8 trillion dollars in sales – the global eCommerce market is projected to hit these figures in 2026. Nearly a quarter of the world currently shops online; that's 2 billion people who speak multiple different languages and live thousands of miles away from each other in different nations with different expectations. How can retailers hope to target such a diverse group of consumers?
Globalization requires e-commerce localization
E-commerce localization is the process of tailoring all the content of an online business website or app – whether that's the user interface, product information, blogs, or videos – so that it appeals to the local market.
You can't just translate your content and expect it to work everywhere in the world. Your customers deserve and demand more than that.
Your eCommerce business needs a localization strategy to succeed in a globally competitive market and reach your full potential.
The trend is clear – emerging markets were responsible for the bulk of eCommerce growth in 2022. The Philippines, India, Indonesia, and Brazil all experienced sales growth greater than 20% in 2022.
The digital world offers boundless opportunities whether you're an e-retailer, manufacturer, or service provider. However, with these opportunities come new obstacles, particularly the challenge of expanding into international markets while still turning a profit.
Companies need to be where their customers are – which means expanding into new markets. But going global is not as simple as translating your website and making a few changes to your product offerings. You must also consider the nuances of each market. One size does not fit all, and this is especially true in terms of culture, language, and buying behavior.
But along with an increased opportunity to market comes greater competition– people who know what it takes to succeed in local markets. IKEA for instance uses a mix of localization and standardization – it modifies its marketing strategy and product offerings, tailoring them to suit local tastes, while keeping its brand identity consistent across all markets.
This mixed strategy provides excitement and a sense of familiarity for customers who may be shopping in an IKEA store in another country for the first time, and at the same time, gives customers products that feel custom-made.
Take Amazon, for example – their localization strategy has helped cement the company as the world’s largest retailer and online marketplace. The company goes above and beyond to finetune every granular detail about its product range, pricing, user interface, and marketing efforts.
Let’s take a look at Amazon’s American homepage and how it differs from its Indian counterpart.
The American homepage features large product images with smaller text and a minimalistic background image. Meanwhile, the Indian homepage features small product images with larger text, a more busy background, and images that show products being used.
While the Indian vision of Amazon’s homepage features a banner ad for a Prime Video movie, the American homepage is fixated on Black Friday sales – the navigation bar also features a holiday gifting guide. Even minute details like font boldness and line spacing have been customized.
This is just one example of why localization matters, not just for massive companies like Amazon but for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
When you're offering products to millions of people worldwide, you have to cater to hundreds of languages, cultures, beliefs, and more.
You need to think global but act local. In other words, you need a localization strategy.
How does a localization strategy benefit your business?
1. You'll reach more customers
Localization will open up your business to new markets and new customers. The global eCommerce market is expected to reach $5.5 trillion by 2026. To target a global audience, a localization strategy is a must have. You can't just rely on English-speaking countries – the vast majority of internet users do not speak English as their first language.
2. You'll make more sales, and grow your business
Ultimately, localization is about increasing your revenue and growing your business. If you can tap into new markets and reach more customers, you'll see a direct impact on your bottom line.
3. You'll boost loyalty and brand awareness
Localization isn't just about making a sale – it's about building long-term relationships with customers. If you can show your customers that you understand their needs and culture, they will more likely remain loyal to your brand and recommend you to others.
What should you consider when developing a localization strategy?
1. Your target markets
To effectively localize your products or services, it is crucial to understand your target markets and their unique cultural and linguistic preferences. Knowing who you are trying to reach will help guide your localization efforts and ensure that you are able to effectively communicate with and appeal to your audience.
What are the internet penetration rates, shopping habits, purchasing power abilities of your customers? How can you reach them? What languages do they speak? What are their needs and expectations? Once you have answers to these questions, you can develop a tailor-made localization strategy for each market.
You must understand the local language(s), culture, customs, norms, and expectations. This can be done through market research, surveys, focus groups, and interviews.
2. Your objectives
It is important to have clear objectives for your localization efforts in order to guide your strategy. What are your business goals for the specific region? What do you want to achieve with your localization strategy?
