Speaking the customer’s language, both figuratively and literally, is the first step in making the sale. According to a recent study, 80% of customers prefer to buy products with descriptions written in their own language.
With 27 countries (EU) and 24 different recognized languages, the European market represents a difficult yet rewarding challenge for foreign marketing teams. Successfully translating and localizing for this market requires thorough understanding the region’s various cultures and regulations.
Translation and localization are not only important for adapting your product to a different culture, but also to a different regulatory framework.
For example, nutrition labels that are legally acceptable in China require further detailed breakdowns of carbohydrates when it comes to markets in the EU. Submitting documents that are poorly or partially untranslated can ruin your chances of selling on e-commerce platforms like Amazon.
Even the best products will fail to launch in Europe if translation and localization are not well executed. Find out what the major languages are in Europe and our tips to increase ROI, customer reach, and sales in this market:
Tips for Choosing what Languages to Translate and Localize when Selling Online in Europe
Translating your documents and contents into 24 different languages is expensive. Instead, you could pursue a strategy based on number of speakers. Below, we list the five most spoken languages in Europe to help you get started:
- German: The sole official language of Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein, German is also a co-official language in Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. There are approximately 95 million German speakers across Europe.
- French: The sole official language of France, French is also a co-official language of Switzerland, Belgium, and Luxembourg. There are approximately 80 million French speakers across Europe.
- Turkish: While Turkey is not an EU nation, its large diaspora throughout the region makes Turkish the third largest language in Europe by number of native speakers.
- Italian: The official language of Italy and the Vatican City, Italian is also the third most widely spoken co-official language in Switzerland, after German and French. There are approximately 60 million Italian speakers across Europe.
- Spanish: The official language of Spain, Spanish is the mother tongue of 43 million Europeans.
Use Sworn Translation Services for Your Document Translation Needs
In most of Europe, translations of important legal documents into local official languages must be done by a sworn translator, someone who takes legal responsibility under oath for the accuracy of the translation.
When submitting translated legal documents for use in France or Spain for example, you would be required to provide sworn translations as opposed to certified.
You can request a free quote to translate your document at HI-COM.
What Documents Require Translation before Applying to Online Shop Registration in Europe?
As mentioned previously, you will require a sworn translation of requisite documents in the target language in most EU countries. These documents consist of:
Articles of Incorporation
Articles of Association
ID/Passport of the Legal Representative
Consent letter to act as designated representative
Consent to act as company secretary
Certificate of incorporation
Register of significant controllers
What Else Should You Translate when Start Selling in the European E-commerce Market?
Aside from sworn translations of the required business and legal documents, all product and marketing information should be translated and localized. This includes everything from payment methods, currency, product descriptions, and even sizes (shoe sizes for example).
As cross-border e-commerce has accelerated, competition amongst various product categories has become stronger. Localized product descriptions, marketing, and customer support give your product an edge in new markets and encourage more reviews from buyers who speak the targeted languages.
While marketplace e-commerce platforms such as Amazon offer automated translations of product descriptions, it’s never a great idea to rely on machine translation for consumer-facing information. Customers can immediately tell when a brand has put in the time and effort to localize content.
Essential Tips for Translating Your Product Documentation
When it comes to e-commerce, investment in translation and localization result in:
Increased traffic – e-commerce platforms require that keywords, titles, and descriptions be accurately written in the target language. When translations are well localized, your product will get more hits from potential customers, driving traffic to your product.
Increased conversion rate – With accurate translations, your product will appear in more relevant searches, meaning an increased conversion rate. High conversion rates translate into increased sales.
With that said, let’s get started on localization and translation tips for product documentation
Product title and description
Probably the most obvious on the list. Care needs to be put into these to ensure they are translated and localized with international SEO in mind. Do SEO research for each language to ensure keyword translations are accurate, culturally sensitive, and match demand from local consumers.
Product characteristics (Dimensions, Sizing, etc.)
European countries use metric measurements for various product dimensions. UK is the only exception, with various specific instances where imperial measurements are used. Shoe and clothing sizes are also something that must be converted, with the UK using different shoe sizing systems from the rest of Europe, both of which are also different from those used in North America.
User guides and manuals have a direct impact on customer experience of the product after purchase. Therefore, clear and accurate translations of user manuals and guides are a must. At best, a bad translation will lead to users ignoring the manual or leaving a bad review, at worst, you could be held liable for damages resulting from incorrect operational instructions for your product. We recommend creating a glossary of commonly used terms in your product line to ensure accuracy and consistency throughout translations.
Payment methods and currency
This is the last step before consumers part with their hard-earned money. Ensure this step is smooth and frictionless for all international customers by localizing for payment platforms commonly used in your targeted regions and by providing prices in local currencies.
