Why translate your store language?
To put it simply, if people can’t read your website, they’re not likely to buy. Think back to a time that you were online shopping and landed on a website in a different language. The pictures captured your attention but now you feel lost and don’t know how to proceed. If you’re not able to find out how to translate the page in a few seconds, you’ll probably leave the website and never return. You cannot assume that a website visitor speaks your language, so if you’re selling internationally, this is definitely something you’ll want to pay attention to.
According to Harvard Business Review, “More than half of consumers are willing to pay more if you are willing to give them information in their own languages”. So not only will they buy because they’re actually able to read and understand the sales page, but they’ll even pay a higher price. Perhaps this product isn’t available locally, and so they’ll pay the higher price as long as they’re able to have a comfortable shopping experience.
There’s no shortage of evidence that store language translations can result in better sales. According to Shopify, “On average, brands see a 13% increase in conversion rate when a storefront is translated into a buyer’s local language”.
Overall, you always want to give your customers the best experience they can have, so why not extend that sentiment to offering your website in different languages, especially after reading the above stats. Give them the same experience on your website as Google does when it automatically translates reviews, and as Facebook does when it automatically translates comments.
How to add Language translations
There are a few different solutions for adding language translations to your store. As usual, there is a solution provided by Shopify and third-party solutions. I’ll be focusing on Shopify’s Translate & Adapt app which will be similar to how the other apps work as well.
Shopify Translate & Adapt
The Shopify Translate & Adapt app allows you to easily translate your store into difference languages. It can translate products, collections, pages, blog posts, policies, metadata, customer notification emails and so much more, with the full list shown in the screenshot below.
It will auto-translate 2 languages for free, and you can manually add as many language translations as you need. There’s a side-by-side editor (shown below) that makes it very easy to view and edit translated content.
Beyond just languages, you can also adapt translations for different markets that speak the same language to reflect spelling and messaging variations between markets. The app has good reviews, and the 2 free languages is great value coming from a free plan when compared to third-party paid themes.
How to set up Shopify Translate & Adapt
- Install the Shopify Translate & Adapt app.
- Go to Settings > Languages and add a language.
Select the language you want to add.
- Open the Translate & Adapt app. From the heading, choose Localized Content: (the language you want to translate). Click the “auto-translate” button in the top right corner. This will automatically translate your store content (both store data and theme data) using Google Translate’s software. This may take a few hours depending on the amount of content in your store. Translations will not yet be live on your store.
- Review the translations in each of the categories. You can modify text, and even images and video! This means replacing any images that have text in them, and replacing embedded videos with versions for the appropriate language (very cool!!). Note that you can modify translations for both languages and Markets which is a little confusing. By default, it has added translations for “All supported markets” but you can change the market within the one language to provide alternative translations. This would be useful for the typical “pants” vs. “trousers” or “underwear” vs. “pants” situation where different markets that speak the same language use different words to describe the same thing.
- Review and publish the translations. Return to Settings > Languages and you’ll see the new language listed under “Unpublished languages”. Click … > Preview. Review the entire site to make sure there aren’t any obvious missing pieces. You’ll notice that your store URL has appended the language to the end, for example, www.mywebsite.com/fr. Click Publish when you are ready.
- Install the Geolocation app. This will offer language and country recommendations to customers based on their geographic location and browser or device language. This app will present itself as a pop-up on the customer’s screen on their first visit, and you may also add a language and region selector to the footer of your theme. Use a VPN to simulate browsing from different countries to test the Geolocation app at work.
Display the language selector. Open the theme editor and open the Footer section settings. Check the checkbox option for showing the language selector.
The Geolocation app also has a "show selectors" option but your theme's selector design will look far better, so make sure to uncheck the selector box in the Geolocation app.
Note that after the initial translation, any future edits to store content will not update automatically and need to be made manually.
What happens to the translations if I publish a different theme?
Since both store data (products, blogs, policies, etc.) and theme data (text and images in theme sections) are being translated in the app, I was curious about how the app handles translations from other themes in the store. Since you can have up to 20 themes in a Shopify store, a normal process is to make changes on a draft version of the theme, and then publish that when you’re ready. So how can you manage the translations of a draft theme?
