Sell Like a Native: The Ultimate Guide to Localization

February 24, 2023
14 min read

Going international has never been easier. But with differing cultures, languages, shopping preferences and currencies, how do you win global customers and keep them coming back? With 35% of all Shopify traffic coming from international visitors (92% of which want to browse and buy in their own currency and prices), it’s clear that selling like a native is good business.

First of all, it’s important to note that when reading this guide, the options available for internationalization and localization are not limited to the examples we provide. Shopify offers multiple options for internationalization, particularly with regards to setting up a store. Ultimately, the use case for the store will determine which option is best.

We’ve tried to incorporate and consider the many use cases for selling like a native, but if you’d like a broader guide showing all the available options, please revert to our e-book on internationalization.


Talking like a native

Put your hands up and step away from Google Translate. When selling like a native, you need to sound like one, and that does not mean automatically translating the content from your parent e-commerce site. As Femke van Schoomhoven, a product designer at Uber, said in a  Shopify blog post: “Localization is more than just translation. You need to consider the intent of the message, the goal of the design and the local context.”

A properly translated store is a powerful tool for increasing international sales, with Shopify reporting that almost 80% of international buyers strongly prefer to browse an e-commerce store in their native language. However, languages don’t always directly translate and you could wind up giving customers incorrect information about a product or your brand, making it much harder to break into new markets.

On top of that, locals have preferred ways of receiving information. For example, in Italy, customers prefer informal language and humor as opposed to Germany, where customers look for detailed product information and a formal, knowledgeable tone. Replicating your US content for both of these regions is unlikely to result in success. Therefore, we highly recommend hiring a professional, native-speaking copywriter who can nail your brand tone of voice while conveying the right message to your intended international audience.

However, there are alternatives with Shopify if you don’t have the financial resources to hire a copywriter for each new market. Let’s explore the options.

Option 1: Shopify multi-store

Shopify multi-store does what it says on the tin, allowing merchants to create multiple storefronts to cater for the various countries they’re selling in. Each storefront is separate and represents a different language, which means merchants have full control over content, campaigns, product listing, pricing etc. It works by using the IP address of the visitor and directing them to the appropriate storefront (for example, for a French site).

This is where your native-speaking copywriter comes in - they’ll edit the content depending on the region, rather than leaving it to Shopify to directly translate content for you. However, it’s important to note that if you have stores set up for the UK, Canada or U.S., content will be duplicated in English. As this can affect SEO, it’ll need to be managed - find out how here.

Option 2: Language apps

If you don’t have a professional, native-speaking copywriter for each country you’re looking to sell to, translation apps are your next best bet. These are third-party applications used to translate Shopify site content. They can be used by expansion stores where the original content only exists in the merchant's native language, or single stores that wish to offer a browsing experience in more than one language.

Langify is lauded as the most popular Shopify translation app, but it can negatively impact site speed and SEO. Due to the JavaScript (JS) rendering, translation apps can have an impact on site speed and this will be dependent on the number of available languages for translation per site.

Unless the site has a duplicated version of the pages in Shopify for each language, you’ll need a translation app to render the translated content. If the proper “REL” and “HREFLANG” tags are used and set up, search engines will be notified that language-specific content exists, rather than being interpreted by bots as ‘duplicate content’. In turn, this will help to reduce the negative impact on SEO.  

WeGlot is a preferred translation app and has a flexible API. However, as it uses JS to render, it can add too much weight on the code and affect site performance. Therefore, you should avoid overusing WeGlot on a site. The difficulty is - what counts as overuse can vary massively depending on how content-heavy a site is (e.g. depth of product details etc.). Generally, more than two or three languages can start to put stress on the apps, and you can safely say that 30+ on one domain is too many!

Selling like a native

Now that your customers can read, understand and get excited about your product based on your content, it’s time to ensure a smooth payment process. There are a few options for setting up currency on Shopify, which you can take a look at here. But this isn’t a deep dive into internationalization. Here, we’re focusing specifically on localization, and we’ve done the heavy lifting for you.

To prevent customers from having to scroll to the bottom of the page to change the currency manually, Shopify’s native geolocation feature works best. Once enabled along with international pricing (Shopify’s multi-currency glow-up), international pricing automatically pre-selects the relevant currency based on a customer's IP address, so they don’t have to.  

Customer service

When going international, customer service is often the last thing brands think about. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… right? Well, not quite. Adapting your customer service for each of your sales regions is essential to selling like a native.

