How to optimize ecommerce translations


So, it makes perfect sense for ecommerce businesses to make globalization one of their key growth strategies. Everyone knows about the success stories, like Amazon and Alibaba. Interestingly, global ecommerce is also an increasingly important factor for smaller businesses. One of those then 'unusual' success stories was Stadium Goods, a boutique sports retailer based in New York, that saw its biggest sales spike on 11 November – China’s ‘Singles Day’.

One of the most important aspects of going global (besides shipping, payment options and the like) is localization. We all prefer to buy online when the site is in our preferred language, so product details and related information, including reviews, must be localized. The French like to read French and the Japanese are generally not very fluent in German. You get the point.


So how do you go about localizing?

A quality ecommerce translation gets very expensive when you have a thick product catalogue. Assuming a translation cost of EUR 0.20 per word and an average of 125 words per individual product, translating a single product into 25 languages would cost over EUR 600. Based on these assumptions, translating a 200,000 products catalogue (not an unusual number for most ecommerce sites) would cost 120 million euros. Of course, that's not realistic.

So what’s the alternative? Pass everything through an NMT engine? Would that cause your sales to take a big hit? And how about your brand voice? What’s the impact on brand image when your customers have to pick their way through really strange translations?

It seems that neither alternative is the right strategy for localizing ecommerce product catalogues. We need something smarter.

A smart strategy for global ecommerce

We propose a novel strategy for localizing ecommerce. It's the middle ground between a fully machine-translated product catalogue and an optimal translation, made by humans. Note that ‘no translation’ is also an option.

In most cases, however, businesses usually start with machine translation that provides reasonable output at minimal cost, allowing them to establish a commercial presence. Our smart strategy also works when no translation is available, but for simplicity’s sake, we assume here that the business has already produced an initial machine-translated product catalogue.

What if we could identify the products that are the best candidates for optimal translation? What if we could quantify the expected additional margin when a product is optimally translated? We would then be able to focus our translation efforts on products that deliver the most business value!

The good news is: we can identify the best product candidates for optimal translation. We do that by estimating the additional margin generated by an optimally translated product: the potential translation value. The potential translation value of a product is the additional margin of that product after producing an optimal translation. We use readily available analytics data, product margin figures and translation costs to calculate this value.

Using the potential translation value, a local ecommerce manager has all the tools needed to optimize ecommerce conversion rates while managing the budget. This is a whole lot smarter than the all-or-nothing approaches.

Next steps

If you've considered all the tips above and are now thinking of how you can apply this to your business, you're in the right place!

Acolad offers a tailored solution for smarter ecommerce localization and we're constantly looking for ways to stretch our customers' budgets.

Do you want to reach new markets with your ecommerce business?

Our ecommerce localization experts are here for you, contact us!