The possibility of offering products and services in foreign markets and through multiple channels all around the globe has opened up new business opportunities for growing and mature companies that were successfully established in their home markets and looking to expand their businesses further. Ecommerce has also created completely new business models based purely on the intranet as sales channel to sustain and grow globally.
However, many online retailers, both B2B and B2C, face challenges since they offer a vast amount of products online, which requires multilingual website translation and localization.
Our experience of working with ecommerce clients has taught us that the three main challenges for ecommerce managers require appropriate language technology solutions.
Before we dive in, let's talk ecommerce glossary
You'll read a lot of acronyms and brand names in this blog, and in case you're not 100% sure of what they are, here is a handy guide to start:
ERP – enterprise resource planning. An ERP system helps companies handle all or parts of their administration, planning and logistics. ERPs include supply chain, manufacturing, operations, reporting, and human resource activities.
CMS – content management system. A tool that keeps track of different versions of files and publications. Some CMS have special features to update multilingual websites and other content. There are enterprise WCMS such as Adobe Experience Manager – a web content management system with integrated ecommerce platform Magento; and free open source systems such as WordPress.
TMS – translation management system. A system where you can request translation quotes, manage translation orders, track all your localization projects in regards to timeline, budget and other KPIs. You can also access other language tools through the TMS, like Self-Service Machine Translation or Terminology Management.
PIM – product information management. A system that handles information about products in an easily manageable manner. It keeps information consistent and correct, and distributes product information to different channels.
API – application programming interface. An interface between different software, which enables the software to communicate and exchange information.
Now that we have our ecommerce terminology in order, let's go back to our main topic.
The top ecommerce content challenges and how you can solve them
1. Constantly updated content
E-tailers generally update their product catalogues on an ongoing basis, sometimes even daily. Every time new products are introduced or updated versions are made available, there is usually a new piece of text that comes along with them.
For operators of multilingual online retail sites, any changes made to the original site need to be carried over to the other language versions. This creates a steady but potentially uneven flow of text segments, both large and small, that needs to be translated and published quickly.
In particularly difficult cases, an e-tailer may only want to update a few of its country specific sites with new information if, for example, a product cannot be shipped to all markets. Needless to say, making sure product information is updated when and where an e-tailer wants is a complicated issue.
2. Complex exporting and manual file handling
Without a convenient way to extract new or updated segments from their content management system, clients often resort to one of two things. They either manually export text by copying and pasting from the CMS into a Word or Excel document or they export everything they have into a database format such as .xml.
Neither of these options is ideal. Copying and pasting is time consuming and can easily lead to errors such as forgetting to copy information or, once translations are delivered, pasting information into the wrong place. Extracting text wholesale, on the other hand, ensures no information is unintentionally excluded, but this method has other drawbacks. The main drawback is that clients usually end up sending more information than is necessary.
As your translation partner, language service providers (LSP) can, of course, use translation memories to parse out updates and exclude material that has already been translated. However, performing this process whenever there is an update adds time and costs that could be avoided with a more refined approach. All in all, the manual process is time consuming, laborious and not the most cost-efficient way of working.
3. Content versioning chaos
Another disadvantage of manual exports is that confusion often arises when files need to be sent back and forth via email, leading to problems in terms of both keeping track of versions and exposure to security risks.
If several translation companies are used for multilingual website translation and localization, this problem increases exponentially.
Add the validation process where internal validators need to send feedback to the different companies and you have a real challenge.
Welcome to the wonderful world of ecommerce CMS integration
The solution to the headaches associated with keeping multilingual product information up-to-date in large online stores and web shops is integration.
The ideal scenario allows information to flow seamlessly between an etailer’s CMS and the translation provider’s TMS.
New content is identified automatically and sent to a translation and localization partner, and new language versions are subsequently imported to the right place.
However, all e-tailers may not want to eliminate human supervision entirely; systems and CMS integrations are becoming increasingly lucrative as all kinds of companies strive to reduce the amount of manual work and automate as much as possible.
This trend is not just related to e-tailers but rather to all companies that have a lot of information about products and marketing, for example. Most of them have a PIM solution to be able to handle the information and also to distribute the product information to multiple channels such as webpages, online stores, production and marketing.
Integration facilitates file management, keeps the content updated, saves time and improves the workflow!
Clients that have frequent content updates and a large translation volume will benefit the most from ecommerce CMS integrations, but some simpler integrations (e.g. with WordPress) can also be very useful and cost-efficient even for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Ecommerce CMS integration, PIM integration and more
As regards multilingual website translation and localization, the greatest benefits are usually obtained as a result of the language service provider enabling integration with the client’s product information system (contains all product information, documents, descriptions, etc.) or content management system (typically contains e.g. the client’s documents and webpages).
Acolad can provide integration with many different CMS systems on a case-by-case basis. In this way we can connect to the client’s CMS system and automate the process for translating the client’s webpages, for example. We can integrate customer systems with our backend systems in order to automate the whole translation process.
Sometimes clients ask if we can provide an API. The answer is that we can, but there is really no need to do so. The reason is that we use an open source ESB (enterprise service bus) solution to ensure a flexible integration container that Acolad can use to provide integration with virtually any customer system – but with much less effort than is involved in point-to-point integrations. The solution can be used to send new orders for work as well as for deliveries.
Acolad can speed up the ecommerce system integration process to just two weeks
Acolad also offers integration with our clients’ PIM solutions that are used to keep information updated in web shops, intranets, webpages and ERPs. PIM integration ensures, for instance, that technical documentation is always up-to-date.
Integration by Acolad can also include email and FTP ordering for clients that want to continue ordering through these traditional channels. In this case, clients use a specific type of e-mail that functions as a template and enables automated quote creation. No manual work is needed.
How to speed up your ecommerce integration process
Integration can actually be very quick and easy. We have a ready-made integration solution that we can connect to the client’s system. If the client has everything ready and the integration is urgent, Acolad can speed up the process to two weeks, but on average the integration project takes somewhere between two and eight weeks.
The speed of the process depends on how deep the integration should be, what kinds of systems are to be used and how complicated the project is. The timeframe also depends on:
- How long it takes for the client to specify how it would like the process to work.
- The amount of time the client needs to talk to its various solutions partners in order to arrange connections and access rights to their systems for Acolad.
The engineers and the client jointly define needs and set up a plan for the process.
Ecommerce integration tips
In our experience, one of the greatest challenges involves finding the right person at the client’s side who will be leading the project.
Even when the costs and the timeframe have been approved and all is well, the lingering question is often: “So, who will do it?”. Marketing team members are often not comfortable with this type of task, so it is important to make sure there is someone who is willing to step forward.
As mentioned above, as the client, you need to specify requirements and what kind of ecommerce content or integration solution you need. This is usually more time consuming than expected, so make sure you plan accordingly. If you lack the in-house resources to lead this assessment phase, the right partner can support you from diagnosis through implementation.
Last but not least...
By entrusting your assignments to a full-service global content partner instead of translating the content in-house on an ad-hoc basis, you can rest assured that your ecommerce translations are consistent and handled correctly in the long run, and that you save time by not having to extract translated content manually.
Furthermore, a global content partner will always use adequate translation memories to ensure that you as a client can benefit from previous translations, and also use term bases to ensure consistent terminology.