Content without borders


The imminent e-commerce growth: new challenges for translation and localization


There are now almost 4,4 billion of active Internet users that connect from outside of Spain. Are you going to lose 4,4 billion opportunities?

The world we know today may be striving towards economic, legal and cultural uniformity. We are becoming more and more globally-oriented, but cultural setups that motivate human, e.g. buyer, behaviour haven’t disappeared.

For example, the vast majority of global internet retail customers do not speak English or strongly prefer to shop in their own language. According to a recent Forrester report:

  • Only inside the European Union there are 24 recognized languages. In Europe, 42% of online users say they never shop online in any language other than their own. Even in the Netherlands, where English-language learning is ubiquitous in schools, 50% of adults who have shopped online in the past three months agree that they only shop on websites in their native Dutch.
  • In Canada, where most US brands first venture when going international, 34% of online shoppers say a French-language site is somewhat or very important for them to shop online. In Quebec, this number almost doubles – 64%. 
  • In some of the fastest-growing online retail markets, such as China and Brazil, e-commerce is now attracting a much broader demographic of shoppers, many of whom aren’t comfortable or proficient in English. In fact, 95% of online consumers in China indicated a greater comfort level with websites in their own language.
  • To 56% of consumers the possibility to get the information in their own language is more important than the price. That’s basically a Call To Action: translate and rise numbers!

Cultural differences not only include languages, but a whole bunch of other things. Such as tone (a formal and сeremonius letter to a German customer will have nothing to do with chatty and casual communication with English-speaking clients), personal data and online payments handling (you’d want to provide all types of security to Spaniards while British citizens wouldn’t care about that at all and Germans would always prefer an invoice) and even colour palette.

That’s curious, but using one or another colour may boost or drop your sales in a fingersnap. For example, black is typically considered a fearful and untrustworthy colour in Western cultures while Chinese see it as a sign of power, high quality and luxury. Or take white: purity and lightness for ones while death and mourning for others (Japanese, to be more specific).

Habits and lifestyle have strong effect on the content in general and glossaries in particular: even a brief research on consuming patterns shows that Scandinavian people will happily buy expensive but organic and eco-friendly stuff, following the sustainability principle, so make sure to include those keywords in product description.

Cultural differences are present even when customers speak the same language. English itself is not a uniform language, but has a number of varieties with vocabulary and spelling differences. For example, searching for a pair of “trousers” (British version) online an American is more likely to use the word “pants”. And the words color and jewelry (US) in other places are spelled colour and jewellery (UK). 

A brand’s ability to effectively communicate with global audiences goes hand in hand with its success in monetizing new markets.

By reducing language and cultural barriers, a brand can help its customers feel included and more comfortable (aside from just being able to understand a brand’s voice and vision), which leads to conversions. Local language communication has now transformed from a secondary consideration (the so-called language afterthought syndrome) to one of the basic requirements for delivering a product or service to market.

Then why go international if it’s so complicated? Why not continue growing within your own country’s borders?

Here are some facts about the explosion of cross-border e‑commerce:

  • The United States is the leading destination for online shoppers buying across borders, followed by China, the UK and Germany.
  • It is expected that by 2020 more than 900 million consumers (which is 45% of all online shoppers) will purchase products internationally.
  • 48% of cross-border purchases will be made in the Asia-Pacific region, with China occupying top of the list.
  • LATAM will grow the fastest in cross-border online purchasing, more than 40% annually.

According to Internet World Stats, there are now 4,4 billion of active Internet users in the world, 99% of which connect from outside of Spain. Are you going to lose 4,4 billion opportunities? If not, here’s a tip: list of the top 10 languages for global eCommerce:

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

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