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A Guide to Shopify Translation

Translated content is an increasingly important asset to global ecommerce sites. It allows you to engage with a broader audience and have a competitive edge in international markets. Translation can be an area of great difficulty too. Here’s Stef Gross, Head of New Builds at Swanky, with everything you need to know about translation on Shopify.

Written By
Stef Gross
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Global ecommerce is expected to account for more than a fifth of all retail sales in 2022¹, with an estimated 25.5% of ecommerce in Europe now being conducted cross-border².

With this comes an increased demand for tech solutions that help a brand internationalise their business.  

At Swanky we work closely with international clients using translation and localisation to engage new and existing customers around the world. New clients are also increasingly requesting Shopify translation tools for their site. 

We pride ourselves on being able to provide the best tech solutions to our clients. So, when Shopify released their new translation tool, Translate & Adapt, we jumped in to learn how it works and how we might integrate it into clients’ tech stacks. 

Here we share this knowledge with you as a guide to translation on Shopify. We’ll go through why translation is important, what you need to consider, possible translation processes and routes, and which translation tools are best for your store.

Why is translation important in ecommerce?

By translating your site, you can…

  • gain a broader customer base;
  • reduce bounce rate and improve conversion rate;
  • improve your brand image;
  • increase international competitiveness; and
  • improve customer experience.

There is huge possibility that comes with translation and localisation. But it is important to know that a poor translation can have the opposite effects and reduce your competitive edge in international markets.

Because the power of translation is so great, whether it’s good or bad, make sure you are aware of the process and tools available to you. The tips below will help you better understand translation and how to decide which tools are right for the job.

The translation process for Shopify stores

First, you must determine the market you want to sell in and evaluate the use of the target language(s) in this market. Consider how big an impact translation could have on sales, customer acquisition, and brand image. This evaluation will help you further down the road when evaluating how successful this process is for your business. 

Once you have this information you can decide which translation route to take. 

Possible translation routes include:

  • Automated Translation (a.k.a. Machine Translation)
  • Custom Translation (a.k.a. Human or Manual Translation)
  • Combination of the two (a.k.a. Post Editing)

Each of these routes are used for different reasons depending on the desired outcome. If you don’t require a high quality translation, then Machine Translation (MT) may be the right choice as it is a quick and cost effective option. If you need a very high quality output, then a custom translation option will be best. This is typically more time consuming and more costly. 

A combination of MT and human revision is usually called Post Editing. This is where the content is put into a MT tool (e.g. Google Translate or DeepL) and then reviewed and edited by a native speaker of the target language to make it sound natural. This is a great option for most people as it produces a good quality translation without the cost or time involved with a custom translation. 

Categories of translation tools

Once you’ve decided on your translation route, you can then work out which tools you’ll need for the job. Translation tools fall into three main categories:

  1. Translation agency, freelance translator(s), native speaker, etc.
  2. CAT software (Computer Aided Translation), e.g. Wezen
  3. Machine Translation, e.g. Google Translate, DeepL

The next steps are then to implement the chosen tool, import translations to your site and add a language/country switcher. You can now preview the site with the active translation and make adjustments if necessary. 

Things to watch out for in Quality Assurance (QA):

  • The QA process will be significantly longer if MTs have to be reviewed rather than importing manual translations from the beginning
  • CSS changes are highly likely due to the different types of languages and word lengths
  • If languages are right aligned (i.e. Arabic, Farsi or Urdu), the process will also take longer

Shopify Translation tools

Now we’ve gone through the process of translating your Shopify store, let’s look at three tools you can use to achieve this. 

  1. Translate & Adapt – Shopify’s own native translation tool that launched in August 2022.
  2. Langify – a long-standing Shopify translation tool, launched in 2014.
  3. Weglot – a French business who have excelled in this market after launching in 2016.

Below we outline what these three tools do well. This covers their features, integration and configuration.

