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Translation and the call to action: How engaging customers directly can drive ecommerce success

Translation and the call to action: How engaging customers directly can drive ecommerce success [Photo: m-imagephotography via iStock]
in Retail and Ecommerce

Globalisation in ecommerce is, in the eyes of most brands, the way to unlock possibilities and ensure they have the best chance of success through appealing to the widest available customer base. By effectively translating websites and content to appeal to users in different countries speaking a range of languages, companies give themselves the very best chance of succeeding.

Translation in the modern connected age is absolutely vital to any globalisation attempt by ecommerce brands. With a little under 3.5 billion internet users worldwide, there’s a massive market for brands to reach out into, much of which is untapped thanks to a lack of translated content. For example, almost three-quarters of all content online are in English, but there are only 375 million native English speakers in the world, and only around half of all internet users speak any English at all.

This obviously opens the door for companies to translate their websites and related content effectively in order to ensure they have reached markets that have previously gone relatively untouched.

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However, when it comes to translating the website itself, there’s more to consider than just content. In ecommerce, companies need customers to act in some way, whether they’re buying, sharing, reviewing or signing up to a mailing list, and the calls to action that encourage this conversion are a vital, if easy to overlook, part of the translation process.

The call to action

Calls to action (CTAs) come in many shapes and forms on websites, mostly linked to content that’s designed to raise awareness or interest in products or brands. They are designed to make a customer react in the way a brand wants them to, whether that’s buying a product, signing up for a mailing list or clicking through to another page on site for more information.

Without a call to action, content on site, no matter how well translated and executed, is nothing more than content; simply information with no end goal. To track levels of success and justify the cost of your business’ marketing campaigns, it’s vital that CTAs are both in place and effective.

Different types of CTA can include; text that entices a customer with an attached hyperlink, a button that simply allows them to click and act straight away, or a sign up sheet that allows them to input their details and join a mailing list or newsletter.

Challenges with CTAs and translation

One of the biggest challenges that come with the translation of an ecommerce site’s content is the fact that it’s not as simple as including the same sort of CTA as you had in the original language. But the CTA still matters. Knowing how to get it right is vital to securing the success of the brand when branching out into new markets.

The main challenge is that it all boils down to the use of emotive language when trying to influence people to act. “Buy now” for example, entices customers to act quickly by using keywords that are intrinsically linked to making a move and finalising a purchase. Imperative verbs (“click”, “share”, “read”) coupled with words that imply urgency such as “now” and “here” are the ideal way to ensure customers are acting in the way the company wants them to.

When translating an ecommerce site, however, one important consideration that needs to be made is whether or not the language used is as effective in other languages. For example, would buyers in the Far East react the same to a “buy now” button as those in English speaking countries? Specialist knowledge of the target language is vital at this stage to make sure the language used in CTAs is as effective as in the origin language, or they can end up somewhat ineffective.

It’s similar when it comes to social media buttons. Many major worldwide websites such as Amazon encourage buyers to share their purchases on social media with their friends and followers as a way to encourage advocacy and improve brand identity. But ecommerce firms need to ask themselves if these are potentially lost in translation when moving to some countries.

For example, Smart Insights reports that in North America and Western Europe, social media penetration is now at some 89 per cent and 83 per cent respectively. In these markets, well translated social media buttons that encourage purchase sharing would be well placed.

However, not all countries have the same social media coverage, and despite the likes of the Middle East and Eastern Asia becoming heavyweights in ecommerce in recent years, they both have social media use of a little over 50 per cent, which means such CTAs might not be as useful.

In these cases, companies need to address not only how to properly translate CTAs and text on buttons, but which CTAs actually need to be translated and used at all in certain markets in order to maximise website performance.


When it comes to the translation of an ecommerce website, companies need to make sure they are not only ensuring content on site is correct, but that CTAs which can be the difference between success and failure are also well optimised and well selected. It’s important to know both how to translate effectively, and what to translate to maximise potential of CTAs.

Reaching out to the right people in the right language is the first step to success, and this means making sure that the ecommerce site is well translated into the right target language from the start, but it’s just as important that companies are influencing customers to act in the right way, and this means choosing the right CTAs, well translated, to ensure success and the smoothest passage through the entire user journey for customers.

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