“Select language” is not localization

Cultural differentiation is much deeper than just language

There is something “American" in localization concepts of ecommerce sites. By “American” I mean that there are more cultural differences than just the language, if an ecommerce site is localized from US English to French, for instance. Localization means a whole lot more than just a file with the user’s language.

Many merchants have noticed the huge potential in international sales. At the same time, their own ecommerce site is only serving those whose language is same or on a level they are comfortable to do business with.

But the Internet is more vast than nations speaking the merchants’ language.

If you desire a commercial breakthrough in Europe, you have to serve French, Germans, and Spanish in their own language. This is at least the group, and maybe not nearly enough. There are about 30 other countries in Europe that have their own language, where competition is local and able to serve the clients in their native tongue.

In Europe, US Dollars are as much more familiar than Euros are in USA. This means that the currency needs also be localized by country. Thanks to Euro, an ecommerce site doesn’t need to serve 18 other currencies as well. British, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Swiss customers can convert prices to their own currency with reasonable effort, but they’d rather use their own currency as well

If products being sold have attributes like measurements and temperatures, the imperial scale is mostly familiar in UK and USA. European languages tend to use the metric scale. And almost every market has their own sizing in clothes and shoes. The same goes for time and date formats.

There are 28 countries in European Union and as many plus some taxations in forms of VAT and duty. So the pricing needs attention in order to be done right. For instance, in USA the prices exclude taxes in the catalogs. In Europe, it should be shown and included.

Sales taxes are added to prices in the shopping cart depending on the nation where the customer is ordering, and where the order is to be shipped to. If the merchant does not have local physical presence, no sales taxes are carried. That’s about 10% of the order total price as a benefit for the customer and merchant.

In Europe, sales tax aka Value Added Tax is included in the prices in the catalogs. The amount of VAT is shown in the shopping card/checkout page, but it has no meaning since everyone has to pay it. Nevertheless, in some countries the law dictates it has to be shown. It has specific importance to VAT registered businesses purchasing goods from other European countries.

So, a broader view of localization consists of language, currency, taxation, date, measurement units, address format, terms & conditions of sale, privacy, warranty, user guides, payment and delivery options.

But even this is not enough. How about customer service by phone, email or chat? How about local mailing address for item change or returns?

When localization has been done well, customers around the world should feel like your store/brand is actually a local business, just next door to them.