Imagine how frustrating it would be for a customer in Germany trying to get in contact with your customer service team in the U.S. Sure, you could provide 24-hour support and introduce a generic chatbot, but when you factor in language barriers, time zones, the challenge of tracking orders globally and more, there’s often a disconnect between the customer and service. This disconnect can cause frustration, a lack of understanding and a lasting negative impression.

Luckily, there are some apps available from the Shopify app store that can help alleviate these problems.

First up is Gorgias, which specializes in customer service. Their suite of products helps merchants connect with their customers across the globe via phone, email, chat and social media. Gorgias’ live chat-bot includes features like setting automated answers to FAQs (in a highly personalized way so customers don’t feel like they’re talking to a bot), which also gives merchants time to triage messages to the most appropriate agent. Gorgias has also created a handy integration between chat and social media so merchants can speak to their customers where they are - which, let's face it, is on social media.

Heyday, who focus on conversational AI, are also a great tool for taking customer service both international and localized. In addition to social media integrations with their customer service chatbot, Heyday has automation that overcomes language barrier and time zone issues. After all, ensuring that customers can be served in their language is critical for merchants looking to expand into new markets.

However, hiring a customer service representative in new countries isn’t realistic for all brands. That’s where a multilingual AI-powered chatbot comes in handy. The chatbot is active 24/7 globally, and automatically localizes languages based on customer responses. Plus, it can switch back and forth between different languages if required.

We asked Heyday’s Director of Partnerships, Marie-Claude Léveillé, what importance customer service has to play in localization:

Ensuring your customers can be served in the language of their choice, whenever they want to chat with you on whatever channels they choose, is key to fostering strong CX and great customer relationships. But adding extra manpower to your team might be impossible. Here's where multilingual conversational AI comes in, and answers all of your needs in just a few simple steps.

Marie-Claude Léveillé
Director of Partnerships

Checkout/payment options

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) options have become a popular payment choice in countries around the world. From reducing last-minute drop-offs to boosting overall conversion rates and customer satisfaction, choosing the right BNPL provider for your sales regions can have a big impact.

For example, the majority of German online transactions are paid via Bacs (or the equivalent of), whereas in Australia, AfterPay is one of the most established and popular choices. Klarna’s ‘Pay in 3’ is a popular option in the UK but in the US, it’s ‘Pay in 4’ because the average salary is paid fortnightly in the US. Need more help deciding on the right option for your brand? Check out our guide to BNPL options on Shopify.

Some additional UX considerations:

When aiming for localization, a key UX consideration is ensuring your country and language selectors create a positive experience for any user, whether they’re visiting your parent country or shopping on your recently launched store in a new market.

For this, we recommend using a GeoIP and pop-up to redirect users if they’re visiting a different country store to the one associated with their IP address. What’s important here is that instead of automatically diverting a customer to their ‘home’ store, a GeoIP and pop-up gives the customer the option to stay on the country site or move to their ‘home’ store. This is useful for customers who are traveling or buying gifts in another country.

You should also consider other UX elements like reviews, that have a huge impact on purchasing conversion. Learn more about this in our guide to creating a best-in-class product page.

One platform which can help with this is Yotpo, which provides the option of multilingual reviews. This means that customers can read reviews in their own language and, if product lines vary from country to country, can see reviews on products sold in their country. This is a great additional way to create a positive and personalized experience for your customers.


Setting up your store

There are a ton of options to choose from when setting up your store for internationalization, which you can find in our complete internationalization e-book. For the purpose of this article, we’ve selected the most appropriate structure to sell like a native. But first - here’s a bit of context:

Shopify has released a number of updates to encourage internationalization over the past two years. First came the multi-store set up, which allows merchants to run separate storefronts for each country they want to operate in. This is a big plus for native sellers as merchants can run different campaigns, marketing, products and promotions in different countries depending on the trends, style and customers.

However, the setback is a big one. The financial overheads for running separate stores means you’d ideally need a team per country merchandising home pages manually - which is perhaps more suited to the big enterprise brands who have the capacity and finances. Oh, and did we mention it also means installing your apps to each store?

So, you can understand why Shopify released a handy alternative - multi-currency - where merchants can sell in multiple currencies from one storefront. This is great for merchants that aren’t looking to localize; perhaps large enterprises that have an established global presence. But for those smaller sized merchants, making the user experience feel native can be the difference between successfully entering a new market and not.

