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How to Create a Multilingual WooCommerce Shop

04 February 20
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how to create a multilingual woocommerce shop

Imagine for a second that Amazon’s website is available in English only. Non-English speakers would have a hard time buying from the retail giant, which means millions of dollars in lost revenues for the company. Where would these customers go shopping? They would probably turn to their local eCommerce stores, right?

Well, “probably” is not the most accurate word to use here. 

“Unquestionably” is.

It’s a known fact that 75 percent of Internet users tend to avoid making important buying decisions if the product’s description isn’t available in their native language. 

In other words, if you’re running a WooCommerce shop, it’s important to think about getting traffic not only from English-speaking countries (especially if you’re planning an expansion and becoming an international company). 

In this article, we’re going to talk about the importance of having a multilingual WooCommerce shop as well as two ways to create one.

Can Multilingual Store be a Key Driver for Your Business’s Growth?

Before we get into the techniques of making multilingual internet stores, let’s spend a minute talking about why they can become an important growth driver. 

Having a website’s content localized into more than one language may have a profound impact on an eCommerce business. 

Here’s a small case study for you. 

While there’s no official Amazon store in Poland, the company operates five fulfillment centers as well as an R&D center in the country. With the number of deliveries to Poland-based addresses being quite decent, Amazon management realized that there are thousands of Poles who would buy from them if their native language was available at the site. To make it possible, the management has decided to do something about it and get more traffic and purchases.

Now, Amazon offers a Polish language site on its German platform (the full-scale expansion and launch of the official website are probably underway, too). By localizing, the company has attracted more visitors to its page and become culturally credible, something that has made it the third most popular eCommerce platform in the country. 

Here are the main takeaways from this case study:

  • Content translation and localization are the keys to eCommerce success
  • The fact that English is widely spoken in a country doesn’t mean that going with this language is the best option. Most online shoppers prefer to make buying decisions only when content is available in their native language
  • Having a multilingual store means improving SEO: if more people visit your website and buy from you, search engines will treat this as a positive signal and increase its ranking.

So, to sum up, making your WooCommerce store multilingual will contribute to your success by providing you with more visitors and sales.

Now, let’s see how to make the first step in this direction.

How to Create a Multilingual WooCommerce Store

There are two ways in which you can make it happen: manually and via a plugin. While the second respective method has the most benefits for WooCommerce users, let’s review both of them because some people still prefer to go with the manual configuration. 

Method #1: Manual Installation

The manual method means creating a separate website for each language.

To do that, you’ll need to create a subfolder of your root folder and give it a name that signals the translation. For instance, if you translate your content to German, create a new subfolder named “de.” The new subfolder adds the new version to your store, i.e., www.myWooCommercestore.com/de/. 

While this method provides endless possibilities for customization, it has a few major shortcomings. For example, it makes content management much more difficult (you’ll need to implement changes to every installation), plus there’s no way you can do inventory sync stress-free. 

That’s why most people prefer to go with the second method.

Method #2: Install a Special Plugin

The main reason why WooCommerce multilingual plugins have become so popular is the rich functionality and the fact that they make translation and localization much easier. By using them, eCommerce businesses can quickly make the first step to localization without investing tons of money right away.” 

The list of the most widely used plugins includes WPML, Polylang, and Weglot Translate, so let’s talk about how they can help you to go international.

If you decide to use the plugin which only supports machine translations, you can outsource translation to a translation company like The Word Point to fill the gap and provide more high-quality content for your users.

Option 1: WPML (The WordPress Multilingual Plugin)

Designed to build and manage multilingual WooCommerce websites effectively, this plugin has modest requirements and is very functional. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Very easy to use. Just install the plugin, run it, and choose the language you’d like to have your store to be translated
  • A decent selection of languages. Currently, WPML supports more than 40 widely spoken languages and allows to add your regional variations and dialects, i.e., Brazilian Portuguese easy with the built-in language editor
  • User-friendly translation management. The WPML Translation Editor is an intuitive dashboard where you can easily translate website pages and review the progress (see the below image)
  • Complete localization. The visitors of a website localized with WPML enjoy a fully localized purchase process, from product pages to the checkout (purchase-related emails can also be localized to support the buyer).

While WPML provides a good base for multilingual websites, there are more ways to optimize your site’s performance. One example is Premmerce WooCommerce Performance Optimizer that helps with improving customer experience by optimizing product menu items and improving website speed (which is an essential requirement for a high Google ranking). 

Option 2: Polylang for WooCommerce

Another popular plugin with more than 500,000 active installations Polylang is designed to add more languages and manage the translation website. 

Here’s the list of features that you should know:

  • Add as many languages as you want and translate into them both manually and automatically
  • Translation of products, categories, tags, and attributes
  • Synchronization of galleries, categories, carts, shipping classes, tags, product categories, and stocks across product translations
  • Localized emails to support the customer during the purchase process
  • Automatic translation of a product page in one click
  • The visitors can access localized website versions by using the widget in the website’s navigation menu
  • Compatibility with most widely used WordPress SEO and is designed to take care of Html, hreflang, and opengraph tags.

