This guide is for product and technology managers in B2C or D2C subscription-led businesses to dive into the key nuances of eCommerce localization, identify common caveats in building the localization logic within their eCommerce ecosystems, and uncover a few salient steps to optimize their localization process.
For businesses expanding into international markets, eCommerce localization has turned from a differentiator to a table-stake needle-mover in the consumer decision-making process.
71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions
76% of them get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.
- McKinsey & Company
Product and engineering stakeholders at hypergrowth eCommerce businesses spend a lot of time optimizing for cross-funnel customer engagement, conversion rates, and building fail-proof discovery and purchase experiences. When expanding into new markets, companies mimic these experiences under the assumption that what has worked so far always will.
But this strategy often discounts the significance of diversity in - language, culture, litigation, and expectations, in the customer’s decision-making process. The challenge turns steeper, once you travel down the customer journey funnel from discovery to the most sensitive point of interaction - checkout.
This guide dives into the importance of eCommerce localization at checkout and billing, advanced principles governing it, discusses a few examples from top B2C and D2C brands, and a few critical notes to ensure you set your localization and personalization levers accurately.
eCommerce localization is the process of translating your online presence, including platform language, product description, database content, graphical elements, to suit every new market and account for cultural sensitivity and accuracy.
focuses more on front-end elements (e.g., text, images, element positioning, etc.) to create heterogeneous experiences suitable for a diverse customer base. While once standard, this approach adds mounting challenges to contemporary businesses running on monolithic platforms like - Shopify, BigCommerce, and more.
Since both the frontend and the backend are linked in monolithic platform architectures, instituting small variations or options in currencies at checkout or even simpler elements like text would mean reinventing the wheel every time. This brought the advent of the contemporary approach to eCommerce localization-
segregates and clusters elements on your platform depending on which stage of the buyer’s journey they impact the most. Localization is therefore applied on each of the clusters (and by extension, the tools, and elements contained within), rather than tweaking individual elements.
This approach works best with a headless eCommerce platform architecture - wherein businesses onboard specialized tools that handle each stage of the workflow without disrupting how other tools operate. Hence, adding more tools with an evolving product roadmap or making small tweaks to your platform does not come at the expense of a significant development effort.
With increasing domestic competition in the subscription eCommerce economy (thanks to the pandemic), most hyper-growth businesses are now expanding internationally as a means to increase their net addressable market. But as most of these businesses are aware, expanding into a new market with distinct cultural stimuli can be tricky.
Localization helps eCommerce businesses build cultural and experiential relevance and find more early adopters in new markets.
Any eCommerce company knows that an important lever in its acquisition cycle rests in its ability to offer seasonal discounts and sales. By enabling deal customization based on seasonal relevance, eCommerce subscription companies can tap into latent consumer demands, trigger festive emotions to funnel better sales, and acquire new customers.
As the point of actual transactions, checkout is one of the most sensitive stages in your customer’s buying journey. It is when buying intent is the highest, and yet, a simple failure can immediately lead to cart abandonment or churn. Building a smoother, faster checkout process can not only strengthen customer trust towards your business, it also leaves little room for the customers to reconsider their position.
“With constant optimization and analysis, we realized that the fewer steps we had in the checkout, the higher our conversion rates were.”
David Asikin [CTO - TokyoTreat (An ICHIGO Inc company)]
By catering to your customers’ preferred language, payment method, currency and more, you end up making key customer decisions instantaneous.
Subscription eCommerce businesses are more heavily invested than traditional eCommerce, in improving post-purchase experiences in an attempt to keep customer lifetime value (CLV) well above a threshold.
Localized subscription experiences get you closer to your customers, make navigating subscriptions easier, and by analyzing and estimating key customer data, personalize product experiences so they keep coming back.
For new subscription eCommerce businesses, full-funnel localization isn’t a primary consideration when they are building their tech stack. While this is optimal for early-stage businesses that serve a fairly homogeneous market (only English-speaking countries, for example), it can lend to growth pains at a later stage when the product or platform is mature enough to explore new and diverse geographies.
Companies operating in the U.S.A. and Australia for example, cater to a linguistically homogeneous crowd and do not need to tailor the language depending on the geography the customer comes from. However, due to varying degrees of litigation in the two markets, invoicing, billing and tax need to be compliant depending on the customer’s region. In such cases, localization can only be involved at checkout with automated compliance without a need for language localization.
