Ecommerce Translation Services - Our Top 10 Translation Tips

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Ecommerce translation services are a major part of our website translation work. E-commerce sites are typically database driven. This is why we often translate into either Excel or XML formats. This often allows you to load the translated product descriptions directly into your back end. We deal with a wide range of ecommerce projects, so we are well placed to give some ecommerce translation tips.

Wikipedia defines ecommerce quite simply as “a transaction of buying or selling online”.

Whilst it may be a simple concept, there are lots of issues for retailers if they want to sell online.

Ecommerce is a major driver of the British economy. Other countries such as the US, and Germany are also well advanced. Other European countries such as France and Spain are also active. However, some countries lag behind. It is also important that ecommerce is more propular in some sectors of the economy than others.

The following list of ecommerce translation tips, is born out of our extensive experience with the sector. This is a complex subject, and our aim is to give some pointers for new exporters.

Our top 10 ecommerce translation tips:

1) Consider your business objectives

Before even thinking about translating your content, think through your business objectives. Which languages or countries do you want to target and why?

2) How will you sell or distribute your product if successful?

There is no problem for us to translate your site into Simplified Chinese or Kazakh. We can even translate into Zulu if you like. However, can you sell successfully in these target markets? Can you ship the product economically? Also, can you support any necessary after-sales service? Are you selling on an ecommerce platform like Amazon? If so, then you may be required to offer product descriptions in language. Additionally, you will have to offer sales and after sales support.

3) Do you need to translate your whole site?

Some sections like terms and conditions may be very wordy. However, these are not necessarily your first priority. Google and most other major search engines love to be drip fed content. It may be best to start with a few products, and then to build up.

4) Is your product appropriate to the target market?

We could probably all point to cultural mistakes made when trying to sell in a different market. Can you sell the same product, or does it need some adaption?

5) Consider your pricing policy carefully:

If you price in pounds you are in theory playing safe. However, how do you protect against exchange rate fluctuations? If you know your likely shipping costs, you may be able to pass these on. However, some countries expect free shipping and return. Customers will probably expect to pay in their local currency. If you price in pounds, then you may be deterring possible customers.

6) Consider return on investment:

Translation is not cheap. This is especially true if you want to sell a technically specialised piece of equipment to high end-customers. In a competitive environment, your marketing translation also needs to be top notch. Your customers will expect good quality information, in order to enable an informed decision.

7) Consider all your costs

Remember that translation is not the only cost when you are preparing a multi-lingual site. There are also things to consider like hosting costs. You may also need to pay for input from your web developer. You should also factor in the need for updates when you sell new products, or amend existing ones.

8) Research your target market:

its important to consider that internet trends may be very different in your target market. For example, Germany has very high internet use, but people resist buying online in many countries. Indeed people may even use your product information to research, and then buy from a local competitor!

9) Do not consider “free” translation:

Don’t be tempted to use “free” or low cost machine translation. We have a good article on why to avoid “free translation”. Good translators are in demand, and therefore tend to be busy. Translating a large ecommerce site will take us time. It will cost both time and effort, as well as money to get it right.

10) Consider the biggest positive:

Britain is at the forefront of e-commerce. We have the highest level of online purchasing of any country in the world. This means that in many countries you will be ahead of the game. If you offer ecommerce solutions online, then you may be first to market. However, do not expect overnight success. Being first mover can have definite advantages, but it may take the market some time to catch up.


The aim of this article is to give some general ecommerce translation tips. These are pointers for people thinking about developing a multi-lingual e-commerce website. Inevitably this is a short discussion of what is a complex subject. Our aim is to make you think about some of the important issues.

The article is also deliberate in pointing out some of the pitfalls. We could (and some agencies do) just take your money and then churn out anything you want. However, ultimately your commercial success is our commercial success. We want to work on e-commerce sites which are successful and achieve their objectives. If you are thinking about going multi-lingual on your website, talk to us now.

We are happy to give an initial consultation without obligation. Contact Better Languages and speak with a translation professional. (We don’t use call centres, I promise).

Mike Hunter


Better Languages

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