eCommerce has dramatically changed since its inception in the early 1970s, and has now become the dominant commerce platform for practically everything. Globally, the industry is currently estimated to be worth a whopping US$22 trillion. Almost 90% of this comes from B2B sales while B2C sales account for US$2.2 trillion. US$623 billion of the latter comes from China alone.
With easily accessible online sales channels and growing demand for online goods, eCommerce provides businesses everywhere with an opportunity to reach new international markets. Nevertheless, half-hearted translations and a failure to adapt to local markets are common stumbling blocks that damage businesses and ruin reputations. When Parker Pen launched in Mexico their choice of slogan was “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” Unfortunately, they translated the word “embarrass” incorrectly as “embarazar,” which means “impregnate” in Spanish.
Localizing online content goes beyond translating words correctly. For example, a key part of any e-commerce platform is the payment system. It is important that companies display prices online in the local currency and offer localized payment options, since not every country uses Visa or MasterCard. For instance, the two largest payment platforms in China, Alipay and WeChat Wallet, are used to pay for most goods and services, including online shopping, convenience store purchases, utility bills, flights and hotels, personal transfers, and much more. These platforms are now expanding overseas, targeting Europe, Latin America, and South Africa.
Personalization is an effective way of fine-tuning localization strategies and targeting the specific needs of customers. In an eCommerce setting, this can include geo-targeting, where the geographic location of the customer is used to advertise particular products or services. For example, pairing local weather forecasts with particular items of clothing, such as raingear if rain is forecasted. This strategy is successfully utilized by outdoor apparel brand Helly Hansen.
What does the future hold for eCommerce innovation? With the growing popularity of mobile shopping, a natural extension of geo-targeting might be selling based on real-time mobile location, where customers receive rewards and benefits for the way they interact with the real world. For example, a consumer who regularly shops at a certain brick-and-mortar store might be rewarded on their phone with a free movie ticket at a nearby theater. Geographically targeted discounts could also be employed by online companies to automatically notify potential customers of discounts when they are shopping at a competitor’s store.
With hyper-target marketing, “perfect” product recommendations are frequently sent to the customer either via SMS text messages, online ads, or smartphone applications. For some, this takes the thrill out of shopping. Yet others enjoy the convenience and location-based discounts. E-tailers are still perfecting this concept. In the future, personalized discovery could be used to provide targeted catalogues, user-preference pages, and customization options that give the power of choice back to the consumer, rather than dictating to them what their next step should be.
An estimated 38.5 billion e-commerce transactions happen every year, and this number is expected to continue increasing. One indication of the industry’s growing power is China’s recent “singles day” spending spree. On November 11th, 2016 (coined “singles” day due to the four 1s in 11/11), Alipay’s e-commerce site, Taobao, racked up US $17.8 billion dollars in sales in a single day, eclipsing the US $3.34 billion dollars in the U.S. over Black Friday. To keep up with this seemingly insatiable demand and outmaneuver competitors, e-commerce companies must keep innovating and pushing boundaries. This is especially the case for those companies expanding globally, who must develop strategies for cost-effectively localizing content to fully tap overseas markets.
Written by Ben Cox – Technical Writer at CSOFT International