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How to translate your online Shopify store

Shopify is a versatile ecommerce platform that allows you to create localized versions of your store. This means you’re offered the possibility of increasing your sales and conversion rates abroad by having your front end store and checkout process available in more than one language.

Some of these Shopify translation tools are available by default, but for a top notch result, you may always add other functionalities by reaching out to a third party.

This is what this post is going to be about. We want to present you with a solid guide to translation for Shopify that will get you an idea about the importance of ecommerce translations when selling your products and tapping into a multilingual global market.

TRANSLATION AND LOCALIZATION OVERVIEW

Now, you can basically choose out of these three to translate your store:

  • local domains and subdomains
  • translation apps
  • translation-ready themes

It’s a known fact that using multiple domains, one for each of the localized versions of your store, is a smart, winning strategy that will likely place your site at the top of local search engine’s results.

So, what’s wrong with that? Nothing at all if you are willing to handle separate orders, inventories and similar data regarding storage.

Taking into account the challenges and pitfalls that implies, you may want to turn to a time and resource saver choice such as a translation-ready theme. For example, the Language Editor already built in Shopify that simplifies significantly the translation process. This alternative is beyond doubt the easiest way of having your store translated through the admin backend.

As a third option, we have translation apps. Langify is a good and simple solution that translates your front end store without the need of modifying any codes. However, if you decide to use Langify you need to take extra expenses into consideration.

So now you have already chosen the one that fits your business needs and requirements the best. Is that it? Let’s see some other ecommerce localization aspects that will come in handy for you.

MULTI-CURRENCIES

Once you have your store all set up to sell in a certain country, Shopify will let you select by default one base currency to use for all transactions. Of course, if you have multiple locations in target, which is why you’re translating your site in the first place, having only one base currency won’t be enough. Here is when you will need to turn to a third party for help.

When you add multi-currency options, take into account that Shopify will continue to process all transactions in that default currency you chose, converting automatically the currency selected by your customer. That’s one of those platform restrictions nobody can go around.

SHIPPING OPTIMIZATION

When you’re past the translation hurdle and you’re already reaching to a global multilingual audience, the next challenge you need to gracefully handle is international shipping. In order to keep healthy margins, you must optimize your shipping to make it as efficient and inexpensive as possible. A great way to do so is offering multiple delivery options, which will likely increase your active GMW by 14%.

Shopify allows to set shipping rates for your preferred carriers. This is quite useful when you know something about shipping costs. If you don’t, then you need to check those shipping rates as calculated by carrier.

If you feel the default functionality isn’t meeting your needs, you can try optimizing your shipping with the help of a third party solution provider. For example, you may choose one that allows you to send your parcels to a local hub. There, your parcels will be consolidated, sorted and processed through the carrier that offers the greatest efficiency-cost relationship.

LOCAL DOMAINS AND SUBDOMAINS

As we said before, you can use different domains and subdomains for each country or area you target as a potential customer.

There are two different types of international stores, depending on whether you’re looking to expand your business into a single location, one country, or multiple locations, that is different countries.

  • Multilingual store: it’s a website with one domain in which the visitor may switch between languages to access the web content
  • Multidomain store: it’s website with more than one domain. Each of these domain hosts a version of the original site, targeting a specific language, location and currency. Every domain will have a separate product inventory

Multidomain means that you can set up your store at the local domain myonlinestore.com and also have it at myonlinestore.de for Germany and myonlinestore.fr for France. Or, you can use subdomains, which would be something like http://de.myonlinestore.com or http://fr.myonlinestore.com.

If your inventory is not huge, you may choose this method and cast aside translation apps and translation themes. This means you can use any available theme for your store and have it translated in a very simple way. It will make it easier for you to post carefully localized content taking into account things like, for example, U.S. taxes for English-speaking customers or VAT taxes for European countries.

Again, this is a fine choice if your inventory is small enough to be easily managed in two different sites. Otherwise, it will turn out to be too exhausting and complex for you.

When you have a multidomain store you will need to have different inventory numbers, purchase orders, ect for each domain. Now, it’s up to you to decide whether you prefer having your inventory managed separately or together amongst the different stores. Depending on your business characteristics, you may see it as a pro or a con.

The actual drawback is that whenever you need to update something, you’ll have to do it manually in each store. Also, maybe you will need to purchase several licenses.