It seems to me that after publishing the draft theme, you need to go back into the app and auto-translate again, since all translated content under the “Theme” category will be blank at this point. I believe that auto-translating again will only translate empty fields and will not replace any manual translations that have been added.
This seems to be a bit of a flaw in the app’s capabilities as there’s a period of time where your store is not translated between publishing the theme and creating the translations. I don’t see a better way to do it, but if you know of a way, send us an email to correct us!
Before publishing a draft theme, I recommend exporting any translations by going to Settings > Languages > Export. This would especially be the case if you’ve spent time manually adjusting translations to make sure you haven a backup in case anything is overwritten when auto-translating for a second time.
What’s the difference between Markets in the app and the theme editor?
As of July 2023, Shopify gave us the ability to edit the content of theme pages or templates for different Markets. This means you could show different content to different locations, such as advertising different promotions. You can do this with the context selector at the top of the theme editor to choose the geographical market, and manually edit the page content for those Markets.
Here’s where it gets a bit confusing with the translations.
If I change the text on a section for a particular Market in the Theme Editor, I’m able to use the Translate & Adapt app to switch to that market and modify the translation. However, if I select the Market and the second language, I’m not given the option to customize that Market’s unique text. The same occurs if I add a unique section to a page for a particular Market… I’m unable to edit this section’s content in the Translate & Adapt app.
Seeing as the content editor for Markets is brand new, it’s understandable that there are some kinks to work out, and I’m sure we’ll see improvements in the coming months. Separating Markets and languages is a bit confusing. I like to think about Markets as different regions that you sell to that may have minor differences such as different policies, or even seasonal differences that require different promotions.
What about SEO for translations?
Search engines are able to index your website in multiple translated languages. The Translate & Adapt does a good job of adapting translated content for SEO. Metadescriptions are automatically translated with the “auto-translate” feature, URL slugs are translated, and Shopify automatically adds hrefland tags and includes all published languages in site maps so that search engines can detect the language in your store.
All this means that products are searchable on the internet in all translated languages, so there are only SEO benefits to site translations.
There are some SEO limitations to translations:
- There isn’t currently a way to translate image alt text
- URLs are not fully customizable (for example, if /pages/about-us were translated, the word “pages” would always remain in English)
To view the correct version of a translated site, a unique URL is created for each translated page. For a french translation, the URL will change to mywebsite.com/fr. When combined with Markets, a URL can look like /en-ca and /fr-ca to represent the French and English languages and Markets in Canada. If you wish to use a unique domain for different countries or regions such as eu.mywebsite.com or have .com for US customers and .co.uk for UK customers, then you may do with International domains.
How does it translate apps?
While there is a section in the Translate app to translate “app embeds”, our apps were not included in this list. This brings us to a limitation of the Shopify Translate & Adapt app, which is that it’s not able to translate third-party embedded code.
This could be problematic for displaying product reviews. While many product review apps are able to translate the widget text that comes directly from the app, they likely won’t translate the actual product reviews, which isn’t great for providing that completely localized experience.
Why use a third-party app instead?
You may want to use a third-party translation app for the following reasons:
- You need more than 2 languages auto-translated
See third-party language translation apps in the Shopify App Store.
How do I provide a fully localized experience to customers?
A great localized experience would be allowing customers to shop in their local language and local currency. Read our guide on How to add different currencies on Shopify where we walk through how to use the Geolocation app in combination with the Markets to sell in local currencies.
So… should I translate my store?
The benefits of translating your store include increased international traffic, and an increase in customer trust and conversions from customers who are able to shop in their local language. However, you can see that managing different store languages requires a time investment and possibly lots of upkeep depending on how often you’re updating the store.
Implementing this might not be a good solution for small stores that don’t have the resources to spend on this or aren’t focused on selling internationally. Store translations would make sense for brands that are looking to increase international traffic, build trust with an international audience and boost international sales. Each store will need to make this decision according to their unique target customer and circumstances. Choose your main target markets and focus on giving them the best experience.