Why You Should Consider Multilingual Website Optimization
- We live in an increasingly diverse country and world; 44% of homes in California speak a language other than English
- A study showed that 72.4% of customers are more likely to buy a product from a website in their own language
- The easiest way to add a website language is to use a translation plugin
This year, Cinco de Mayo was a bit different. Any celebration had to be from that favorite groove at the kitchen table or family sofa.
As we think about the holiday—and more importantly, cultural diversity as a whole—we can reflect on how to best serve our non-native English-speaking customers. If COVID-19 is good for anything, it’s the gift of space and time to consider our communities.
This goes without saying, but there’s more to serving and engaging with non-English speakers than offering a “Cinco de Mayo” discount code. These can be great, but high-growth businesses should also consider delivering an online experience in the website language their customers are most comfortable with.
Why You Should Make a Multi-Language Website
First, allow me to begin with a personal example: I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Spanish-speaking countries, booking travel and accommodations through local websites. I am not a native Spanish speaker, but have a solid grasp on the language. Still, each experience presented words and phrases that were new to me, often because they were particular to that sales experience. (For example, each domestic airline has its own rules for baggage.) I often found myself toggling between local websites and a translation tool, making sure that I wasn’t missing something major.
We take for granted knowing terms that are simple because they’re in our native tongue. The last thing you want is a customer conducting a laborious or inaccurate translation of your product description. And no one wants to lose a customer because they’re stuck on the word for “expiration date” while in the middle of the check-out process.
We live in an increasingly diverse country and world. Therefore, not all of your prospective customers speak fluent English. Some may speak another language altogether; others may be multilingual, but simply feel more comfortable in their native tongue. In the state of California, alone, 44% of homes speak a language other than English.
If someone is speaking a language other than English at home, and feels more confident in this language, it reflects in how they interact with the internet and online commerce. A study by Common Sense Advisory found that “72.4% of customers would be more likely to buy a product from a website in their own language,” and that 56.2% of those surveyed say “the ability to obtain information about a product in their own language is more important than price.”
“If you read English natively, you have enjoyed the best of the web since its creation,” says Common Sense Advisory. “Content in this language has dominated the medium for nearly two decades while companies have catered to Anglophone markets and the enormous spending they generate.” And of course, for many years, this business strategy has made sense. But times are changing, and successful businesses will change right along with it.
To not consider your website language strategy is to ignore the needs of potential customers. Further, providing a seamless, thoughtful experience for non-English speakers can give you a major leg-up on the competition.
How to Make a Multi-Language Website
There are so many aspects of running a business that can feel unnecessarily hard or expensive, especially when in rapid growth mode. Luckily, creating a multilingual site does not have to be one of them.
The easiest way to add an additional language to your existing website may be to use a translation plugin. These plugins typically fall into one of these categories: self-translating, auto-translating, or a combination of the two.
Just as it sounds, a self-translating plugin requires someone to enter in the translation manually. This could be done by an employee or a hired translator. Manual or self-translation is more effort, of course, but the juice may be worth the squeeze in order to ensure your message’s accuracy. If your business worked hard to refine its branding, communication, tone, and sales pitch, you may want to give the work to a translator who can convey that nuance.
Auto-translate plugins do all the work of translation. Comparatively, this is the faster and easier way to accomplish a multilingual site, but the end-result could be clunky or have translation errors.
That said, many auto-translate plugins allow for manual corrections. For those that prefer to go the auto-translate route, this should be considered, at minimum, for cleaning up small errors or clarification.
Now, to the work of finding the perfect plugin or program! First, find one that is compatible with your site. Ideally, it’s one that both matches your needs and has great reviews. Here are a few to consider as you begin your search.
Weglot is an auto-translate tool that allows for manual changes. It is compatible with WordPress, Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and other website creation and e-commerce tools.
Hubspot ranks Weglot as their top choice for a WordPress site: “It’s effective, lightweight, and easy to use. It is everything you want out of a multilingual plugin.”
Polylang is a free self-translation multi-language plugin for WordPress. Translate your website, including widgets, posts, and navigation menus, into as many languages as you want.
You can upgrade to the paid version of Polylang, called Lingotek, which offers automatic and professional website translation services.
Babble is another self-translation plugin for WordPress that’s known for speed optimization and loading times and its ability to handle multiple language translations and workflow.
Of course, there are plenty of others, ranging from free to expensive, simple to extensive. Google Website Translator also offers multiple services, and plenty of plug-ins operate using Google Translate’s capabilities (though they may or may not have any actual connection to Google). Point is, there are tons of options to choose from. Also, don’t hesitate to use your website’s technical support line; they’ve surely coached a business through the process before.
In all, having the ability to translate your site to best serve your customers makes good sense on several levels, and can’t hurt, especially when more and more people are turning to e-commerce to fill their needs.
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