Understanding the Current Global eCommerce Localisation Trends

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Author: Demetrius Williams, : Digital Marketing Specialist, TranslateMedia

Localisation has become key to success online and savvy brands and online retailers have adopted innovative approaches to localisation in order to provide the best experience for their target customers while retaining their brand identity and tone of voice in all of the markets that they operate.


So how are retailers applying localisation strategies across the world and how are demands shifting? This article looks at some of the current global ecommerce localisation trends and provides multiple examples of retailer campaigns.




Historically, the demand for language services has been dominated by English, French, German, Spanish and Italian. However, retail in emerging markets has experienced tremendous growth in the last 10 years due to advances in mobile technology, increased connectivity and a growing middle class. This has meant that the demand for Eastern languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean has increased substantially.


Economic growth1 within emerging markets is much higher than in the West, especially in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. It’s safe to say that the appetite to localise content for consumers in these markets is on the rise with many brands including All Saints, Cath Kidston and Burberry achieving a great deal of success. Global cross-border spending2 is set to double over the next five years to reach $424 billion by 2021 and China is set to drive this growth.


Our data also follows the same trend with Chinese, Japanese and Korean ranked as the top 3 translated languages in APAC. Korean has seen the most growth in number of words translated, with a YoY increase of 482% in 2016. This increase is the result of brand's first localising in Chinese and Japanese, followed by Korean after notable success.

Translated Languages

With larger US retailers like Macy’s, Target and JCPenney making significant headway in tapping into the buying power of the Latin American market in 2015, we’ve seen huge demand in Latin American Spanish translation in 2016 with a 1347% YoY increase in the total number of words translated. We’ve also seen an increase in demand for Brazilian Portuguese - with an annual increase of 147% for brands we’ve worked with.

Translated Languages ROW

With over 54 million3 Latin or Hispanic people living in the US comprising over 17% of the US population, retailers are naturally eager to market their products to this large and influential demographic.


Multimedia localisation


It’s predicted that by 2019, 80% of online content4 will be video and with the rise of influencers on sites such as Youtube, video is fast becoming the de facto format for retailers to target customers.


L’Oréal’s ongoing ‘Beauty For All’ manifesto aimed at both women and men, focuses on how beauty can mean different things to different people and aims to reimagine the brand’s identity as a more accessible international brand.

Loreal Advert Localised Messaging

Since the new manifesto launched in 2014, the French beauty brand has produced a series of videos filmed in various countries around the world including South Africa, Japan, China, India and Turkey - all with English subtitles where English isn’t spoken. The campaign videos focus on cultural differences in the perception of beauty and feature a variety men and women discussing what beauty means to them.


The beauty brand’s Chinese campaign video also has a French subtitled version in an attempt to establish an authentic beauty-based connection with a high-spending emerging market and its native French customers - whose cultural and beauty standards differ greatly.


While measuring ROI on multimedia localisation differs between brands - sales, views or increased qualified traffic - retailers who wish to win international consumers’ loyalty need to ensure that their video content is authentic and sensitive to the local culture in order to truly engage with customers in new markets.


Selective localisation


While it’s common practice for global retailers to localise their ecommerce offering to specific markets, many brands opt for selective localisation. The most common form of selective localisation is keeping product names, brand terms and campaign strap lines in English and only localising body content, product descriptions and information on product features and benefits.


This practice allows retailers to retain their core brand values, especially for luxury or heritage brands or retailers that consider provenance an integral part of their brand image - which is highly appealing to Chinese, Japanese and Korean audiences.


Barbour’s Japanese site is a typical example of a brand which carefully considers which content to localise. While mostly known for its wax-coated outerwear, the English heritage brand's aesthetic continuously denotes a quintessentially English rural lifestyle associated with privileged and aristocratic Brits. But for many audiences in China, Japan, India and Korea, a countryside lifestyle is synonymous with poverty and low social status so the brand had to tread carefully when localising its core brand messages into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.


Ralph Lauren adopts a similar approach - directing its Chinese users to a localised content site displaying its latest collection with lookbooks and campaign videos. While the majority of the content is localised - campaign straplines and product names remain in English. The site allows the American luxury brand to engage with the Chinese market while utilising the store locator function to introduce customers to its physical retail stores.

