Chinese E-commerce Translation: Unlocking the Digital Market

Online marketplaces all over the world are booming. But nowhere is this more prevalent than in China. e-Commerce translation is a major piece of the puzzle for foreign companies seeking to enter the Chinese marketplace. But it’s not just Chinese language translation that will endear you to your customers. 

It’s a combination of factors that must all be taken into account simultaneously for greater levels of success. This is why the best translation for e-commerce is not only translation. It is localization, too. If you are operating in an online marketplace and you’d like to spread your reach to China, there are a few essential things you need to know. Let’s take a closer look.  

What is important for an e-commerce business trying to make it in China?

You’d think that you’d only need Chinese e-commerce translation to make it in China’s digital market. But there are several other factors you need to consider in tandem with each other for better market penetration, increased sales, and a level of authenticity that only accurate e-commerce localization can provide. As such, here are some things you need to consider when you enter China’s e-commerce digital market.

  • Register your IP: you may have your intellectual property registered in your home country. But what about China? Remember that you need this registration before you even think of starting and this will involve having both a merchant’s trademark registration certificate and a letter of authorization to sell products on the Chinese digital market. Why is this important? Because without it, your business will remain unprotected. But what’s also worth knowing is that it can take up to 18 months to get this documentation. So, starting early is key. 
  • Ensure your content is completely localized: e-commerce localization for China e-commerce goes beyond mere Chinese language translation. It’s about reinventing your business so that it comes across as authentically Chinese. This means catering to the vast nuances of the culture and language in China and not merely reproducing word-for-word e-commerce website translation. You, therefore, need to ultra-localize and not just localized. This necessarily involves taking the entire customer journey and authenticating it for the Chinese digital market. This is why e-commerce localization should be able to follow the customer along their entire journey on your site with all elements having been localized including your checkout page, the currency used, units sold, images, videos, and all content put together.
  • Optimize your website for mobile: research shows that around 904 million people in China have access to the internet. Nearly 100% of these people use a smartphone. It’s therefore no surprise that China has the world’s biggest smartphone market. The population is highly engaged online and catering to mobile is essential. This means taking your website and making it mobile-friendly in every single aspect together with the right e-commerce translation and e-commerce localization.
  • Optimize for the right search engine: western search engine optimization (SEO) tactics are highly unlikely to work in China. Why? Because there’s no Google there. Instead, the Chinese population primarily makes use of the Baidu search engine, which only considers content in Chinese. Consequently, you’ll need to be prepared to not only have native knowledge of the language, but also the culture and online habits of Chinese consumers. 
  • Focus on customer service online: Chinese shoppers appreciate and demand a personalized shopping experience. How is this achieved? Through a constantly present, interventionist online customer service and support. They also make thorough product research before buying and you need to ensure that you have good product reviews of your items sold. In addition, keep in mind that it is a part of Chinese culture to haggle. This extends to the online marketplace. As such, you will need to not only have staff constantly available for your shoppers but the staff that is well-educated and trained in terms of knowing where to offer discounts and how to do up- and cross-sales.
  • Get on the right social channels: from both a marketing and social engagement point of view, you also need to be on the right social platforms. For example, WeChat Moments (with 1.2 billion users) is a platform that offers text messaging, video, and images for interactions – whether these are with individuals or with businesses. Online forums are also crucial as they offer official recommendations. Chinese shoppers therefore greatly rely on these forums to share details about products and experiences with your store. 
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Specifics of the Chinese digital market 

Simply put, the Chinese digital market is massive. Here are some numbers to put it in perspective:

  • The country has a population of 1.4 billion
  • In terms of GDP, it is the second-largest global economy
  • There are over 900 million internet users
  • Of these, around 70% use Baidu as their preferred search engine
  • By this year, e-commerce is expected to reach 64% of all retail sales in the country – this is bolstered by the rise of websites and online shopping
  • Around half of the population makes use of mobile payments

It is therefore essential that you carry out native-level Chinese e-commerce translation in order to succeed. But what are the challenges of Chinese language translation? Let’s take a look.

What are the challenges of Chinese language translation? 

The Power of E-Commerce Translation in Penetrating the Chinese MarketChinese is a complex language. It consists of Simplified and Traditional Chinese. What’s more is that in Mandarin alone, there are more than 80,000 characters. A much, much bigger combination than English’s simple 26 letters. Furthermore, of these 80,000, there are about 3,000 characters that are used most frequently. These, together with 6,000 characters are commonly used in technical writing and literature.

There are also a great number of dialects and you need to know exactly which one you are catering to so that your e-commerce translation is completely spot-on. 

Idioms and their usage in the Chinese language are also major nuances that you need to be aware of. We all know that direct translations of idioms can be extremely difficult and often, the exercise remains futile and unintelligible. Therefore, it’s vital to localize your idiom usage and ensure that you use local idioms to convey your primary idea. If you don’t have idioms in your marketing content, it may be time to consider incorporating some as this is an essential way for Chinese people to express themselves.

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There are also sentences and sentence patterns. In Chinese, good translators know that there are both simple and complex sentences. However, there are often no direct, word-for-word or character-for-character translations. Instead, one needs a trained and experienced eye in order to get the right meaning across using the right sentence structure. 

And last but not least, there are complex grammar rules to consider. For example, in Chinese, there are no singular or plural words to express nouns or objects. There is also no verb change when it comes to expressing tenses. Finally, sentences in Chinese begin with the topic or subject first and proceed with the rest of the information. This can be tricky to navigate if you are not a native speaker. 

What does the future hold for e-commerce localization in China?

In closing, it’s important to note how great a potential the digital market has in China. It is a behemoth compared to other global giants and is only expected to be fuelled further as more options and convenience are offered to Chinese shoppers. This is why you need not only effective Chinese e-commerce translation. You also need to work with an e-commerce translation agency that is well-suited to e-commerce localization. Localization takes translations one step further and turns words into meaningful content for users to appreciate in their own language, in the most authentic way.