How to make Multilingual Search work for E-Commerce

multilingual search ecommerce compressor

Whether you plan to run an SEO or a PPC campaign, the multilingual dimension is often an additional difficulty.

In some markets such as Canada, Belgium or Switzerland it is the norm due to several official languages to represent. Actually, multiple languages are spoken in these countries, like French, English, German and local languages. Therefore, this requires a great capacity to adapt. Additionally, external factors may have a non-negligible influence!

The first element to consider is to make sure that your website is ready to go international or more exactly multilingual. Here are the five top questions you should ask yourself before starting anything:

  • Where am I planning to sell?
  • Do I understand the local needs and habits of my target customers?
  • Is my site able to handle foreign currency payments?
  • Am I able to handle customer service in foreign languages?
  • Have my site’s foreign language versions been properly translated?

How to make Multilingual Search work for E-Commerce

These five questions are crucial, let us now analyse them.

Where am I planning to sell?

This is a crucial element, selling within the EU is not the same thing as selling outside of it. Within the EU, common rules manage the way how we do business, outside of it WTO rules are the ones that apply and customs duties often reduce your margins.

Do I really understand the local needs and habits of my target customers?

Local habits and needs are very often a major issue. When you go for a cross-border strategy and open your E-Commerce to a multilingual and / or a worldwide market, you need to adapt. Indeed, no one would need a smartphone retailer if there is no 3G network in the country, and no one would need a website like Amazon where there is already a local leader on the market such as Ozon in Russia (Additionally, Russia complexifies the possibility for foreign companies to develop in the country). You need to catch up on these kinds of information before trying to penetrate a market.

Is my website able to handle foreign currency payments?

In areas like the EEA, many currencies exist as addition to the Euro, 10 other currencies exist such as the Krone, the Pound, the Lev, the Swiss Franc,… You need to make sure your website is able to process these currencies. Why? Because if you do not offer this possibility your clients may not be willing to pay the conversion fees their bank will force them to pay on top of the price of their product. Many online payment solutions exist in order to allow your E-Commerce to ease this process. Your transaction fees and your clients’ will be easier and your clients will have an easier checkout process.

Am I able to handle multilingual customer service?

Customer service in foreign languages is often an issue for small companies starting to export. Why is it so? When a customer contacts you because he has an issue with his product, he may feel it is difficult to express the issues in a language that is not his own, this may be due to a lack of vocabulary or simply of clarity. Therefore, offering a customer service in the language may be essential.

Have my website’s foreign language version’s been properly translated?

A proper translation of a website is not limited to a grammatical use, it also requires the knowledge of colloquialism and country particularities. E.g.: In English, the use of the pronoun “You” is by essence indefinite as it is used for both informal and formal situations. In the case, of French, two pronouns are equivalent “Tu” and “Vous”, one being informal meanwhile the other is formal. If you address a French customer using the informal “Tu”, he/she will probably ask you who do you think you are. On the contrary in Italian, the informal way is the most commonly used.

How to manage a search campaign in multilingual?

Managing a national and an international campaign with different languages is not the same job at all.

Here are the top differences:

How to make Multilingual Search work for E-Commerce

What do these major differences imply? First of all, you should not consider that your customer will feel the same way about your product or service than your home market customers.

For example, in Germany, quality is a major factor in the purchasing of a product which can lead to a 50% return rate of a product if the quality is inferior to the expected standards. In Italy, people may wish to pay with their Bancomat (national debit card system) instead of a Visa or a MasterCard. In Spain, they may wish to pay on receipt.

How to make Multilingual Search work for E-Commerce

When you apply these elements to search marketing, people may be searching for things that offer different services. In Britain, when people think about a sports shop they think about Sports Direct in Italy they will think about Decathlon.

When a German will think about Lidl a Spaniard about Alcampo or El Corte Inglés. When someone searches for Amazon in Ireland, that person in Russia would look for

When you are selling overseas, you need to constantly keep considering the local habits. In the North of Europe, takeaways are extremely common and many people feel that delivery is a must have, in the South people will be more tempted to cook themselves or go to the restaurant straight.

Therefore, if we consider a website like Just Eat meanwhile in the north of Europe it can focus on the takeaway/delivery service, in the South, they should probably offer the possibility to book a table at the restaurant.

Your keywords will therefore not be same, but the content neither, have a look below these two homepages. Both websites belong to Groupe Auchan SA the first is the French website, the second is its Spanish counterpart

How to make Multilingual Search work for E-Commerce
How to make Multilingual Search work for E-Commerce

As you can see the two homepages are very different. In France, the focus is placed on the retail and online sales approach meanwhile on the Spanish version, the focus is on the promotion. This is due to the retail habits in the two countries that are very different and the different services available in the two countries. In Spain, many supermarkets use their websites as promotional sites, while in northern Europe the focus is placed on online sales.

Once you are selling abroad you must not simply react but adapt yourself to complete new conditions! Do not suppose, do not consider, do not hypothesize. Simply make sure!

We can conclude by this quote:

“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative” -H G Wells

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Image credit: Katarzyna Dziadus