Build trust with your international customers by ensuring they can find answers to their questions in their native language.
Localization and Translation Tips by Country
Europe is a diverse market, and each of its regions has its own language, culture, and history. This must be taken into account when localizing a product or service and when developing a marketing strategy.
Below, we explore each country’s e-commerce market and their consumer habits and norms:
Language to localize for: German
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 80%
Germany boasts the largest economy in Europe, making it an attractive market for brands looking to break into the European market.
A defining characteristic of German consumers is that they are used to paying only when products have been received. This is a reason why certain foreign players are less prominent in the German market.
Germany also has the highest rate of returns in the world. This is due in part due to German consumer protection laws mandating 14 day no-explanation-needed refunds.
Up until very recently, invoices were the standard way German customers paid for e-commerce. Today, Paypal has become the most used payment method, with invoices ranking second ahead of credit card payments.
Language to localize for: French (English will not help you here)
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 78%
The third-largest economy in Europe behind Germany and the UK, France is home to a fast-growing e-commerce market. With a reputation as one of the top fashion capitals of the world, fashion takes the largest market share in France’s e-commerce market.
France is home to the world’s biggest e-commerce flash-sale platform, Veepee. It’s no coincidence then that France has a very discount-oriented consumer base. 80 percent of French shoppers will compare prices when shopping for non-grocery items.
Credit card payments make up the majority share of e-commerce sales in France. Adoption of digital wallets like Paypal is also quickly rising.
Languages to localize for, according to percentage of native speakers: Dutch (55%), French (35%), German (10%).
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 79%
Belgian e-commerce developed relatively late for various reasons. First is Belgium’s relatively small yet fragmented market. Different regions in Belgium speak different languages and have strong regional identities. To make matters worse, the government did not have the legal requirements in place for e-commerce to take off, with nightwork only becoming legal in 2018.
However, Belgium, like Germany, is centrally located within Europe. It also boasts the most advanced transportation infrastructure in the region, allowing for fast fulfilment speeds.
The most popular and familiar online payment option in Belgium is Bancontact, a digital payment system based on bank transfers. Digital wallets like Paypal are also now growing in popularity.
Languages to localize for: Dutch, English (acceptable if target audience is 35 and younger), Frisian (if targeting the Friesland province of the Netherlands).
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 91%, second after the UK
With robust internet and transportation infrastructure for e-commerce, Netherlands nevertheless has lagged behind other advanced EU countries in e-commerce development and is only now catching up.
In the Netherlands, the dominant online payment method is via iDEAL, a domestic e-commerce payment system based on bank transfer. It makes up over 60% of online transactions while credit card and digital payments fall far behind.
Languages to localize for: Danish, but also 52% of the population can speak English and 30% can speak German.
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 90%
While not one of Europe’s largest economies, Denmark boasts a strong e-commerce market with consumers ready to spend. With high population density, advanced internet and logistics infrastructure, Danish consumers have high expectations for speedy fulfilment.
Online payment methods are predominantly card-based in Denmark.
Languages to localize for, according to percentage of native speakers: Swiss German (60%), Swiss French (20%).
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 90%
Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. When it comes to e-commerce, Swiss consumers are known for spending large sums in one order.
PostFinance, a digital payment system based on bank transfer, is the leading payment method in Switzerland.
Language to localize for: Spanish (while there are other co-official languages, Spanish is spoken by 99% of the population.
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 67%
E-commerce development has been slow to start in Spain, allowing foreign platforms to take much of the market share in the country. Things are slowly changing now.
Paypal is the preferred online payment system in Spain.
Language to localize for: English
Percentage of internet users that bought goods or services online: 92%, the highest in the entire Europe region
While no longer in the EU, the UK is still one of the most important markets in Europe. It has the largest e-commerce market in all of Europe.
As an English-speaking country, English speaking brands won’t have to worry as much about translation so much as localization. Product dimensions, certain keyword choices, and UK spelling are the key for UK localization.
In the UK, Paypal is the most commonly used online payment method, ahead of credit cards.
Use HI-COM to translate your product descriptions and user guides
The translation of product descriptions and user guides for European market is a service that HI-COM has been providing for many years. We only use experienced and native translators of the target language. Our translation teams are made up of a project manager, a translator and a proofreader. We can also call upon a graphic designer if necessary.
Thanks to our expertise we have been able to satisfy many customers. The translation of your product sheet involves not only selecting the best translator to meet the specific needs of your request, but also adapting your content, taking into account the legislation, culture and buying habits of consumers in your target countries in European market.
HI-COM is a digital marketing agency dedicated to providing China-specific strategy, social media communication and e-commerce marketing services to businesses around the world. Working with more than 100 brands, HI-COM is the go-to partner of companies that want to enter China market! Contact us for your free consultation today!
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