Here are some general circumstantial considerations that can determine if your subscription eCommerce business needs full-funnel localization-
Most subscription eCommerce businesses do not solve for localization right at the beginning. In such cases, since developers do not write code to support multiple languages, international formats, dynamic regulations, and more localization attributes, incorporate changes at later stages.
To avoid overhauling your entire platform every time you expand into a new market, here are some basic requirements that you need to set up for, the moment you are considering building for expansion-
For businesses operating out of monolithic architecture, out-of-the-box eCommerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, etc. provide three distinct forms of localization support:
Support for multiple currencies
Variable shipping duties based on geolocation
A restricted set of third-party translation apps are supported by platforms
Doesn’t optimize for multilingual SEO
No support for dynamic geography/locale-based taxation
A limited list of payment gateways, hence customer preferences might not be met
Operating from an in-house subscription eCommerce platform gives businesses the freedom and flexibility to be dynamic and can benefit localization in the following ways:
High tolerance for platform customization
Data generated is stored internally and can be freely leveraged
Can be built to integrate with any tools critical to the product roadmap
Use-case specific solutioning
By being unrestrained to pre-approved or out-of-the-box solutions, in-house platforms can build a localization solution that is specific to their use case, geographical aspirations, customer interactions on the platform and gives them complete control over their product roadmaps. It, however, comes with a fair share of restraints in the product journey.
Resource intensive since developers, technicians, language translators, product managers are involved in building localization
Lack of go-to-market efficiency since tools need to be built and customized in-house at every instance
Continuous in-house firefighting and troubleshooting
Headless commerce works by decoupling the front-end presentation layer (templates or themes), including the photos, video, and content you see on an eCommerce website or mobile app screen from the back-end infrastructure that enables the eCommerce experience. The decoupled architecture gives brands more flexibility over the customer experience they can offer, help them engage with customers better, and stay ahead of their expectations. Headless commerce allows them to provide a personalized and brand-consistent experience across channels using APIs (application programming interfaces) that connect the front end with back-end systems.
The benefits of headless architecture localization are as follows:
Enables full-funnel localization through plug-and-play tool onboarding across the platform
Faster go-to-market since API integrations need limited developer support
Less time expended on firefighting since onus rests on onboarded tools
Cost-effective since minimal expenditures on hiring additional hands to define and optimize product roadmap
To build sustainable full-funnel localization for your subscription eCommerce business, it is important to treat it not as a one-off solution, but as a continuous process that integrates and evolves with your product roadmap. The below 5-step framework can help unify, streamline and future-proof your efforts so you do not have to reinvest in optimizing your localization strategy at every instance:
Integrate the idea of localization while defining your customer journey.
Your customer journey should be a cluster of actions, tools, and data captured throughout the customer’s interaction with your business
This gives a fair idea about all the moving parts (both frontend and backend) of your business and enables you to identify steps that can be localized
Analyze existing tools against their probability to be customized and their ability to integrate
This helps you identify flexible and inflexible tools
You can customize flexible tools to suit your localization instances
Inflexible tools would either need to be reconsidered or can be made to work with API-integrated localization tools available in the market
Outline existing workflows around content production and product development
It helps identify the vertices where the principles of localization should now be ingrained
Helps with resource allocation for localization-based tasks (e.g., standardizing encoding between languages)
Mimic existing SEO techniques to suit local markets
This means duplicating SEO principles, keyword optimization, slug, and metadata reimagination for every localized instance of your primary platform
This does not only make your content relevant for the local audiences, but it also makes platform awareness and discovery a simpler, much more convenient
Identify the preferred search engine for each market
Reach your audience where they are looking for you by optimizing your content (+graphics, templates, syntax, and stylization) for specific search engines
Incorporate SEM level insights into your content redistribution strategy to ensure eyeballs and boost organic demand generation
Identify target markets and determine language support
See if your business use-cases need external translation support (either as talent or tools)
Conduct exhaustive research on cultural stimuli and analyze their impact on platform expectations
Retro-fit existing content for your TAM
Future-proof your content localization process
Streamline your content development calendar and account for multiple variations of the same content (depends on the degree of homogenized experience your customers look for)
Incorporate cultural stimuli in each content category to hyper-personalize customer experiences
Automate standard linguistic translations by building or leveraging CSV files to add custom translations logic
Localization at checkout involves more than having multiple languages. It also means supporting payment gateways relevant to the locale you are targeting, supporting multiple currencies, and even dynamic tax calculation depending on the governing financial principles of the region.
