How to Build a Successful Multilingual eCommerce Website & Shopping Cart in 2020

eCommerce Jul 06, 2020

You don't need to go international to require a multilingual website. Canadians, Swiss, Dutch nationals live in multilingual nations speaking several languages from childhood.

Interestingly, Amazon, the behemoth of eCommerce, prefers to train its AI on multilingual datasets, as differences and inconsistencies from a single language can cause inconclusiveness or doubt about everyday transactions.

As part of its multilingual approach, Amazon went along with creating multiple country-specific gTLDs for bigger countries, like Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy and Germany, using amazon.ca and amazon.it, for example.

Clearly, English is the language of choice when it comes to web design. All other major languages only get a fraction of the internet user share that English gets. For example, Chinese, the first language of a billion internet users, is used in only 2% of websites, and Spanish with some 500 million native speakers, is featured in only 5% of websites.

Multilingual eCommerce websites are a necessity for many eCommerce operations though – either to comply with legal requirements or in the course of regional expansion.

In this across-the-board piece let’s review:

  • Importance of having a multilingual eCommerce website
  • Localization vs. Translation
  • The top WordPress translation plugins
  • Multi-Language SEO
  • Custom eCommerce development solutions in multiple languages

Why Multilingual Site Options Are Far-Reaching

Improved Search Engine Optimization [SEO]

If you encounter a person who speaks a couple of languages, you automatically estimate they have a higher intellectual capacity, right? The more languages a person speaks, the higher your regard for them.

Search engine algorithms likewise will spot your website communicating in multiple languages and attribute greater authority to your platform.

That could happen for two reasons:

  • you have more URLs in your site maps, and
  • your respective content will be suitable for users who saved that specific language as their preferred language for a browser.

Want to look big league to Google? Get your website translated into a few different languages.

Larger Audience Base

Multi-language eCommerce platforms can attract a bigger audience in the first place. Indeed, with more URLs and a language matching more users’ preferred language settings, your website is naturally more popular.

Having a wide TOF (top of funnel) is the simplest way to get more conversions at the BOF (bottom of the funnel). Each step of the funnel needs optimizing along the way, but if you get more users into the funnel initially, you will convert more.

Stand Apart From The Competition

Multilingual eCommerce solutions are perceived as international businesses and come across as big trustworthy companies. In some countries, it is a legal requirement to have specific languages presented in web design too – so if you don’t have a certain language – your business may be perceived as not a legitimate one.

If you are catering to a high-margin or high-check clientele, a multilingual website automatically gives you more gravitas and sets you apart from your competitors.

Localization of the eCommerce website vs. Translation

Is localization part of translation or vice versa? What is the difference between the two terms?

What Is Localization of a Website?

Localization is a much broader term that includes translation of the website as one of its features.

Localization of a website is a set of measures performed by the website development company, directed to align contents of an original existing website with the financial, tax, customs, linguistic, marketing, and cultural framework of the additional country. This usually includes website translation, adding another currency, adjusting terms & conditions, shipping, and delivery. Sometimes a localized eCommerce platform may include a totally different pricing strategy as well.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

We tend to prefer original mistakes, not the banal commonplace ones. So here’s a list of the few boring mistakes everyone makes, but you should avoid when developing a website in different languages.

Leave Google Translate Alone

It's the best thing since sliced bread; we think so too. But even the best general-purpose tools are not good enough for some missions. This is one of those cases when Google translate should be shied away from.

Google translate used to be an option, a widget that allows users to simply choose a language with the help of a toggle bar.

Thankfully, it’s no longer available to new users and we hope that existing users will have grown their eCommerce muscles and ambitions sufficiently to switch to proper human translation.

Google Translate's Website Translator no longer provides new access

We have seen it, and this is why. It ain't pretty.

Depending on the eCommerce platform you have your store developed on, and depending on the plugin that you use for your dual language website, you will need to ensure you have a language switcher that allows users to pull up the menu in their chosen language.

Too many home pages don’t look neatly lined up alongside too many contact pages. You get the idea.

Choosing The Wrong Translation PlugIn Or eCommerce Platform

If you already have a website and decided to expand into other markets, you will need to choose a multilingual plugin or a solution that is compatible with your platform.

If you are only creating your web design from scratch and decide to have a multilingual eCommerce website, then you have to take into account this option when choosing a platform to build your online store on.

Whichever is the case, be sure to compare the available options in terms of price, features, number of users, and reviews before making your final choice.

The more popular a platform is, the fewer fees you will pay for developing it, as competition is going to be greater with more talent available to choose from. Naturally, if you have a long-term horizon and vision for your store, take into account the pricing plans for a scenario where you need to scale from 1000 SKUs to 10,000 or more.

Pro tip: Try to gain an understanding of what your major competitors are using, because they may have done research that is worth factoring in your final decision.

Best Multilingual eCommerce Platforms

The largest eCommerce platforms are all equipped with multi-language functionality so that you can ensure your online store is welcoming for people of different nationalities.

These are some of the best platforms for eCommerce website development:

Shopify

Magento

Wordpress [with plugin Woocommerce]

Bigcommerce

Prestashop

Statista: eCommerce platforms market share the United States 2020

Building Multi-Language eCommerce Store & Shopping Carts at Different Platforms

Shopify

Shopify is eCommerce platform number 1 in the USA with a 31% market share, followed by WooCommerce at 14%.

