3 Key Principles for Localizing E-commerce at Scale for International Growth

3 Key Principles for Localizing E-commerce at Scale for International Growth

Delivering a strong e-commerce customer experience can be challenging when you have to consistently localize large volumes of time-sensitive content across many languages and markets, fast.

The principles to overcome these challenges and help companies successfully expand their global reach were explored in depth at the Localizing at Scale for International Growth forum, hosted by Slator in partnership with Lingo24.

The diverse audience featured a balance of e-commerce (31%), marketing (26%), and localization (43%) roles from participants in the US (39%), Europe (33%), the UK, and Canada (21%).

The near-even split between B2B businesses (56%) and B2C brands (44%) reflected cross-sector interest in how localization can win over customers. Research has shown that online customers prefer to shop in their native language and native English-speakers account for roughly 16% of the five billion Internet users worldwide.

In a quick poll, most forum participants agreed that their greatest challenge with localization is managing scale. John Yunker, author of The 2021 Web Globalization Report Card, highlighted that “the average number of languages is now 33” for the top 150 websites and that, “even if you are just starting out, you have to start planning for scale.”

Yunker recommends starting with a locale-oriented approach (rather than by language), which allows companies to scale more rapidly as they ramp up geographic and cultural reach. This is especially true for e-commerce “because you have to focus on the currency and the specific market.”

Global Design Is Less Design

Simplifying global design supports teamwork. Companies that use global templates and share tools, code, and templates with local teams can harmonize the user experience while saving time and energy when localizing new content across multiple websites.

Matt Madderra, Director of Web Services at Mouser Electronics, shared that the B2B distributor of electronic components uses responsive design to serve customers in 21 languages across 63 country-specific websites.

A centralized template allows the team to create multiple mockups in many languages that take into account local preferences, such as larger font size for character-based languages and one-page displays that accommodate bandwidth and browsing habits in China.

“By having one code base, we’re able to add a more dynamic, localized approach to how we present content on our site while maintaining a global look and feel,” added Madderra.

Integrate Machine Translation Into the Workflow

A simplified, scalable global design sets the stage for automation, most notably for machine translation (MT). While different use cases will require different levels of translation quality, post-editing can improve the quality as needed; and adding a disclaimer can temper users’ expectations for certain non-critical content.

Mouser’s website, for example, contains 40 million pages, including about 50,000 longform articles that engineers read daily. “You have to use MT to do that,” Lingo24 CTO David Meikle said of high-volume translation. “There’s no other way you can get through that scale of content without it.”

According to the forum’s second poll, most attendees already use or are considering using MT. Based on the demand demonstrated by users, localization teams can prioritize content to professionally translate into specific languages.

Madderra said that working with Lingo24 has helped Mouser build a large translation memory, which has improved MT to the point that in-house human reviewers for certain languages, such as German, no longer edit translations.

“You can try to do it all internally and have lots of bumps and bruises,” Madderra said. “But having someone like Lingo24, who wants to be a partner and help you grow, is actually one reason we’re able to scale up into the number of languages we have.”

Contact Lingo24 to learn more about end-to-end localization services that are AI and automation driven.