5 Crucial Steps for Successfully Expanding Your Ecommerce Store Internationally

Posted by Guest Writer 18 Dec 13

shutterstock_144352702Clients often call us saying that they want to “roll out the web site in ten languages”. It’s not quite so simple anymore as anyone who has tried to set up online site shipping to Russia or Brazil will tell you, there are a lot of other considerations. Simply translating the website is not enough; you’ll need to plan a range of localised language marketing activities.

This article takes a quick look at some of the best practice steps for localising an international web

  1. Acquisition using local search
  2. Maximise checkout completions with payment options
  3. Invest in local language customer services agents
  4. Translate the product assets in different stages
  5. Manage the online editorial tone of voice 

Acquisition Using Localised Search Terms

If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt aware that SEO success begins with keywords which are localised for target markets. Make sure that you do some background research and understand the detail about which keywords are being searched, rather than just translating the list of your original search terms. 

Search for the term ‘buy a mink coat’ in French, for example, and Google lists a selection of terms which either mean fur coat or refer to the original animal or its fur. This can be a fairly common problem in retail where different languages use different words for hides, leathers and foodstuffs example – take care that you don’t confuse a luxury calfskin handbag with a literal ‘pork handbag’!

As well as researching your search terms, include qualifying terms as best practice - adjectives and synonyms which will help contextualise the main search term. So, instead of the standalone word in French for mink which is ‘vison’, add descriptive adjectives to the search list, such as ‘manteau vison’ and ‘vison fourrure’.

Figure 1: Searching online using the phrase ‘buy a mink coat’ in France brings up sites for the animal as

For more information, see our Guide to International Organic Search.


Maximise Checkout Completions with Localised Payment Options

International ecommerce has boomed in 2013 and so has the realisation that consumer payment cultures vary dramatically in different markets. Germany, for example, is a high value export market from the UK and consequently it is perceived by retailers as relatively low risk and they often decide to set up a localised German site as an early foray into international eCommerce.

However, the culture of local payment in Germany is very different from the UK. Purchasing by credit card of PayPal is a rare occurrence - most consumers prefer to use an Open Invoice system where the retailer sends an invoice once the goods have been delivered and, importantly, accepted. Germany has a very high goods return rate, partly because of this payment culture.

Access to instant payment methods is popular in nearby markets, however. In the Netherlands, consumers prefer to have the option of a real time bank transfer, whereas in Italy, PayPal is popular. In China and Russia on the other hand, you would need eWallet on your site. 

So, you will need to localise your payment and delivery terms and conditions, shipping and FAQs depending on the type of localised checkout and purchase options you decide to offer on the site.


Invest in Local Language Customer Services Agents

It is very likely you will need to employ customer services staff who can speak the local language to help with pre-sales and other enquiries. eBuyers are famously impatient. In a recent study, 4 out of 5 consumers said they expected to be able to access live support less than five minutes. You can choose to employ support staff either in the local market or, alternatively, you may decide to employ native- speaking agents in your HQ country although this can often mean budgeting for higher costs if you will be staffing outside local office hours.

You’ll also need to carefully consider service timings and frequency if you plan on employing people to handle outbound PR or to moderate comments and enquiries via Facebook and other platforms.

While 24/7 local language support might be within budgetary reach of some global brands, most online retailers have to decide how many hours per day they will be open for business using live support. A common solution is to offer live support in two batches, morning and evening, to cover the peak traffic


Translate Product Assets in Stages

Once you have localised your checkout and your customer services emails, it’s time to think about how you localise your product descriptions. We recommend not translating all the products at once but instead start by translating a sample of your top selling articles.

This means that you can evaluate whether you have got the tone of voice right for your target market and means you can build up your terminology library, which will save you money on repetitions and provide a consistent tone in future.

Take the opportunity to ask local colleagues or distributors to review your test translations and ask for their feedback whether the translations convey the right tone of voice for the target audience. Ask your local colleagues to point out areas where the translation might not have the correct level of technical accuracy and where they think there could be potential pitfalls on matters of style and tone.

When you’re satisfied with the quality and process from the first batch of product translations, you can apply the Translation Memory - which you have built up during your test - to the rest of your product descriptions and care/usage instructions.

Manage the Online Editorial Tone of Voice

What sets a brand apart is a distinctive tone of voice in editorial, blogs, mobile apps, competitions and suchlike. Online tone of voice can be difficult to get right and different brands employ a wide range of styles to differentiate themselves such as fun, formal, descriptive or ‘like the advice of a wise, witty friend’. It’s not uncommon for the tone of voice to convey apparently contradictory qualities simultaneously such as ‘fun and formal’ for example.

A common decision relates to how much of the site content should stay in the source language and how much should be localised. There are cases, for example, where English source text may complement an aspirational or a heritage brand and enhance the customer overall experience. You should probably consider running some A/B testing to discover whether the source or target language will deliver better results. 



TranslateMedia is a leading provider of eCommerce localisation. We provide services covering translation localisation, creative transcreation and a full range of technical language and IT services to support international eCommerce.For more information, contact our eCommerce team: UK: Maggie Little | maggie.little@translatemedia.com | +44 (0)20 8834 4840




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