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Global e-commerce sales have risen by over 88% since 2010. But accessing this global boom isn’t as simple as just being online. You’re going to need a plan. This is where an e-commerce strategy comes in, but for many companies these can fall down simply through one simple omission: failure to consider how language impacts the experience.
So how can you get this right?
A complete e-commerce strategy needs to consider everything, including language. This is even truer if you are selling on a global scale, as language can be the undoing of any strategy—no matter how considered. Yet this is often the part of an e-commerce plan that is overlooked.
Whether it’s a belief that one language will suffice, or not enough time being taken to implement the appropriate languages correctly, the one thing that is certain is just how damaging it can be to get it wrong.
It will affect sales in the short term, but that’s just the beginning. Its effect on your brand could be huge, as customers are hard to regain after a bad experience.
“In fact, in today’s digital world, brand reputation is more at risk than ever before if retailers fail to meet increasingly demanding customer expectations.”
E-commerce has created a truly global economy. If you’re online, then you are potentially a global supplier. People expect to be able to access everything from the palm of their hands, so you have to provide this successfully. Otherwise, at the flick of a finger they can take their business elsewhere.
In fact, this level of experience can be what separates many brands, with successful ones being those that manage to consider all elements of their brand. And e-commerce is just as much a part of your brand and brand’s perception as your logo or your staff.
So, what should you be considering? Well, there are a number of areas of e-commerce where language has a huge impact. For us, these are:
Good e-commerce is in the details, and this is where customers actually see the benefits. And this is as true for language as functionality.
You have to treat customers in different markets differently. That sounds obvious, but it often isn’t even considered. Not doing it at all, or just doing it by halves, is not enough – it has to be implemented completely. They are different markets in their own right.
Just running content through a Machine Translation engine, without understanding or checking the results, is likely to have an impact on customer experience. Customers, as we showed in our last blog, expect to use the internet in their own language. And that includes your website! It’s a matter of trust, and a bad experience will erode this fast.
Without this complete approach, your e-commerce strategy will be at a significant disadvantage.
We believe, along with our clients, that the key to customer satisfaction is in the quality of their experience. You probably think the same and do everything in your power to deliver this. Unfortunately when it comes to e-commerce, if you don’t consider each market and language enough, this can sometimes not fall short of expectations.
Your message simply isn’t received and potential customers just don’t connect with you.
By ensuring every product, message and touchpoint is not only correctly translated, but actually speaks to your audience, then you are truly crossing borders. Your brand and its benefits will be understood, and the experience will be more likely to translate.
It’s about taking the time to provide the same quality experience you would in your home market. Just because a customer is somewhere else doesn’t mean they expect less.
That’s why Apple pays as much attention to their services and experiences as they do to their product, no matter where they are in the world. They take great care to adapt everything for each individual market, with language at the forefront of everything they do.
The idea is to make sure their message is never misunderstood.
Key to e-commerce is understanding and using every channel available. But in a global economy, each of these channels also quickly connects to multiple markets.
In managing each of these channels, it’s essential to understand how their usage changes from market to market. For example, different markets require – or at least prefer – different payment methods. Also, just because everyone in one of your markets uses a piece of technology in one way to shop, that doesn’t necessarily mean that others do the same.
You need to consider each channel within each market. Your use of language is then key to letting your audiences know the experience they can expect from your company. Language is how you clearly tell them about your products, payment processes, or delivery terms.
As we discussed in another blog, search engines are ultimately on the side of the consumer. They can understand any language and match it to another—but they don’t. Or at least they prefer not to.
As they get smarter, the emphasis has been on providing fewer results, not more. It’s about relevancy and personalisation. They want to offer the results the customer is really after: the ones they are likely to use.
This has come to mean ‘local’ results. But local doesn’t simply mean in close proximity – a major determiner of locality is the search result being in the right language. If someone searches in German, then Google will try and provide relevant results in German. Even if it knows that your English-language site is just as relevant as a similar result in German, if you don’t have your site translated then it will be deemed as not being relevant.
It’s fairly simple how you get around this: to be found in search results, you have to play by the rules. That means providing content in the language users are searching in. The emphasis is now on you, the seller, to do this.
With all e-commerce comes a deluge of big data. The insights you can gain from a well implemented e-commerce strategy are huge, letting you understand your customers more than ever before.
This only gets bigger and more beneficial when you think on a global scale. The only caveat is making sure this information is of the same quality as the data from your home market. This will come from making sure your brand and service are correctly perceived.
Only then can you judge your customers’ experience of it correctly. Otherwise, the data you receive will be skewed by a fundamental misunderstanding of what you’re offering.
A great experience comes from a complete experience – one where every aspect of your service fulfills expectation.
It’s true that it can be difficult to achieve. However, not paying enough attention to your use of language and letting all your hard work fall down at the first hurdle is definitely bad for business. Luckily, making the decision to put a multilingual strategy into practice is one of the easiest to make!