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Translating for the Amazon platform – 6 top translation tips

Posted 29/02/16

Translating for the Amazon platform has much in common with translation for other e-commerce platforms, but there are some specific issues which need to be taken into account. Here are our top tips on preparing to translate your Amazon store:

  1. Like any area of translation, preparation is really important, ensure all the information you will require translated is well written and presented in the original language.
  2. In preparing the text for your chosen translation company, consider how you want to receive and upload the information. International versions of Amazon such as Amazon.de and Amazon.es have the same backend systems as Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com, this means that it is possible for us to work directly on an Excel spreadsheet, or similar file, and provide you with a single target language version of the file, which you can then upload to create your listings. An important aspect of this, is that there are many data fields which won’t require translation. As you are effectively paying per translated word, it is really important that you give your translation company clear instructions on what should be translated and what shouldn’t.
  3. Marketing messages are key, like in your own language, the power of a good listing, is in the quality of its marketing message. Translation can easily overlook this aspect, we talked to a top retailer recently who was looking for a new supplier, having been “let down”, by their previous translation company. On further investigation, we found the translators had been “playing it safe” with the product descriptions, providing target language descriptions that were not in any way inaccurate, but lacked the marketing “punch” of the original text. Marketing is a specialised area of translation requiring careful time and thought by the translator.
  4. Using machine translation – or rather not using machine translation. Using Google Translate, or a comparable machine translation tool, might be tempting, as it is both fast – almost instant, and free. So what’s the catch? Well product listings have to be very carefully worded, if your product is mis-described, not only will it hurt sales, but it may leave you open to being sued. No machine translation tool has the aptitude or ability of a human translator. Marketing texts very often have to be quite lateral – conveying concepts and ideas, not a literal word by word translation. Then there is the serious risk of error – if a word has several possible meanings, which will the machine choose? Google translate was recently translating “Russia” in Ukrainian as “Mordor” – the mythical dark kingdom of The Lord of the Rings, I’m certain I would find this offensive if I was Russian. Imagine your nice product title being translated by machine into an offensive word in the target language.
  5. Localisation, or adapting your product to the target market – this is really important, and should not be overlooked. We know a local manufacturer who sells children’s fancy dress costumes.When they started selling in Spain, they started by trying to sell their top UK selling products, but found that Spanish parents had major differences in their buying habits, for example, they liked different styles and colours than their UK counterparts. Is your product suitable for the intended target market? Are fashions and trends different there? Will there be demand?
  6. Legislation: if you are selling on Amazon.co.uk and want to sell on another European version of the Amazon platform, then broadly speaking, there is likely to be the same legal requirements for product labels and packaging, as the EU has common standards in many areas of consumer products. However, this is a complex area of law, and professional advice should normally be sought before trying to sell into another market. If you are selling on Amazon.com and are a North American business, then the different regulatory requirements within the EU are likely to present more of a challenge, quite simply FDA requirements and EU requirements for labels and packaging can be quite different. Larger companies may have the expertise to deal with this in-house, but smaller businesses are likely to need specialist compliance advice. Compliance should normally be addressed before translation, so you are translating the correct text.

The forgoing are some general tips and advice, but our general advice would be to “have a go”, many products which are successful on a domestic market, will also be successful when sold internationally. A great aspect of the international Amazon platforms is simplified fulfilment, and leveraging the support and branding of one of the world’s most successful e-commerce platforms. For a relatively modest investment, it is possible to test selling in an international market, without the big commercial risks of setting up your own distribution network or local representation, or the costs associated with localising your own e-commerce site.

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