The nature of doing business in the 21st century is, without a doubt, much different than it was in the past. And we can sum up the reason for that in two words: the Internet. Modern computer technology has made it possible to connect with – quite literally – the whole world. The changes that connectivity has meant for businesses of all kinds is staggering. Even the smallest company can now engage in online business transactions, also referred to as “ecommerce.” The fact is that no matter what industry you’re in, you can rapidly grow your business simply by advertising, marketing, and making your product or service available to potential customers online. But that potential has brought some challenges. While it’s true that there is a world full of potential customers who are only a click away, you’ll never succeed if you don’t effectively communicate your message. That’s why translation and localization play such a huge role in ecommerce business.

You no doubt understand what translation is – put simply, it is the conversion of one language to another. At the most basic level, you need to literally speak the same language as your potential customers if you want to succeed at selling your product or service. But high quality translation involves much more than language; it also includes fine tuning your website and marketing efforts to make them more appropriate for your target audience. That’s called localization, and it can mean the difference between success and failure for your ecommerce business.

Reaching people in the far reaches of the globe may increase your marketplace exponentially, but it’s important to remember that not only do people speak different languages in different regions – they are also often dramatically different than U.S. residents in their backgrounds, religious beliefs and cultural morays. You may not think that those variables would have any kind of impact on your business, but they do. The ad campaign that works like a charm in the U.S. may contain images that are morally offensive to people from another culture. Poorly translated marketing material can be worse than no translation at all. And your company website – the backbone of your ecommerce business – should also be the most important focus of your translation and localization efforts. Potential customers should be able to choose their own language on your site; images used should be thoroughly researched beforehand to ensure their appropriateness; and details like currency conversion should not be overlooked.

Of course, you can’t possibly expect to communicate clearly with everyone on the planet. Fortunately, research has shown that there are 10 languages that are most commonly used online: English, German, Russian, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Italian, Persian and Chinese. Depending on where you decide to focus your marketing efforts, you might add other languages to your list. If you plan on selling products in Canada, for example, you would include French as a priority language. Your first step in deciding which languages to focus your translation and localization efforts on is to identify your target audiences by regions or countries of the world, then follow up by enlisting the aid of a professional translator and localization specialist – one who is not only fluent in the language of your target audience, but also intimately familiar with the customs and culture of the region. Only then can you produce a website, advertisements, and marketing material that will effectively communicate your message to your potential customers in other parts of the world.

Although it may take some time and effort beforehand, the benefits your company will realize from high quality translation and localization efforts are virtually unlimited. No matter what size your business may be, or what industry it’s in, the door to the global marketplace is wide open. Just make sure you and your company are adequately prepared before you enter in.