The plugin has a high rating on WordPress.org and is regularly updated by the developers to ensure that the users have no problems with selling internationally. 

Option 3: Weglot Translate

The third option on our list has the following features to help you make a multilingual website:

  • Translate product pages, categories, checkout to ensure a completely localized buying experience
  • Translation management in one place
  • Automatic indexing of the translated SEO content, including meta tags, descriptions, and URLs
  • Easy switch between languages thanks to a customizable menu button
  • Compatibility with all WooCommerce extensions and themes.

Option 4: Multilingual WordPress 

Third-party plugins enable you to make your WooCommerce shop multilingual. However, the WordPress’ Gutenberg plan Phase 4 talks of WordPress plans to develop an official approach for it to enhance the website with multilingual support. This native multilingual support scheduled for the fourth phase of the Gutenberg development in 2020 and beyond has already stirred speculating about how it may appear. 

According to Pascal Birchler and his “Multilingual WordPress, An Exploration,” they expect changes in the nature of WordPress posts, terms, media, and permalinks. However, none of the technical details are available because this phase is in the experimental stage.

How Is Gutenberg Phase 4 to Improve  User Experience

Although we are yet to be acquainted with the Gutenberg phase four plan and experience the multilingual WordPress, there are some speculations about what this addition will bring to the WordPress community.

Since there are other solutions for multilingual WordPress website, the team who works on this project are taking their time to make this support run smoothly. The lack of urgency is giving them an opportunity to work on this without pressure. Robert Windisch, a CIO of Inpsyde, a German WordPress agency explains, “Currently nobody waits for the multilingual in core, because there are already solutions out there. There’s not really the pressure to have it right now.”

It should align with WordPress core

 The multilingual support needs to be integrated into WordPress seamlessly. Users who choose to browse through the website shouldn’t notice any difference from the website in the source language. Meaning, that each aspect of the multilingual website needs to run perfectly.

It should provide the uses with all-in-one solution

Even though the plugins do help the users to establish a multilingual site for their customers, the WordPress’ Gutenberg phase four can eliminate outsourcing. When this phase comes to a successful ending, the users can manage the multilingual solution within WordPress. The aim of any prominent company is to work on improving user experience and that is exactly what they plan to do with multilingual support. It will be just another reason why e-commerce owners will opt for a WordPress website. 

Final Word

Many benefits come from having a multilingual WooCommerce website. One benefit is that it may increase your sales. Moreover, a multilingual website has more cultural credibility. The techniques above are doable, and plugins are easy to use. All that is remaining is taking the step to create an impressive multilingual WooCommerce and start seeing the benefits.  


Comments (1)
  • marin_bs says:

    Hi, interesting article but a bit short and does not cover most of the internationalization of an e-commerce store.

    I’m was developing a Woo Multilingual site for a Bulgarian client now and I’d like to add a few more things that e-commerce store owners and developers should consider before jumping into this deep water. You didn’t mention anything about Shipping and Payment Methods but these two may be major cornerstones for a multilingual WooCommerce store.

    I will give you a real example from my current experience. My client wanted to have a store in 2 languages, to sell in 4 currencies worldwide and clients to be able to choose from 3 courier companies (2 of them are kind of local and the 3rd is DHL). So here comes the painful part.

    Payments: I paid for the WPML plugin and Woo Multilingual extension. The plugin works fine for regular translations and allows to set prices in different currencies but the local bank my clients uses (DSK Bank), does not provide support for multiple currencies in the same store (just BGN, they told to that I should have a separate site for different currencies….). PayPal does not work with Bulgarian Lev so the workaround for me was to use myPOS Checkout for Woocommerce, which supports payments in different currencies in a single store.

    Shipping issues: if a client makes an order from Greece for example, the local courier companies deliver to Greece as it’s in the Balkans but Greeks use Euro and the courier companies modules do not recognize currencies different than the Woo store default currency, so on the order confirmation page, the price for delivery was 0.

    There is a paid Woo plugin (Conditional Shipping and Payments) which allows setting conditions on the checkout page – for example, to limit a certain payment method to a certain delivery company, but it doesn’t allow to limit certain currencies to the specific payment method or to a delivery company. Well, the plugin does not allow limiting a specific currency to a certain delivery company or payment provider – it only allows to combine/exclude shipping and payment methods.

    So consider the differences in shipping and payment methods if you plan to sell internationally. There are a lot of ways to make things easier but if you’re targeting different countries and want to provide the best possible user experience, you will have to spend a lot time finding the best solution.

    In another e-commerce store I’ve developed, we sell internationally, but we sell digital goods and only in EUR so we use PayPal and it works like charm.

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