Why Your eCommerce Site Should Speak Chinese

Photo by Xuan Zheng on Flickr

Why Chinese?

Chinese eCommerce growth is like a kudzu vine; this morning it’s over there but pretty soon it’ll be everywhere, because today’s China is populated with a growing middle class that’s young, educated, and has money. It’s already the largest eCommerce market in the world, having surpassed the United States last year and expected to be $1.1 trillion by 2020  Source: Forrester (2016).

There’s a huge demand for Western goods in China. Wine, chocolate, coffee, and luxury goods are much in demand. Chinese consumers have found that these goods are considerably less expensive on foreign sites, and the Chinese government wants to encourage more goods-shopping at home (Western or otherwise), so they’ve slashed import taxes. (Things could get also ugly for the daigou, or middlemen agents, that many Chinese shoppers use to avoid the considerable number of taxes they’d have to pay domestically).

Related: Three Keys To Success in the Asian eCommerce Market (white paper)

With a good Asian partner or two, you can enter this lucrative market and navigate it from order to delivery. You can globalize and localize your website for China as well as other Asian markets.

What to do first

After planning your strategy and finding yourself some good Asian eCommerce partners, you’ll next want to translate your website. Quick translation widgets won’t do the trick; if you’re serious about attracting Chinese buyers, or on a Chinese online marketplace where you offer your goods, you need a good clean translation. Sure, Chinese and English are about as poles apart as North and South (or maybe East and West in this case) but ‘okay’ isn’t good enough if you don’t want a high bounce rate; with enhanced machine translation you can offer a more seamless user experience which will engender trust and confidence in your Chinese visitor. And furthermore, consider this: There’s traditional Chinese, and simplified Chinese, in use since Mao Tse-Tung’s Cultural Revolution.  Which type of Chinese do you use, and for which countries?

Chinese is one of the most notoriously difficult languages to translate to and from, so getting it right is a major challenge.  But $1.1T dollars is worth catching the wave at the bottom rather than at the crest, which many of your competitors will do.

Companies tend to think of language translation only when they’re ready to extend their business strategy overseas. They don’t think of the immigrants on their own shores who would prefer to shop in their native language rather than English, depending on their proficiency in the latter. And North America is a popular destination for Chinese immigrants. Around one-quarter settle in the U.S., and Canada is another preferred landing country as well.

If you’re planning to sell your goods on Asian marketplace websites like Alibaba, Reebonz or Lazarda, you’ll face the challenge of data entry operators who may or may not speak fluent Chinese. With a good translation software solution, they can upload their changes in their native language in a spreadsheet and have it automatically translated into either simplified or traditional Chinese.

My eCommerce site is translated; now what?

No translation software is perfect and you might need human translators to post-edit to ensure everything is translated properly and there are no famously bad mistakes like the “Chinglish” you find on websites featuring horrendous foreign translations. (They work both ways! Just imagine how much the Chinese are laughing at English-to-Chinese translation fails!).

Google has announced what will eventually be a far more accurate upgrade to Google Translate called Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT). Patterned after the human brain, GNMT translates in whole sentences rather than the phrase-based translation patterns currently the norm. Don’t expect any killer grades in your foreign language classes any time soon, though, as so far it’s only implemented for Chinese to English, and this is what resulted when we found the Chinese language version of Wikipedia’s entry on Confucius and clicked on Translate this page:confucius-untranslated


You can get the gist, but there’s still some work to be done. Still, kudos to Google for tackling the most notoriously difficult source language for English first. Once they’ve got Chinese mastered the rest of them should be smoother sailing.

The takeaway is that it’s very much worth your while to adopt a more globalized approach to your business strategy. Chinese translation is challenging but hardly near-impossible with a combination of enhanced machine translation and human post-editing. Over 1.3 billion Chinese who need and want your products can’t be wrong!

Download our white paper on the future of China and the other APAC nations here: Three Keys To Success in the Asian eCommerce Market


Yappn Corp is an enhanced machine translation company offering translations in 67 different languages and a strong presence in Asia. For more information please contact sales@yappn.com or call us at +1.905.763.3510 x246.
Written by Nicole Chardenet, Sales Development Rep at Yappn.

Share This Post