TRANSLATION THEMES

At the Shopify Theme Store you will find that new themes are coming with a translation-ready feature incorporate. These themes allow sellers to use the Shopify Language Editor to display content on their front end store localized in different languages.

If you are not sure whether the theme you’re using is translation-ready, just check out the Shopify documentation.

Now let’s take a closer look to these translation-ready themes and see which are their advantages and disadvantages. For example, let’s take the Bilingual Shopify Theme, which translates the whole store, except for the checkout page.

A nice pro is that content is translated immediately on the same page. Probably you don’t want to distract your potential buyer by sending them back to the home page or redirecting them to another site. This usually creates confusion and may affect negatively your conversion and sales rates. So when the customer clicks the translate button, the content is immediately replaced by the same content in another language.

Now, a disadvantage would be that, even though your customers can choose the language they want on the same page, there are no unique pages for each different language.

DOCUMENTATION

Some of these themes will have more than one language available and they will also include a few pieces of content translated by default. They will translate all the text on your store such as product descriptions, cart information, checkout process information and contact information.

These multiple language themes allow you, of course, to change the language, but they will also allow you to create your own translations in the case that the language you need is not available.

If you want to see which languages are available for a certain theme, just go to your Shopify admin, then go to Online Store>Themes and find the theme you want to edit. Click Actions>Edit language and then click Change theme language.

The menu will show you all of the optional languages you have for your store. Now, some languages will cover the full extent of your site content, but other will only run for your checkout and system messages.

So if you need to have your site fully translated you can select a theme that supports that language you are looking for. If you are good at theme editing and feel confident about your skills, you have a third option: creating a new locale file from scratch.

If you need your content translated to a certain language but the theme does not fully support that language, you may find that a few parts of your content won’t be translated. Instead, it will be displayed in the default theme language.

Now, if you scroll down the list and can’t find the language you want to translate your site to, you may click Other languages… to create it from scratch. Besides, you can select your checkout language from the checkout settings.

LANGUAGE EDITOR

Whether you are using a translation you downloaded or created yourself, the language editor will give you the possibility to review and update any language you have set for your theme.

The language editor shows several tabs across the top of the screen:

  • General: here you find general texts and messages such as subscription, form submissions and search
  • Blogs: displays everything related to reading, posting and leaving comments on blog articles
  • Cart: here you find the text and messages that appear on the cart page
  • Collections: here you can edit all the text related to creating, viewing, searching and sorting collections
  • Contact: this one shows messages and field names for contact forms
  • Customer: messages and field names for accounts, customers and order details
  • Home page: here you can edit labels and messages on your front page
  • Layout: content such as footer notices, messages about login status and some other aspects related to layout
  • Products: this tab lets you edit the information related to viewing products and their availability
  • Gift cards: messages related to issuing, using and managing gift cards
  • Date forms: here you may edit the format used to indicate day, month and year
  • Checkout and system: everything related with checkout content, system titles, notices and errors.

Types of content

There are three types of content that can be translated on your store. Let’s see them:

Plain text

  • This is the biggest part of your content. It won’t rely on any especial codes, making it very easy for you to just swap a block of plain text with its equivalent in the language you need your store translated into.

 

HTML

  • Now, text blocks that contain HTML usually create links to another part of your website or to a different website, or they add formatting to text. HTML links are enclosed between anchor tags starting with <a href= and ending with <a/>.
  • You must translate only the name of the link, not its other components
  • Check the example below. You only want to translate the words continue, browsing and here. In any case should be translated the destination address, shown in quotation marks.

Liquid

  • Liquid is the language template Shopify created to load dynamic content to the pages of your online store. It’s the very backbone of all the themes you find at Shopify.
  • Liquid is in charge of the on-screen appearance of your website in various contexts. Liquid content is locked inside one of these sets of symbols: {{ and }}, {% and %} or {%- and -%}.
  • You must not translate Liquid tags, filters, etc. For example, in the image below, you should only translate the text arou, nd the Liquid, not {{date }}.

Missing translations

It is possible a language would be shown as incomplete in the language editor. In this case, you will find that some text strings haven’t been translated and are being displayed on the default theme language.

TRANSLATION APPS

Finally, if you are using a theme that is not translation- ready, you may turn to the alternative of using translation apps such as Langify, in order to translate your front end store content.

