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The Impact of Translations on International E-commerce Success

Written by Max Riis Christensen


Businesses planning an international launch often ask whether or not translating their webshop is worth the investment.

The answer I give varies for each webshop, but the fundamentals remain the same: Is your webshop safe, trustworthy, and perceived as a serious player in the target country?

The visitor's experience on your webshop often determines whether they make a purchase. Translations can contribute to a positive impression, as can offering local payment methods, a local address, and customer service in the local language. However, there are cases where translating may not be the right decision.

So, should you translate your webshop?

YES: If you are competing with translated webshops that offer the same products and you lack important competitive advantages such as lower prices or free returns, then translating is recommended. All else being equal, most customers would choose the translated webshop.

NO: If you are one of the few online resellers offering the products, if visitors feel secure on your webshop, and if they can make purchasing decisions without a translation, then you can have a market share without translating.

If your competitive environment is more diverse, consider the following questions:

  • How much revenue does a product generate?
  • What is the average translation cost per product?
  • Do you have a small group of products that contribute significantly to your revenue?
  • Do certain products require detailed or technical descriptions to attract traffic?
  • Are there important local marketing channels that require the local language?
  • Do you expect to attract SEO traffic? (note that the more competitive the industry, the less organic traffic can be expected)

By answering these questions, you can calculate the necessary increase in volume to justify translation. You may also consider translating a group of products that are frequently searched for in the local language to attract organic traffic and include them in a Google shopping feed (note that foreign languages in Google shopping feeds are generally not accepted and not as efficient as having a translated feed).

From an SEO perspective, translations are important. However, the share of SEO traffic in most webshops is decreasing, and SEO work should be seen as a long-term investment. The translation is seldom justified by SEO traffic alone.


Where should you start?

  1. Identify your top five online competitors in the target country.
  2. Compare their webshops with your own in terms of a "safe and secure shopping experience."
  3. Make a list of improvements you can implement to enhance your webshop's safety and security.
  4. Prioritise the improvements and take action.

MakesYouLocal can assist you in this process, from performing localisation and translation tasks to helping you find and analyse your competition.


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