Ensure multi-currency support
Identifying existing and potential TAM helps to determine the currencies your eCommerce platform should start supporting
Ensure real-time exchange-rate optimization to reduce revenue bleeding during transactions
Add dynamic shipping charges
Capturing delivery details and billing frequencies for your customer can help you levy accurate shipping charges based on distance
This data can also help you understand resource optimization or potential warehousing regions and save you thousands of dollars in logistics
Provide adequate payment options for your customers
Ensure you are also scaling your payment gateway provider support to include preferred payment gateways in each location
Enable your subscription management tool to work seamlessly with in-house platforms and third-party payment gateways with API-integrations
Enable dynamic taxation
Account for invoicing and taxation depending on customer geolocation
Automate invoice templates basis legal guidelines in the area
Ensure compliance with data processing, financial, and service laws
Depending on your industry of operation, and customer interaction with your brand ensure that all your in-house and third-party tools are duly certified to minimize chances of penalization
Ensure your platform covers general legal compliances around GDPR, DCIA, PDPB, etc. depending on your areas of operation
Chargebee is a flexible, scalable, and full-lifecycle subscription backend built for ambitious subscription eCommerce businesses of all sizes.
With several out-of-the-box localization features, Chargebee reduces the time taken for subscription eCommerce businesses to execute their GTM strategies while providing maintenance-free cost-effective alternatives to in-house localization development.
Chargebee has helped us acquire a more diverse set of customers. This includes a significant number of international users who were unable to previously access our site.
Voitek Sobieszczański [VP, Finance - Study.com]
Chargebee's scalable and robust REST APIs give you the ability to build your unique subscription strategy exactly the way you envision it. You can save months of development time by customizing 100+ subscription attributes across plans, payments, customers, orders, and more without having to write a single line of code.
Future-proofing your subscription eCommerce product, Chargebee gives you virtually unlimited freedom to onboard all necessary tools that help you find success in individual markets - be it a Spanish text translation tool, or a regional customer engagement heatmap tracker to find out conventional habits by locale.
Run seasonal discount campaigns to capture high-intent holiday traffic and convert them into paying subscribers with Chargebee’s added layer of intelligence around discount campaigns and coupon generation.
Set fixed-amount or percentage coupons at checkout, with the capability to carry forward balances. For example, if you offered the customer a $50 worth fixed amount coupon, but the total invoice amount is $10, the remaining discount gets reapplied in the next invoice like below:
You can also create coupons with localization-based logic. For example - you can create a coupon and configure it to be applicable on all plan price points that are created for the currency USD.
As a global business with a sizable European audience, personalization was key for Doodle to scale across different geographies. The ability to configure multiple languages, including Spanish, German, French, among others, as well as the ability to offer their pricing in Euros took Doodle a few steps closer to winning the global market. Doodle offers its product in almost 20 languages.
“Feature sets were similar, but many of your competitors don't support multiple languages, and this was a major factor to choose Chargebee - small things that make a big difference.”
Cliff des Ligneris [Product Manager - Doodle]
With support for recurring payments across 150+ countries and provisions for a plethora of online and offline payment methods, Chargebee is built to support global ambitions.
The platform also works seamlessly with 30+ payment gateway providers like - iDEAL for the Netherlands, Bancontact for Belgium, Giropay for Germany, Dotpay for Poland, and many others, ensuring that you never fall out of touch with customers, especially during high-intent moments.
Chargebee’s out-of-the-box self-serve portals offer your customers the flexibility to modify and update their subscription terms. Native integrations with Brightback helps you put churn deflection on autopilot with split testing and AI, while Chargebee's insights give you deep analytics around churn and revenue leakage.
Insights thus captured can help uncover latent insights around region-based customer preferences and help tailor customer interactions during a purchase or in the post-purchase stages better.
Accurately factoring in tax liabilities is cumbersome. With out-of-the-box tax management capabilities, Chargebee helps you sell confidently across geographies and choose if your pricing should be inclusive of destination tax.
Factor in US Sales Tax, Australian GST, or EU-VAT automatically, keep abreast of a dynamic regulatory environment, and automatically factor in external stimuli - like Brexit!
Manage and report revenue with GAAP-compliant accounting standards. Define, implement, and manage how revenue should be recognized with diverse revenue templates. And relax knowing your revenue recognition will always be accurate, even through the most complex billing scenarios.
“Chargebee has proven to be a perfect fit for our business. We invoice everything out of Chargebee, and Chargebee’s easy integration with Avalara is key for us. There is no need for us to become experts on sales tax.”
Hector Camacho [Controller, Wondersign]