Translation apps have both pros and cons. For instance, installing and setting up the application can take a significant amount of time. However, you may find the great results it produces fully compensates the time-consuming drawback, especially in terms of appearance. It works with your existing site and you won’t need to install new themes.

Another potential disadvantages are, for example, its costs. For as long as you use the app to have your store available in more than one language, you will need to pay monthly subscriptions, plus the inconvenience of having to install code in 16 places to set it up, which can be quite complex and tricky if you’re not a developer or know well your way around programming. Also, the app can’t import data using CSV and translate blog articles, page titles, tags, etc.

GOOGLE TRANSLATE WIDGET

Another option you can turn to is adding a Google Translate widget to your online store based on Shopify. In order to do so, you’ll need to embed code from Google Translate.

Of course you’ll need to adjust your expectations about the translation outcome quality: it will be as good as the translations delivered by Google Translator, which is automatic, machine translation.

Now, as an advantage, we have that setting up this widget is less time-consuming and gets you a multilingual store fairly quickly. In addition, your customers will have a large number of languages to choose from.

Nevertheless, Google-made translations may not translate the full extent of your content and leave a few text strings out. Omitting parts of the content of course will result in inaccurate and rather hilarious translations.

If you want to try this solution for your site, follow these steps:

  • Go to the Google Website Translator page
  • Complete the required steps
  • When asked to Add Plugin, copy the code snippet in the box as shown in the image:

  • Then go through your Shopify admin to Online Store>Themes
  • Find the theme you’re looking to edit
  • Click Actions>Edit Code
  • Click theme.liquid to open the theme template file
  • Paste the code snippet where you want the translation selector to appear
  • Then click button Save to confirm these changes to your template

After following these steps, go and check you can already see the Google Translate widget on your store.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE BOOSTS ECOMMERCE LOCALIZATION DEVELOPMENT

Go-ahead and beginner sellers probably have had some experience with translating their online on Shopify y themselves. This implies doing a lot of manual work and research to fully understand what they are actually doing.

Chances are most of them felt unsure about how effective or accurate results they would achieve by doing so.

The great news are that today you can push side all that annoying and uncertain feeling related to translating your website manually. Today we are witnessing astonishing developments in the Artificial Intelligence area, and lucky for us, one of the many applications of AI allow us to create automated translation tools that are bringing more than satisfactory results for ecommerce.

International online sellers have to go through a lot with manual work, matching product categories, sizes, colors, etc.

However, AI has come to make things easier for them and now thanks to big data analysis and AI, most of this tagging process can be carried out on a larger scale.

If you present AI with a simple raw description, it will be able to track and accurately find the whole content, map the right category, extract attributes and convert sizes. And that’s the magic brought up to us by combining the resourceful human brain and an efficient, precise AI.

SERVE YOUR ONLINE STORE AN ECOMMERCE-ORIENTED TRANSLATION SOLUTION

As every quality translation expected to sensitize a certain audience, ecommerce translation must go a step further and past the simple conversion from one language to another. It’s not only about translating words and phrases, but about finding the right keywords in the target language to sell your product and help them make it to the top search results.

At ConveyThis we offer an AI based translation solution that runs on top of a natural language processor. By using autonomous machine-learning, we have everything we need in hand to provide extremely accurate and affordable automated human-quality translations.

Our machine translation is specifically built, design and trained for ecommerce purposes. Its algorithms are able to process and understand the products characteristics and context in a clear way that standard machine translation and lots of human translators can’t.

ROUDING UP

As we discussed in this article, there are several ways in which you can finally have your Shopify online store translated to the language you desire to target. Taking into account the pros and cons discussed today, it’s now up to you to find and select the solution that will help you boost your sales rate. Just keep in mind that ecommerce-oriented translation tools are a fine way to increase your conversion and success rates on the global market. Remember that the greater opportunity you’ll have to grow your business, will always be the international market.

Therefore, making your store international, and having at least an idea about translation and localization features will help you do it correctly and go beyond your domestic market, maximizing your outreach and sales potential.

Finally, consider the great benefits of having an experienced trade partner to help you optimize your translation processes and lower your costs. Such assistance will save you money and precious time, which will ultimately reflect on a better return-on-investment for you and your business.

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