Multilingual E-Commerce in the Digital Single Market

E-Commerce in the Multilingual Digital Single Market

Huge swathes of multiple markets are lost to language barriers, but online retailers can easily solve this problem...
Multilingual E-Commerce in the Digital Single Market.

I have started a business as an online retail site in an EU country. Do I need to completely restructure it when I cross a border into a neighboring EU country? Really? Can I not just call my translation agency, and then the problem is solved? I mean, everyone in EU e-commerce is doing this!

Have you ever taken a look at a multi-country online shop? Take IKEA as a sample:

They share some basics but in reality it’s just like having a different shop in each country. They are all distinct. Even the first blue line doesn’t have the same items listed. If you click on the privacy policy at the bottom of the page you will notice the content there is also quite different. Each country website operates under a different legal system within the EU.

Is there a solution to this problem, disregarding the abyss of decision-making in Brussels? European legislators and politicians are working on the legal problems in copyright and VAT in the Digital Single Market, but the core problem isn’t mentioned much.

Multilingual Market for EU E-Commerce

The core problem is the organization of the multilingual product offering. Why? There must be flexibility in the online presentation of the shop to help the customer find what they are looking for. 

Companies should structure products in a meaningful way, so that they can be easily found.

Surely this is basically a technical problem? And yes, there are solutions available. However, this is not being addressed. Currently, the website, not the products, is structured. This is repeated for every website in each country. It is very expensive. Worse, it does not achieve the main goal – help the customer find what they want to buy.

Companies should instead structure the products in a meaningful way, so that they can be easily found. If you have ever tried to find something in an EU online shop and you don’t know the exact name – good luck! The forte of the US e-commerce competition is great search and serious product organization. This is why, in spite of EU legislation, they outsell EU e-commerce retailers cross-border in the EU by a factor of 15 (fifteen)!

Graphs and Surface

The solution to these cross-border problems is to think of product offerings as a tree or a graph. This structure is then coupled with the surface terms to be found in the relevant languages. The products should be organized as a multilingual taxonomy of multiple relationships, that learn from what people search for and are adapted accordingly.
You need to be as careful organizing your products in your online shop as you are in the physical shop – chewing gum by the cashier, and so forth. The thing is that in the EU every online shop needs to be flexible and adapt to national priorities and wishes. What you need to do is carefully handcraft your product descriptions to make sure key words in each language are activated through search.

You will find more information on the Coreon website.

*Feature Image: Technology photo created by freepik –

Gudrun Magnusdottir
Gudrun Magnusdottir

Gudrun is co-founder of Coreon GmbH and a Chief Strategy Officer. She brings the team a passionately innovative and strategic mindset, entrepreneurial spirit, and a long term experience in marketing to global corporates, organisations and institutions.