consumers if you localize them. What’s more, by analyzing help and FAQ pages, and search queries you’ll get feedback on your product to expand your customer support resources.
Next, write legal and policy pages, including shipping and return, terms and conditions, privacy, in the consumers’ native language. This way, consumers will feel safe and comfortable understanding how your business works and what they can expect from you. Plus, ambiguous policies and product details often cause you more returns or even fewer return consumers.
Help center of Nudie Jeans available in one of the localized versions
Social media content
Fashion and lifestyle brands are the first to use social media to promote their products and strengthen connections with consumers. With a localized media presence, you will encourage consumers to share their reviews and recommendations.
Instagram and Pinterest are direct brands’ allies in publishing tailored content that engages consumers across countries. You get a chance to use different videos, images, and hashtags to address different markets. If you want to target audiences more precisely, you can even create separate social media accounts.
Email and remarketing
Ads, whether to attract new or existing customers, are tricky to localize. It takes a great understanding of culture, language, and context to make them effective. It pays off, though, and fashion and lifestyle brands that invest in advertising usually improve awareness and boost sales.
Using storytelling and localized images, you can target consumers with tailored social media ads to maximize profits. Not only that, but email marketing lets you engage with consumers, and makes your fashion and lifestyle brand stay top of mind. Localize your emails by adopting the local language and choose images of their culture to create cross-selling and up-selling campaigns or those that promote new products.
Other things to consider
Before you launch your localization project, here’s the list of some additional tools and considerations to keep in mind:
Product information management
A product information management (PIM) system is your go-to solution for online store localization. It allows you to save, enrich, and handle complex product information making localization simpler. That’s particularly important for fashion and lifestyle brands that want to display precise descriptions of their intricate products available in many variations.
You can find on the market standalone PIMs or integrated in ecommerce platforms. Centra has a built-in lightweight PIM with specifically handling of lifestyle products. In the platform, you can set up displays, which allow products to be shown in different ways in different channels or categories. And the entire system is localizable to handle general languages and local language variations.
Fashion brands that go for localization need design freedom to create unique storefronts. They want to create separate product catalogs and content to promote different products in different markets.
Ideally, you will want to use native features instead of installing additional apps. However, localization involves many teams and stakeholders to working together which means you'll need to connect your tech stack with external software. You can avoid integration issues if you have an ecommerce setup, that is simple to integrate with other tools. This allows you to use the right products, descriptions, prices, and images on the right market, and single out your campaigns for maximum visibility and profit.
Inventory and warehouse management
As mentioned above, on-time deliveries are essential for improving consumer satisfaction. The way to meet that goal is by having robust inventory management and working with local warehouses.
First, keep your inventory updated so it’s easier to align your business operations. Handling inventory across numerous countries and channels is cumbersome. Because of that, you need dedicated tools for that, such as inventory management.
Second, an ideal solution is to have warehouses close to your consumers, or partner with third-party logistics providers with global warehouses. Then, if one of them lacks certain items in case one of them lacks certain items, you’ll route the shipment and deliver the product to your customer.
Handling international taxes
For ecommerce brands that sell across the globe tax calculations are problematic. They vary from country to country, and can have different rates for different products. And if you localize currencies, things can get even trickier.
The most convenient option is to get an ecommerce platform that automates calculations. This way your consumers see a clear price and won’t have to pay any hidden costs at the checkout.
Also, your site won’t slow down, which frequently happens with some tax add-ons. That translates into great user experience without interruptions. Clear pricing is essential as it impacts the abandonment rate. It’s been proven that shoppers who can’t see the total order cost in advance are more likely to leave their carts.
Analytics and testing
Before you go live with your localized ecommerce store, run some tests and review content to ensure everything will work fine. This covers the major areas of your website: copy, layout, buttons, links, etcetera.
For instance, evaluate if copy translations are correct, match the speech of a given region and sound authentic. Check if the length of the translated copy is optimal, otherwise it impacts the layout and could cause some extra tweaks to the design.
Once your store is up and running, set up A/B tests to check what’s working and what’s not in a given region. Try different images, buttons, layouts, or calls to action.
Analyze the data from your ecommerce platform to see which products get more traffic and conversions. By measuring the performance of your store, you’ll be able to make informed decisions whether to scale up on a given market or shift your efforts somewhere else.
Local laws and regulations
Selling internationally involves dealing with various trade laws and regulations which vary between countries. Online foreign trades can be expensive in some countries because of high duties. You need to be aware of strict consumer protection laws in certain countries.
Non-compliance with trade laws and regulations impacts your business's bottom line and consumer experience. For example, product misclassification causes delays for 56% of cross-border shipments.
Get ecommerce localization right the first time
Expanding to new markets is a surefire way to increase your brand awareness, boost sales, and grow your business. You’ll reach new customers directly, sidestepping costly middlemen. You’ll even get the chance to outperform your competitors by filling gaps in local markets.
Grow your business internationally and minimize problems that arise in such an undertaking by teaming up with a trusted ecommerce platform vendor. Look for a technology partner that has relevant experience and expertise in this field. Supported by such technology, you’ll be well equipped to get your store running fast, and focus on your business development on a global scale.
Read more on internationalization of ecommerce websites: Solving the 7 challenges of cross-border ecommerce with a headless platform
Ecommerce localization – The best way forward for scaling your business globally
Effective implementation of localization is the cornerstone of scaling your fashion business globally. It helps you generate more traffic, increases engagement and ultimately drives conversion.
But you can't go global overnight. A comprehensive, long-term plan and in-depth understanding of your target market is key. Once you get the strategy right, you'll need a flexible tech stack that supports your localization efforts for the years ahead.