Shopify offers two  methods for designing a website in different languages:

  1. choosing a multilingual theme or making a chosen theme multilingual
  2. choosing a multilingual third-party app

While using a multilingual theme, Shopify customers are also advised to choose the theme with language selectors, like Debit or Brooklyn. Alternatively, they can also use Geolocation App to install the language selector feature in other themes.

The most installed Shopify language apps:

Magento (an Adobe Company)

This open-source solution handles more than $100 billion in merchandise volume and has 300 thousand global Magento developers supporting it the world over.

Magento’s key features include:

  • page builder;
  • product recommendations;
  • progressive web apps;
  • Amazon Sales channels

Magento Marketplace offers thousands of eCommerce extensions and themes from over 450 developers.

Magento is available for download here.

This video from the Magento Commerce official YouTube channel explains the exact steps on how to plan a multi-website business on Magento. (Pro tip: 30 minutes turn into 15 minutes if you watch it on 2X speed).

Planning for a Multi-Website Business on Magento

Wordpress [WooCommerce plugin]

WordPress's biggest eCommerce plugin is WooCommerce.

Just to give you a taste of how powerful this combo is, here are some WooCommerce stats:

  • 3.3 million websites use WooCommerce.
  • 28% of all online stores globally use this eCommerce engine
  • 94% of all e-stores on WP are WC sites.

What are the best WordPress translation plugins that are compatible with WooCommerce then?

  • WPML
  • Polylang (500 000+ installations, 4.5*, 1567 reviews)
  • Weglot(30 000+ installations, 5*, 1072 reviews)
  • TranslatePress (90 000+ installations, 4.5*, 217 reviews)

This ultimate guide to WooCommerce Multilingual Marketplace by WeDevs owners provides a step-by step-manual of how to implement a multilingual eCommerce site on WooCommerce using different plugins.

BigCommerce

According to SimilarTech, BigCommerce is used by 30 thousand unique domains, which is almost half a percent of all websites.

Some of the sites operated by BigCommerce are CouponXOO, WND, and Vivino.

The major technology that enables a multilingual shopping cart and website to run on BigCommerce is the Stencil Framework.

Localizer and Weglot also offer translation solutions for BigCommerce.

Multi-Language Store And SEO

URL syntax for multilingual website design

The best practice of designing a website in different languages is to use unique URLs for different languages with one of these syntaxis:

  • Subdomain: de.eCommercesite.com
  • Subdirectory with gTLDs: eCommercesite.com/de
  • Country-specific domain gTLD: eCommercesite.de

On the other hand, using URL parameters is not recommended:

  • eCommercesite.com?lang=de

SiteMap & Tags

Help Google to navigate your website by creating a sitemap with all the possible languages or use hreflang to expedite the crawling.

Redirect based on Preferred Browser Language

It’s a mistake to redirect a user to a website’s localized & translated version based on the country of IP, for two reasons:

  • Some countries have many official languages
  • People travel and re-locate internationally

The optimal method is to either base a redirect on browser preferences or to ask a user for language preferences.

RelAlternate usage

Using RelAlternate is the right way to let Google know about the language preference of a certain URL.

At the same time, canonical tags should be pointing to the same language, not your default language.

eCommercesite.es/product-in-spanish/ should be pointing to

eCommercesite.es/product-in-spanish/ and not to

eCommercesite.com/product-in-default-language/

Best Multilingual eCommerce Store & Shopping Cart Examples

If you want to feel what online stores on specific platforms feel like, please find below a few links to jaw-dropping examples by Shopify, WooCommerce & BigCommerce:

Shopify websites examples:

Fashionnova

Staples

KylieCosmetics

WooCommerce Examples:

Underwear expert

Sodashi

BigCommerce websites Examples:

Woolrich

Clarks

Custom eCommerce Development Solution

If you need to expand a currently existing website or create a brand-new eCommerce website, you might want to consider custom eCommerce development as opposed to out-of-the-box solutions.

It’s a great choice for these reasons:

  1. Customizability as per your liking
  2. Unique design & features
  3. Full control of all the data & processes
  4. Integrations with preferred technical solutions in web design
  5. High quality manual multi-lingual translation as opposed to machine translation.

Naturaly, custom web design takes more time and is probably more expensive. But it also allows users to create unparalleled solutions in terms of efficiencies, design, and convertibility, which are a worthwhile investment for bigger eCommerce projects.

Boutique Custom Multilingual eCommerce Development by Zoolatech

Zoolatech offers the best of both worlds: the expertise and in-depth understanding of eCommerce with Silicon Valley roots and reasonably-priced tech talent from Ukraine.

If you are considering creating an eCommerce platform with multiple languages, or if your company needs to change something in your existing setup, we’d be delighted to provide you with our free consultation.

Just reach out to us in the most convenient manner for an expert opinion, advice, or a surprisingly reasonable quote.


Zoolatech Team

We are a team of technology addicts eager to transform our clients’ needs into efficient and innovative solutions through high-quality service and reliable customer support.