eCommerce Localization and the Gift of Holiday Sales Growth

U.S. retailers now rely on the holiday shopping season for 20% of their annual sales. Or, put another way, one out of every five dollars they depend on to manage inventory, market products, and make payroll is generated during this critical period.

Unfortunately for anxious executives, there isn’t much solace to be found in the 2016 holiday forecast. Researchers are projecting an overall retail sales growth rate of just 1.8% — driven largely by the anticipated 13.3% growth in eCommerce.

As this realization logically shifts attention toward optimizing online channels, more retailers may consider expanding their digital presence as well. International customers won as a result of eCommerce localization could provide the pivotal sales stream that ensures a happy holiday season.

Expanding Audiences and Extending Calendars

Holiday shopping may be a certified American pastime, but European consumers have picked up the habit as well. On Black Friday 2015, traffic to European retail websites surged 39% above baseline levels. Three days later, those sites saw a Cyber Monday spike of 11%.

The question for U.S. retailers is now less about demand and more about whether they can supply a customer experience capable of stealing that traffic. With cross-border commerce already normalized across the European marketplace, and Christmas-crazy countries like Italy and Germany among the most frequent international shoppers, savvy eCommerce localization strategies could set retailers up for an impressive Q4 sales period.

End-of-year shopping sprees aren’t restricted to North America and Europe, of course, and their motivations vary just as much as their geographies. India’s Diwali celebrations bring a sense of renewal to worshippers and retailers alike throughout October and November. At the same time, the purely secular tradition of Singles’ Day has suddenly become a massive driver of Chinese eCommerce. Alibaba racked up $14.3 billion in sales from the November 11th celebration in 2015, nearly quintupling Cyber Monday sales in the U.S.

The Chinese marketplace is certainly a challenging arena for any U.S. retailer, but it’s worth noting that 15% of the local population is expected to make a cross-border online purchase in 2016. And with the country’s most important commercial holiday (Chinese New Year) just a few weeks after Christmas, Q4 may be the perfect time to test and refine eCommerce localization strategies.

eCommerce Localization On a Ticking Clock

Retailers hoping to localize eCommerce websites and apps in time to deliver Q4 results have little margin for error. But with the right technology and a properly scaled strategy, an international dimension to holiday season sales is still well within reach.   

The limiting factor in eCommerce localization processes is the speed with which content can be collected, translated, and distributed across a labyrinth of underlying systems. Relying on developers to internationalize code would immediately delay launches into next year, and stranding translators in a sea of spreadsheets would threaten deadlines as well.

The only reliable way of launching localized content in a matter of weeks is to automate content collection and distribution through a translation proxy and centralize linguistic work in a dedicated translation management platform.  

While this enabling technology is being recruited, retailers should simultaneously be reviewing their content catalogs and identifying the assets most likely to influence eCommerce conversions. Prioritizing these pieces within an agile translation strategy will empower retailers to launch revenue-generating properties sooner than imagined while a continuous wave of supporting content consistently expands the customer experience.

Eager retailers must acknowledge the difference between a lean strategy and an incomplete product, however. Post-sale content that engages and supports customers is just as important as the marketing materials that originally pulled them into the checkout line, and international audiences tend to appreciate these touches the most.