What Are the Challenges of Translation in E-commerce?

December 2, 2021 Specific Translations

As a Digital Marketing Director for an e-commerce business, you put in a lot of effort on a daily basis to satisfy your customers. Running an e-commerce site is hard enough, but operating within a global market? That gets even more complicated. When it comes to serving international customers, there is a whole list of extra things you need to take care of, including website translation. 

Translatable content on an e-commerce website covers more than just the text. It includes everything from photos and videos to PDFs and reviews. By translating all of these elements, you can provide an immersive, relatable and engaging experience for every customer regardless of their native language.

Multilingual websites are the cornerstone for global businesses, answering customers’ needs directly and thereby saving you time and money further down the line. However, these translations must be done correctly. A single mistake could have costly implications, damaging your reputation within the global market and losing you customers.

Read on to find out about the 5 most common challenges posed by online stores operating within the global market. By understanding these challenges, you can prepare for what lies ahead and give yourself a better chance of a successful translation of your online store.          

1. Importing and exporting multilingual content

During a typical translation and localisation process, you will be required to share, export and view multiple files. In certain cases, your developer might need to extract the strings and tables of content in different formats (.json, .po and .html, .csv etc).

If the files are prepared correctly and sent using the right format, then you will be able to benefit from the use of Specialised Translation Management tools. These include glossaries of key terms for consistent terminology, as well as translation memories that identify repeated content and help keep costs to a minimum.

After approving the translated content, you will need to import this back into your website’s platform or system. This can be done by either creating a new page or updating the previous one.

The process might seem straightforward, but it can be a challenge if your multilingual website has not been correctly set up to handle this transfer of data. However, as the number of multilingual websites quickly grows, more technology is being developed specifically to make it easier for businesses to translate their content.

Make sure to research all the different multilingual plugins available and find one that suits your needs. For example, if you use a WordPress website, then you might want to look into WPML. By choosing the right plugin, you can correctly prepare your documents and unlock access to all the benefits of CAT tools.

2. Using machine translation

Brands need to be careful that their messages are translated accurately, including product names and prices. If a product name is translated incorrectly, there will be complaints from sellers who might receive items they didn’t expect. Meanwhile, if the local currency is wrong, this would also lead to disputes between sellers and buyers.

A growing trend for e-commerce platforms is the use of machine translation (MT) engines. This allows businesses to keep up with the fast flow of user-generated content and product descriptions. By providing cheap and quick translations, it has proven to be an indispensable tool for major players in online retail.

However, e-commerce content must be correct and easily readable, so standard MT may not be as effective as it first seems. Making a target language text easy to read is one of the greatest challenges faced by MT. The results are often hard to understand, which can frustrate users and lead to a higher bounce rate.  

An alternative solution is to use Advanced Machine Translation (AMT). This provides instant text translations and is helpful for understanding large texts in different language pairs. With AMT, we train neural translation machines on a variety of specialist subject areas using previous source and target texts produced by human translators. In this case, we would build up a database on the e-commerce sector.

At Intertranslations, we have thousands of translations created over the course of 25 years. Using these documents, our machines can recognise similar content and produce a draft translation with impressive results. Although this can lack the fluency and sensitivity of a human linguist, this is a cost-effective solution that saves on time.

Whether you choose MT or AMT, it is essential that your translation is accurate which is where post-editing comes into play. Machine Translation Post-editing (MTPE) combines MT with human input, giving you both the speed of the machine and the sensitivity of a human. 

3. Managing ongoing translations

Between product releases, seasonal changes and customer demand, retail moves fast. This means that websites need to be updated at a moment’s notice. Together with the speedy nature of international commerce, traditional web translation workflows find it hard to keep up. This leaves your company with untimely content releases, putting you behind the competition and losing potential revenue.

Nowadays, it’s not just MT engines that can come to the rescue. Tools and translation technologies are making human translations stronger and more efficient, streamlining the entire translation process.

Translation management systems and tools help translation service providers to increase both productivity and accuracy by recognising similar words and phrases to previously translated content. When used for your global campaigns, this can save you a considerable amount of time and money.

With original content being translated quicker, this can get inserted back into the website on time while avoiding inaccuracies and systematic errors. The more features you add to your website, the more original content you will need to translate. But by using translation management tools, you can stay on top of your content and deliver ongoing translations.

4. Extending your reach with multilingual SEO

As international e-commerce becomes more prevalent, it is a good idea for businesses to make sure their website is optimised for multilingual SEO. Different countries not only require different information, but there are also cultural differences to contend with. As such, your content needs to be tailored to each audience accordingly, which can be done as part of your multilingual SEO strategy. This allows you tooffer different content to different target audiences depending on their unique needs. 

It is also important for businesses to optimise product descriptions to rank well in search engines. Given that different audiences can have different search habits, needs and expectations, your keywords will need to go beyond a direct translation. Instead, your content should include localised keywords, which involves researching how users search for your products in each language and country. By understanding your audience, you can use the right keywords to make sure your website appears in the most relevant searches.

Technically challenging and incredibly complicated, multilingual SEO requires a certain expertise. Marketing is all about delivering a message to your customers, and multilingual SEO can help make sure they hear it. By using content that speaks to your audience’s cultural values, you can extend your reach and engage with local customers, building trust and loyalty. 

5. Engaging your audience with the help of transcreation

Your customers need a seamless, personalised experience, and so localisation might not be enough to reach international markets. Along with using the local language, you also need to be aware of idioms, cultural nuances and expectations. This means that translations should go beyond simply translating words on paper, accounting for linguistic and cultural differences as well as audience expectations.

While a standard translation might make the content understood, marketing is all about resonating with your audience. As such, a direct translation might not have the desired impact and could negatively affect your expansion into the global market.

The answer to this dilemma is transcreation, which combines translation and creative writing with targeted marketing insights. The result is a text that might be different from the source, but which delivers the same desired impact. This can also be applied to all of your content, moving past the words to look at images and colours.

By working with a translation agency that specialises in e-commerce translation, you can deliver compelling website content in every language for every target market.

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