Translate & Adapt

  • Ability to activate languages for each market.
  • Import/Export and organise manual translations.
  • Up to two free auto-translated languages (powered by Google Translate). 
  • Side-by-side editor to edit and review translations whilst referencing original copy (ideal for ensuring accuracy).
  • Apply spot translations using the online theme editor.
  • Improve SEO in local markets with translated store content.
  • Easy setup process via the Languages section of your Shopify Admin.
  • Pairs with Shopify Markets.
  • No impact to site speed.
  • Translates Checkout and transactional emails.

Langify

  • 100% compatible with the new native Shopify translation API.
  • Import/Export and organise manual translations.
  • Side-by-side editor to amend translations and reference original copy, with a location-specific search function.
  • SEO optimised domain structure.
  • Can translate some content from third-party apps.
  • Integrates with Translate & Adapt.
  • Translates transactional emails and SMS.
  • Third-party integration includes: Recomatic Related Products, Cross-Sell, Gift Reggie, Store Pickup + Deliver, Searchanise, Instant Search +.

Weglot

  • Integration with new native Shopify Markets solution in BETA, which will allow subdirectory setups.
  • Import/Export and organise manual translations.
  • One free auto-translated language (up to 2000 words).
  • Side-by-side editor to edit translations and reference original, visual editor and platform-wide translation search.
  • New content is automatically detected and translated.
  • Apply spot translations using the online store Edit Languages feature.
  • Integrates with subdomains for optimised SEO.
  • Translates the majority of content from third-party apps (any app that integrates, or has front-end crawlable text, can be accessed).
  • Can auto-translate metafields.
  • Translates transactional emails.
  • Multi-store translation management available.
  • Translate inside your store with the Visual Editor.
  • Third party integrations include: Sufio, Klaviyo, Instant Search +, Pagefly, Yotpo, Judge.me.

Which Shopify translation tool should I use?

The answer to this question hugely depends on what your website requires. Every ecommerce site has different needs based on customers, products and locations. For this reason the suggestions below should be taken as a guide; be sure to fully understand your site’s unique needs when choosing which tool(s) will work best for your situation. 

Sites with simple to standard requirements: 

  • Basic theme
  • Up to five languages 
  • Very limited to no third party use on front-end of the store
  • No complex metafield requirements 

↳ Use Shopify’s Adapt & Translate only

Sites with standard to more complex requirements:

  • 5-15 languages 
  • Medium third party use on front-end of the store
  • Potential metafield requirements 

↳ 60% Shopify Translate & Adapt + 40% Weglot

Shopify’s Translate & Adapt for the straight forward things, i.e. emails, simple text

Weglot for more complex and dynamic translation requirements

Sites with complex requirements: 

  • 15+ languages 
  • Multi-store language management
  • Heavy third party use on front-end of the store
  • Metafield requirements 

↳ 80% Weglot + 20% Shopify Translate & Adapt

Weglot performs most of the translation work but Shopify’s Translate & Adapt tool can still be used for simple translations, like emails, because of its ease to use.

This guide is based on my experience overseeing website builds of varying complexity at Swanky and working with these tools in Shopify Plus. However, others may find different solutions that work better for them. Again, this is why taking the time to understand what your site needs is a crucial step in this process. 

Translate your Shopify store and internationalise your brand

More and more businesses are moving towards an international focus. This is in large part because ecommerce platforms like Shopify Plus are offering tools, like Translate & Adapt, that make this possible. 

At Swanky, we’re trusted to deliver exceptional solutions for international clients. As one of the longest standing Shopify Plus agencies, with over a decade at the cutting edge of ecommerce solutioning, we’ve helped brands of all sizes take on new international markets and thrive in them.

Leveraging our expertise and experience in global ecommerce, we’ve created an ebook to support online retailers looking to scale internationally on Shopify Plus. Packed with expert tips, tried-and-tested strategies and real-life brand examples, this is the ultimate resource for navigating the complexities of cross-border commerce.

Get your copy of our internationalisation ebook now – it’s free to download!

 

1 https://www.shopify.ca/blog/global-ecommerce-sales

2  https://ecommercenews.eu/25-5-of-ecommerce-in-europe-is-cross-border/

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