How to meet the challenges of e-commerce translation

Even before the pandemic kicked it into high gear, e-commerce was booming. And, according to research by Common Sense Advisory, “In spite of globalization and the growing use of English as a global language… people in 2020 still prefer consuming information in their own language.” Sellers in North American markets need to speak French and Spanish as well as English, and Europe and Asia present even more challenging linguistic landscapes. E-commerce translation has become essential.

Research by the payment processing vendor Stripe explored why nine out of ten lost e-sales fail on the checkout page. They reviewed European e-commerce websites and discovered three basic errors. The most common error? A failure to translate the checkout page into the language of the user. Consumer purchasing can be a very personal experience; using a language your customers do not know well can make them lose faith in your product. 

On platforms like Amazon Marketplace, translation sets a seller apart and increases both sales and trust. Compelling, optimized and accurate product descriptions coupled with strong native-language A+ Content increase sales and minimizes returns.

You know you need e-commerce translation. Why should you choose a professional language service partner to handle the job?

Linguistic challenges of e-commerce translation

E-commerce translators face the same challenges as source content copywriters. The right keywords and phrases are necessary to draw the customer’s attention. From there, product descriptions must explain how the product’s specific features will satisfy the client’s specific needs, using lively, engaging language.

All this requires translators who understand the target market as well as the language. Global languages like French, English, and Spanish will differ significantly depending on the region. For example, when you search the Paris-based Galeries Lafayette website for “flâneurs,” the top hits are handbags and sneakers. The same search on the French version of Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company website delivers low-heeled slip-on shoes. This is just one tiny example, but it matters a lot when you’re talking about fashion. Translators should translate into the native language spoken by the culture to which they belong.

To ensure cultural and linguistic accuracy at scale, professional language service partners use translation tools customized for each client with termbases and style guides.  These compel the use of brand-specific terms as translators work. The tools also leverage client-specific translation memories. These databases of existing translations from prior jobs allow the use of translated content across multiple platforms, including websites, email marketing, mobile apps, and advertising. Finally, automated QA tools prevent English-language bleed-through and ensure accurate numbers and notation.

AI-based automated translation tools can be “trained” to translate for a particular client, but product descriptions and customer support require a human touch. If automated translation is used, a native language translator should review the translations. On the other hand, user reviews will not be held to a high linguistic standard, making automated translation a more cost-efficient choice. A good language partner will recommend the right combination of human and automated translation.

Technical challenges of e-commerce translation

E-commerce translation requires continuous localization. Our clients need quick turnaround of unpredictable volumes of content. In addition to using an array of technical tools, the translation team needs to operate as a seamless extension of the client’s own content creation workflow. This requires consultation and coordination with the client in order to reduce or eliminate any points of friction in the process.

In addition to translating the customer-facing product content, online sellers need localization of multiple digital platforms including mobile apps. A language service partner will provide customized localization engineering for websites, software, and mobile apps created on any authoring platform, in any format. Demo videos can also be localized with foreign language voiceovers or subtitles

In conclusion

E-commerce translation requires a combination of cultural knowledge, linguistic acumen, and technical savvy, deployed at a lightning-fast pace. Automation is quickly becoming viable for large scale e-commerce translation. However, the tools available to translate at scale are only as good as the humans who use them. Keeping human translators in the loop ensures compelling, accurate content to catch your customers’ imaginations. A good e-commerce language partner should deploy the right mix of hands-on and automated solutions to optimize your translation spend and grow your global sales.