Trends are changing, but translation and e-commerce remain as tight a match as ever

This year, Singles Day – China’s answer to Black Friday – once again shattered all previous spending records. By midnight on November 11th, Chinese shoppers had spent a staggering $14.3 billion on Alibaba’s service alone, up 60 percent from last year.

Chinese purchasing power, coupled with increasingly mobile online access, continues to transform the global commercial landscape. But virtually every country is seeing a year-on-year increase in online spending. Even in Europe and North America, online spending rose approximately 10 percent on average between 2014 and 2015.

That is why, following the Singles Day buying frenzy, we thought we would look at some developing global e-commerce trends expected to become commonplace in 2016, and what they mean for both vendors and translators.

Content is still king

The best sellers are persuasive, no matter the language.

Research suggests that shoppers are more likely to buy online when browsing in their native language. Good localisation, therefore, means that translated copy should capture the same tone as the original. but it is not just shoppers reading the copy. Content is one of the most influence signals search engines base their rankings on and shoppers often rely on search engines to find the best online deals. Coherent and targeted content, therefore, will continue to drive organic traffic and, ultimately, sales.

But it is not just the words that matter, but how you use them. Many vendors and developers neglect layout and text visibility when sending your copy out for translation and fail to acknowledge that customer expectation varies from region to region. For example, users in some regions might place more emphasis on product descriptions than on imagery. It would be a wasted opportunity, therefore, to only introduce the description halfway down the page.

Similarly, company impressums are a legal obligation in German-speaking European countries and are expected to be easily accessible. Hiding them away on the German version of your site is likely to detract visitors.

As a vendor, we advise that you look at the layouts of popular websites in your target region and think how you would work your content into their framework, and not vice-versa.

Videos are becoming a legitimate selling tool

Until the Oculus Rift and other virtual reality platforms become commonplace, video offers online shoppers the next closest experience to stepping into a high street shop.

Don’t underestimate the power of video. Costumer intelligence firm Kissmetrics estimates that users are 64-85 percent more likely to convert after watching a product video.

Consider this when planning your next e-commerce venture in your target region: If you’ve already put the money into producing a product video for your domestic audience, subtitling and voiceover is a relatively minor added expense that can attract a new client base and lead to a handsome return on investment.

Mobile madness

Sixty-nine percent of this year’s Singles Day purchases were made on mobile devices. This far exceeds the predicted growth rate of mobile e-commerce (or m-commerce), which last year was estimated to only grow by 25 percent.

It seems that mobile phones have become the personal computer of choice within many regions and vendors whose websites are unable to operate on mobile devices risk losing out.

Bear in mind, though, that responsive design layouts can also cause headaches when dealing with multiple languages. German words, for example, can be relatively long and need to break in the correct places on a mobile screen. Chinese has no breaks between words, although that does not mean that lines can be broken just anywhere. Again, for international users to have a fluid mobile experience, vendors and developers need to understand customer expectations in the target region.

The influence of peer reviews

User-generated content (UGC) – such as reviews, social media and blog posts – has a huge sway on a person’s decision whether to buy or not.

Companies that shell out on marketing know that UGC can still have the largest bearing on reputation. Consumers will always sooner trust content produced by peers than advertising agencies.

So it makes sense to have it professionally translated – at least the content that stands out. Like web copy, users are most at ease when they are reading something that feels authentic and emits a sense of emotion and personality.

The market will drive your localisation

Localisation requires as much business intelligence as it does cultural intelligence. We’ve spoken about cultural factors before, particularly regarding branding and currency. But selecting which products to showcase or keep in stock for international buyers is also important.

Companies should refrain from making any assumptions about foreign markets. There is no guarantee that a product that sold out in a day in one region will even be remotely popular in another. Market data and an understanding of consumer habits will definitely ease the localisation process.

Longevity is key here. The longer a firm perseveres, the more business intelligence it will gather to build up its success.