Shopify has since released Shopify Markets (in beta mode), the umbrella term for all of Shopify’s handy internationalization tools. But until this is available to all stores, there are a few ‘best options’ for going native depending on your end goal:

  • For a unique, targeted approach for each sales market, a single Shopify store (back-end) with a different storefront per new country allows each local team to adapt the content and marketing push to their respective markets.
  • To reconcile the sales to a different legal entity: in certain markets, you’ll need to set up a Shopify store per legal entity so you can link each Shopify store to their respective financial institution.
  • Shipping to new markets from your current warehouse: a single store with multi-currency and an appropriate OMS can deliver orders through a local 3PL (see our International Guide) from your warehouse directly to your customers in each market.


Let’s be realistic - shipping internationally equals additional costs, and it’s important to share those upfront with your customers. Baymard found that nearly 50% of the cart abandonment they surveyed on e-commerce sites in 2020 was due, in part, to extra shipping fees and costs, so be transparent. Most customers who shop internationally are used to paying additional taxes and shipping costs, but they’re not used to hidden fees and costs at checkout.

Setting up international shipping can be extremely complex; even more so when considering international taxation. Here are some points to bear in mind.

Shopify allows one price per currency per store. The new multi-currency solution allows the conversion of a product price to the selected currency and displays this on the front end across the site. However, this is based on the daily exchange rate and that price can only be ‘pretty priced’ (eg. rounded to the nearest 0.5, 0.9 or 0.00). Due to the changing nature of exchange rates, this means that most converted product prices change weekly or even daily.

Shopify’s option for including or excluding tax is binary. The product price can be set to include the necessary tax, which is calculated and added at the checkout stage based on the shipping address. For example, if VAT was 20%, a product that costs £10 would need to be priced at £12 to cater for the VAT.

However, if the tax doesn’t apply to every country you ship to, you’ll need to choose between:

  1. Charging your customers in the non-applicable countries for tax they aren’t required to pay (e.g. charging VAT to non-EU customers).
  2. Presenting them with additional costs at the checkout, which can impact conversion.

Most countries have different laws and rules when it comes to duties and additional taxes. These duties aren’t set to a fixed percentage like VAT or GST, and aren’t charged until a package arrives in said country.

There are two ways to apply these costs:

  • Delivery duty paid (DDP) - You absorb the cost of all taxes and fees applied against your shipment. Your international shipping carrier will often pay these upfront and bill you, but this depends on the carrier.
  • Delivery duty unpaid (DDU) - The customer pays the associated fees upon the arrival of their package in their country. These costs can be quite high, so it’s important to clearly flag this across your site so your customer is aware when they make their payment online.

There are apps to ease challenges surrounding shipping and tax, which can be integrated directly from the Shopify app store.

First up, Zonos allows you to calculate the cost of customs duties based on the shipping address of your customer, and gives them the option to pay these upfront, online. However, it will take your customers to a separate checkout which has its own negative impacts on conversion.

Next, Avalara offers cloud-based compliance solutions surrounding VAT, GST, border tariffs and international taxes which makes shipping internationally a whole lot easier. The AvaTax plugin on the Shopify Plus app store enables merchants to:

  • get accurate and up-to-date tax codes from more than 12,000 jurisdictions
  • fine-tune a set of tax rules to meet their business needs
  • create accurate reports of their business’ taxes

This is useful if you’re adding tax to your products at checkout, rather than including it in the main product price.

Fulfillment options

If your goal is to sell like a native, you should aim to fulfill like one, too. This includes selecting shipping options that are preferred by the country you’re selling in, and finding the right returns process to suit the localized culture.

For example:

  • The Dutch return online orders more than people in many other European countries, so a clear returns policy and slick returns system could be a big factor in upping conversion rates in the Netherlands.
  • Belgian shoppers prefer online orders to be delivered to their homes during the day, with only 2% preferring “Click & Collect” (which is a very popular delivery method in France and Poland).
  • For Brits, the most popular reasons to shop online are immediate home delivery and lower prices, whereas in the Netherlands, a delivery time of 3-5 days is accepted.
  • Polish customers (at least 42%) like to pay upon delivery of products ordered online; a method which seems to have died out in the majority of other European countries.

So, as is apparent from these findings (read more here), one country’s close proximity to another doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll share similar native preferences when it comes to e-commerce. Do your research and reap the rewards.


We won’t deny that the steps to selling like a native can initially add more work to your plate, but it’s certain to add more customers and profit to your plate, too.

By properly adapting your content, customer service, payment and fulfillment options to suit the countries you’re selling in, you can make a huge difference to your bottom line. Remember to set up your store to support your business’ needs (whether that’s through multi-store or multi-currency) and implement apps to reduce pain points around shipping and tax.

And if you have more questions, or would like some help in localizing your international stores, get in touch.


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