How to sell in multiple languages on Shopify? Here are the key FAQ when localizing your Shopify store.

Should I stick with one shop? Or should I have several? How can I manage all of these languages? And do I really need to localize everything? We’ll answer your questions about your global Shopify store right here.

Your Shopify store is up and running, but new markets are just over the horizon. You already know that the more languages, the better in today’s international online retail world. But if you’ve got more questions about strategies for selling your goods around the world, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll answer your four most frequently asked questions so you can sell like a local.

Should I create one store for all languages or a separate one for each?

All online retailers planning to go global will eventually ask themselves the same question: is just one store really enough? The choice depends on the size of your store, your target audience, and what you want to sell. Maybe you’ll need multiple stores, each one tailored to a different language or market. Let’s see what the differences could mean for you.

Say you’re running a store for coffee mugs and want it en español. Simple – just add some Spanish-language copy and you’re done. But if you’re going to make the mugs a hit from Montevideo to Monterrey, you’ll also need to manage different payment methods and different currencies. Shopify makes it easy to create different versions of the same shop. Adding languages and changing payment methods is a breeze. But say that you’re going to sell the mugs in Asia too. Then it’s not just ordering and payments that will need to be adjusted – the mugs will need it too. Western-style lattes are a rare sight there, since most Asian cultures have developed their own way to enjoy a cup o’ joe. This is where running multiple stores comes in handy, as this gives you specific product and price management tools you wouldn’t otherwise have. You’ll need a Shopify Plus account for this option.

How do I manage all of these languages?

Heed classic business management advice – delegate. Shopify helps retailers do this no matter what the language. You’ll just need a third-party plugin, such as Langify or Weglot. Once it’s installed, you can export all of your store’s content as CSV, XLIFF or JSON files and send them on to the language services provider (LSP) of your choice. The LSP will then send back the freshly translated files ready for import through the plugin. Weglot has a leg up on the competition here – its Visual Editor. This shows text already laid out on the page before it goes up on Shopify. Translators can work directly in the editor if desired, allowing them to spot space limitations or breaks in the text.

Shopify currently supports up to 21 languages, depending on your plan. It’s also SEO-friendly, automatically adding meta tags and hreflang tags to your pages. Shopify will also include languages in your site maps, so that search engines can crawl each site independently. That’s perfect for your global SEO strategy, because you’ll immediately rank on Google, Yahoo, and all the rest when you enter a new market.

Should I translate everything or just some content? Who can do this?

Customers appreciate the authenticity when everything is in the right language. Yet a surprising number of customers will also accept a partially translated website – exactly 67%, according to CSA Research. You can thus prioritize as needed for cost and efficiency – even regarding translation quality.

For example, you can turn to machine translation for customer reviews or FAQs. If your collection doesn’t change much, throw in product copy too. Headlines or slogans need greater attention to detail, so select a transcreation. We cover the differences between these services in more detail here. Some retailers let the machine do the pre-translation and then have humans manually “post-edit” the text. When you need it, Weglot directly integrates machine translation into the localization process. In addition, the program automatically recognizes new content when making changes to the text or introducing a new collection, rather than leaving it up to a manual export. They call it continuous localization. We call it a knack for languages.

Do I need to localize the customer experience too?

When in Rome, do as the Romans do – and you don’t need to speak Latin to know that different target markets mean different buyer expectations. So what will that look like for your coffee mugs? In East Asia, customers will prefer to pay for them with the Alipay app, while in parts of Europe they will still purchase on account.

How much you’ll need to localize depends on one thing: the number of markets you’re targeting. Even if your shop will appear in several different languages, only selling to a single market means that the customer’s expectations and experience won’t change very much. If you’re entering new markets, however, you’re going to have to localize much more. It’s a different culture and consumers need different functions, from payment methods, options for delivery, and recommended products through to customer service. Your best solution is to go for multiple stores so you can take care of every detail.

Got more questions about making your online store talk like a local? Feel free to get in touch with us at any time.

Cover photo via Shopify

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