Some potential goals might include increasing sales, establishing a strong brand presence, or improving customer experience. Clearly defining your objectives will help ensure that your localization efforts are focused and effective
3. Your resources
Before embarking on localization efforts, it is important to assess the resources you have available to support your strategy. Do you have the resources to expand into new markets? If not, how can you get them?
These resources might include budget, personnel, and technology availability. By evaluating your resources, you can ensure that you have the necessary support to effectively execute your localization strategy. Otherwise, you may find yourself stretched thin and unable to properly support your customers in each market.
4. Your competitors
When developing a localization strategy, it is helpful to consider the efforts of your competitors. Are they ahead of you or behind you in terms of localization? If your competitors have a deep understanding of local culture, and a strong regional strategy – you can’t walk in with a half-thought out strategy and expect to succeed.
Understanding your competitor's strategies can give you a sense of where you need to focus your efforts to stay competitive in the market.
Developing a localization strategy is not an easy task, but it is essential if you want to succeed in today's global market. By considering the factors mentioned above, you can develop a strategy that will help you reach your target markets and achieve your business goals.
What does an eCommerce localization strategy look like?
While the majority of eCommerce localization is focused on websites and apps, there are other important touchpoints to consider as well. Email marketing, social media, and even physical products can all be localized to improve the customer experience.
Accounting for cultural differences
When expanding into new markets, it's important to account for cultural differences. This includes things like adjusting your marketing to local holidays, using different measurement units, employing local terminology, and avoiding any culturally insensitive content.
80% of potential customers are more likely to purchase when the shopping experience feels personalized – and the best way to do that is through a localization strategy.
For example, in some cultures, it may be important to have more modest or covered clothing options, while in others, more revealing options may be more accepted. You need to adjust your offerings and product images based on what the local tastes are. It’s important to have local partners who can help you navigate the cultural differences with nuance.
Customizing the product itself
Your product must be relevant to the local market, which may require making changes to things like packaging, labeling, and ingredients. Even simple visual changes to the product image can reap massive benefits – 83% of shoppers say visuals are the biggest deciding factor behind a purchase.
For example, if you sell clothing, you may need to adjust the size or fit of garments to match local body types and proportions. For food products, you might modify the ingredients or flavor profile to appeal to local tastes.
Translating the content
According to a CSA Research study, 65% of people prefer to have content in their own language, even if the quality is not perfect, with customer care and product reviews being especially important. Additionally, 40% of people will not make a purchase if the website is in a language other than their own.
When developing a localization strategy, it is important to not only consider language translation but also to think about the purpose and meaning of the text and how it will be understood in different cultures. An excellent copywriting job in one culture might not make sense in another.
Website copy, product descriptions, navigation bars, calls to action, and even error messages should all be translated. If you have the resources, go beyond literal translations and adapt the text so that it makes sense in the local context.
Localized Pricing and payment methods
Purchasing power is vastly different globally. What might be an affordable price in one country, could be luxury pricing in another. You'll need to conduct market research to determine what price point is appropriate for each market.
One of the easiest tweaks you can do is to show prices in local currencies.
Consider this – a customer in India may be perfectly happy to read English content, but if they can't find prices in Indian Rupees, they're likely to go elsewhere.
You should also offer different payment options in different regions. For example, in China, Alipay and Wechat pay are more popular than credit cards.
Localize the user interface and customer journey
The user interface determines customer interaction, but how do you change the interface in order to support localization? Translating text, using local images and videos, changing color palettes, and design aesthetics are all simple ways of optimizing the user interface.
It’s also important to consider different stages of the customer journey – from awareness to purchase. And make sure your localization strategy takes this into account.
For example, influencer marketing might be more relevant during the awareness stage in some countries, while in others, referral programs might work better.
Localization is the answer to a global world
The internet has given businesses of all sizes the opportunity to reach the massive global market. Different markets have different needs, wants, and expectations – to succeed, you must understand the local culture and how your products or services fit into that environment.
By taking the time to develop a localization strategy, you can ensure that your eCommerce business is able to reach its full potential in today's global market. It’s not easy, but if you want to be successful in today’s globalized world, then it’s essential.