What You Need To Know Before Creating A Multilingual Online Shop

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It's now easier than ever to expand internationally and for any budding entrepreneur, going global from the get-go is essential for growth. Here's what you need to know before adopting your website:

While you may have set up a shop in Germany, you may be attracting traffic from countries like the U.K., Sweden, and Portugal. You’ll want to get the most out of your international traffic to increase sales, and the formula for that is simple: speak the same language!

According to research by Forrester highlighted by Entrepreneur, visitors spend twice as long on websites that are in their native language. What’s more, research from IDC revealed people are four times more likely to convert into a paying customer when a company speaks their language.

Let’s take a look at what you should consider before setting up a multilingual online shop.

#1 Choosing Your Language

The first step is deciding which languages you want to add. But instead of going for all the main languages, you’ll want to base your decision on current website data.

For this, you can turn to Google Analytics and its Audience Reports. Head over to the Geo Report and choose Language from the drop-down menu. You’ll get an overview of the languages your visitors have set their browsers.

What you’ll want to look out for is how well each language is converting and whether there’s a trend of the month on month growth.

For instance, your website may be in English, but also attracting conversions from people who speak French. This would indicate an opportunity to localize your website so you can speak directly to the French market.

#2 Local Currencies

According to a survey by ANEC, 66.4% of EU online shoppers bought goods from a company in a different EU country, however, only 10% do so on a regular basis. The survey also revealed that respondents were not aware that they were purchasing from abroad until they received the order confirmation.

By localizing your checkout experience you can expect more orders from abroad as people think you’re based locally. This is something which often gets overlooked and is a simple way to increase your checkout conversion rate. For instance, if you’re based in Germany and sell a product to Switzerland, UK, and Sweden – you’ll want to have Swiss Francs, British Pounds, and Swedish Krones as currencies available during checkout.

What you need to know before creating a multilingual online shop

Not only does this deliver a fully localized experience, but also reduces the risk of costly chargebacks. People often check the price but don’t necessarily look at the currency. When the amounts don’t match on their bank statement due to the exchange rate, there’s a possibility of a chargeback being issued.

Adding multiple currencies to your check out can be done easily and you’ll want to look for a solution that has it ready for you out of the box.

#3 Domains

When adding new languages to your website, you will need to consider how you’re going to structure your URLs for each language. There are three common ways to do this:

  • Using a sub-domain: de.website.com
  • Using a sub-directory: website.com/de
  • Using a country coded top-level domain: website.de

Each way has its pros and cons. But if you’re low on resources and don’t want to maintain multiple websites your best bet is going for sub-directories. It’s the easiest method to set up and it keeps maintenance costs to a minimum.

Going for sub-domains or top-level domains, requires more work in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO), as each country-coded domain is considered a separate website by Google. This means that you would need to invest in local SEO activities such as link building for each region.

#4 Cultural Considerations

Getting your content translated is one thing, but understanding the culture of your target market is another. When adding more languages to your website, you’ll want to be on the look out for any cultural nuances. The last thing you want is to come across as insulting or rude.

In some languages, like German and French, there’s a formal and informal way of addressing people. In German, you have “Du” and “Sie” when speaking directly to someone, the former being informal and the latter formal. When you look at Zalando.de for example, you’ll notice that they use the “du” form. However, for a B2B product like Salesforce, the formal “Sie” is used.

For languages you’re not familiar with, always ask a native speaker to double check your content before publishing it.

#5 Maintenance

Getting all your content translated in the beginning is the easy part. But have you thought about how you’re going to handle ongoing updates?

Every time you make an edit or add a new content section also involves updating everything in all your other languages. Generally, this isn’t a problem if you’ve got someone in-house who knows the language. For other languages, you may want to look into hiring an agency or a freelancer for your translation needs.

Here are few places to check out and compare quotes:

What you need to know before creating a multilingual online shop

Once you have your content translated, the next step is uploading it to your e-commerce platform or content management system. Ideally you want the process to be smooth, fast and not waste too much of your time. The best thing to do is to look for a product which effortlessly enables you to add new languages for every element of your website, such as your check out process.


Expanding into new countries is exciting. By keeping the things mentioned in mind, you can be sure you that you’ll create an experience everyone will enjoy. Be sure to keep an eye on your analytics to see how you’re performing as well as any trends you can spot.



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