What should I think about if I plan to set up a multilingual ecommerce site for selling abroad?
If you would like to offer your products in different countries, your store should support multiple languages. In this chapter we will look at the role ecommerce software plays in making your store multilingual.
Multilingual and International Online Store
A multilingual online store means that the online store is available in more than one language. The store is set up to meet the needs of target audiences in the different countries where you offer your products. Most of the time this means that your online store’s visitors can choose the language for the content being displayed.
An international online store means that in addition to the pages being translated, all the content is fully adapted to the selected country. The content can therefore vary per country, and things such as currency, payment methods, taxes, etc. are specifically set per country. International online stores may also offer multiple languages per country. For example Dutch and French for the Belgium market.
Therefore, these are two different concepts. Determine for yourself if a translation is enough or if you specifically want an international online store.
What you need to consider
If you would like to offer your store in multiple languages, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Multilingual or international: Does the software support this?
- Domain and URL construction: What does the URL structure look like in the different countries and languages?
- Language selection: How are visitors guided to the correct language section?
- Translations: How has the software set this up?
- Order management: To what extent can you achieve search engine optimization for each language?
Not all ecommerce solutions offer support for multiple languages. Most open source software offer modules for this. Larger SaaS platforms also offer multilingual options, and they may sometimes offer international options. If it is your ambition to expand your store into other countries in the future, keep this in mind when you choose your online store’s software.
Domain and URL construction
A multilingual online store means that your content is shown in multiple languages. Your pages will then have a unique URL for each language. In practice, this usually happens in one of the following ways:
- With a URL parameter. For example: onlinestore.com?language=de
- With a subdirectory: onlinestore.com/de/
- Via a subdomain: de.onlinestore.com
- With a separate domain: onlinestore.de
The best advice for an international online store is option 4 or secundary, option 3. Then search engines will consider each (sub)domain as a separate website. For multilingual stores option 2 is also a good choice.
The greatest advantage of having a unique domain extension for each country (in example .com, .de, .se, etc.) is that visitors have the feeling that they are shopping locally, not in a store from a foreign party. Moreover, the domain extension is an important ranking factor for search engines.
There are different ways to guide visitors to the correct language. This can be done via a drop down menu, clicking on the corresponding flag, an overlay on the homepage, etc. The possibilities will be different depending on the software. If you have specific things in mind, then make sure they are possible before you decide on your software.
It is advisable to have visitors automatically transferred to the correct language when you choose a URL parameter (option 1 of the previous heading) or a subdirectory (option 2). This can be done based on the visitor’s IP address. Again, your software has to support this. Having a unique domain for each country remains the best option in any case.
Offering an online store in multiple languages requires a significant time investment. All content has to be translated into each language and added with the online store admin panel.
It is very important for you to be able to do this in a simple way with your ecommerce software. This will save you enormous amounts of time. Being able to automatically copy content from a page so that the text only has to be translated is a good example of a feature that is extremely useful in this context.
Another aspect of the admin panel that is very important for a multilingual ecommerce website is order management. Being able to manage your orders per country becomes increasingly important as the number of countries your online store serves grows.
Here are some final tips for creating an online store in multiple languages:
- Do not just check to see if the ecommerce software offers the features to make a store multilingual or international, but especially look at how they actually do this. The possibilities vary immensely, especially regarding the ease in which they can be used.
- Keep in mind that all the text for pages and products will have to be translated.
- Do you use a lot of images or slide shows? Do not forget to add images for each of the languages.
- Check your online store carefully if you present it in another language. Make sure that the layout is correct and that all the pages, products, product options, legal conditions and additional texts are properly translated.
- Offer appropriate international payment options. It differs per country which payment options are used the most.