Ralph Lauren Localised Website

Ralph Lauren Localised Website Map

While there are many more examples of selective localisation within the luxury market, premium brands often use this form of localisation as a tool to save time and cost when entering new markets. It's important for retailers to understand the cultural perceptions of their brand in local markets before making the decision to localise fully, partially or in some cases, not at all.


Customer service localisation support


It’s important for businesses that operate in local markets to align their customer service processes with their localisation strategy. In situations where users need more information about a product or service, the ability to communicate with a native speaker of a local language is vital for every stage in the customer purchase cycle.


The instant communication consumers have come to expect through social media and messaging apps means that brands are under increased pressure to respond in a timely manner in order to improve the user experience and foster brand loyalty.


Hotels.com has made international customer support a core element of its digital strategy by displaying local telephone numbers on every page of its website and including the ability to select a country and language independently so that users can receive information specific to their country of origin in the language of their choice.

Hotels.com International Website

Including local addresses and phone numbers on your localised site and introducing native speaking representatives to your customer service team will make your international customers feel more confident in their purchase decisions and can drastically improve conversion rates.


Aside from local contact details, the immediacy of live chat makes it a popular function for customer support and, if implemented correctly, can reduce cart abandonment and increase average order value according to a Forrester report5.


Dolce & Gabbana is great example of a retailer that has put considerable effort into optimising its customer experience with multilingual live chat options available in five European languages and dedicated online customer support in eight languages including Russian, Japanese and Chinese.

Dolce and Gabana International Website

The demand for localised customer service has also resulted in many brands and retailers integrating their customer service solutions and CRM systems with their language service providers - a trend we expect to continue.


The rise of editorial content and multilingual copywriting


eCommerce sites6 with editorial content have an average conversion rate of 2.9% as opposed to 0.5% for sites without it. As a result, editorial content has fast become an integral part of many fashion brands’ digital strategy. While also beneficial for SEO, editorial content offers fashion and beauty consumers a wealth of information ranging from beauty tips and recommendations, to style guides and fashion trend news in order to help them make informed purchase decisions.


Beauty retailers such as Sephora, Feel Unique and Estée Lauder have a long history of creating editorial content for international audiences. For these brands, localising editorial content is just as important as localising product pages.


55% of global consumers7 said they only buy products from websites that provide them with information in their own language. This demand for content has created a shift from translation and localisation to the creation of unique content specifically targeted to consumers in local markets - which usually takes the form of blog pages written by multilingual copywriters.


Estée Lauder produces unique content for multiple markets including Korea, Japan and China. Each country has its own localised Estée Stories blog page featuring unique campaign imagery and blog articles.


International brands that sell products exclusively in-store are also bolstering their sites with editorial content despite not having the functionality to transact online. Fashion brand, Primark, has spent a number of years investing in editorial content in English, localised US English and 5 other European languages to bridge the gap between the retailer and its customers who search for products online.


Localising editorial content comes with its own set of challenges - including a huge range of new terms introduced into the translation process which can be difficult to translate. A great example is the “onesie” which become popular in the UK in late 2012.


New Look chose to use the phrase Grenouillère Femme (Lady Babygrow) because of its similar style and design, where the word “Femme” indicated the product was not intended for babies.


When developing new products and services, international retailers are encouraged to consider the impact of creative and non-traditional naming conventions in new markets as unconventional product names could potentially present a barrier to conversion in certain countries.



It’s clear that in order for your brand to successfully compete internationally, a customer-focused approach to your localisation strategy is essential to fostering brand loyalty - especially if you're competing with local brands that offer similar products or services. Understanding and consistently maintaining customer expectations in each market you operate in will play a key role in how your business will evolve in the future.





1 - World Retail Congress Blog - The 2030 Emerging Markets $5.5 Trillion Retail Swing
2 - Forrester - Global Cross-Border eCommerce Sales Article
3 - United States Census Bureau
4 - Entrepreneur Video Article
5 - Forrester Report
6 - Lemonstand - Why Serious eCommerce Brands Need a Content Strategy
7 - Common Sense Advisory - International Website Article

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