eCommerce Localization For The APAC Region: Get Your Share Of The Biggest Market

Does the Asia-Pacific (APAC) eCommerce market seem like a big fish to catch? We dont blame you for thinking so.  With the current intense growth in the number of internet users, The Asia-Pacific region has the largest number of internet users globally.13 So which strategy should you adopt for effective localization for eCommerce in Asia?

This huge market can be conquered more easily, when you divide your strategy into smaller goals to achieve. This is why eCommerce localization for Asian Countries Should be built up. You should start with the fastest growing market full of opportunities, before using this experience to establish yourself in the bigger ones. Here is how you do it!

Southeast Asia: Get A Foothold The Fastest Growing eCommerce Market

When it comes to the Asian market, a lot of you will likely be thinking about China. And while these are big players you should definitely aim for you will gain a higher competitive streak by first implementing your strategies in Southeast Asia. As the fastest growing eCommerce market, Indonesia is predicted to grow a further 44 percent in the next year14 while Thailand is following with a projected 25 percent growth.15

Additionally, Indonesia has recently joined the top 10 languages on the internet,16 growing faster even than Chinese and Japanese. But with its rapid growth, the demand for targeted and quality translations hasn’t always been met because companies are quick to publish less qualitative translations so they can compete more quickly. This creates an opportunity for you to generate eCommerce content that will not only be presented in their native language, but also connect with them in a meaningful way.

Image Source: Ebanx

What Matters Most In The Southeast Asian Market? Go Mobile And Do It well.

Asian-Pacific Cashback reward program ShopBack started with an optimized desktop strategy back in 2014. But it wasn’t until the launch of their app, that they saw instant results. Right after its launch in 2016, the app took top rankings in Singapore.17

This doesn’t really come as a surprise according to research conducted by Google and Temasek.18 Their 2019 numbers show that more than 90 percent of Southeast Asia’s internet users rely on smartphones as their primary device. With digital communications, entertainment, and indeed shopping having become the norm, consumer behavior has changed in the most fundamental ways.

The report goes on to show that Southeast Asia’s Internet economy had hit 100 billion in 2019. While this more than tripled in size over the last four years, it is projected to triple once more by 2025. And with the internet penetration rising in the biggest Southeast Asian nations,19 the number of mobile users will only increase.

Internet Penetration in SEA, Statista

The ease of mobile usage has created a new market to expand into, but this also means that the ease of the device should be matched by your platform and app. Your platform should be 100 percent mobile-friendly, and your app should be effectively localized. Mobile App Localization combines linguistic and technical aspects that bring language and a responsive, attractive design together. This means that you won’t only need to find a Language Services Provider (LSP) who can help you optimize both of these aspects and also set up an appropriate testing environment.

Pro Tip! Need to more about Mobile App localization? Have a look at our app localization best practices from beginning to end, and also get some top tips on how to identify a reliable LSP.

China: The Inevitable eCommerce Giant

China’s eCommerce revenue is the biggest in the world at almost 2 trillion and is projected to show an annual increase of 7.9 percent between 2020 and 2025.20 The key to building a sustainable business within China: respond to local trends swiftly and approach the economic changes appropriately. Because while online sales in China had experienced a dip during the recent trade disputes, sales have gone up again but with some slight alterations in consumer behavior.

Mckinsey’s China consumer behavior report21 isolated four essential pillars in today’s market that your business should meet if it wishes to compete.

  • The majority of Chinese consumers don’t buy mindlessly. This means that any purchase they will make, they are sure of, and impulse buying has dropped since the economic dip.


  • Thinking of luring in your Chinese with a good bargain? You might just lose a sale. The Chinese are continuously showing interest in high-end items that match cultural value with top quality. This means that they might purchase less in quantity, but for the few products they buy, they will likely be big-ticket items.


  • China, much like some other parts of the world, is experiencing a health-conscious movement where they are pursuing better personal welfare and look for products and companies that represent these values.


  • There is a spending growth in the lower-tier cities among the younger generations.

This means that more than ever, effective localization will make the difference and keeping an eye on trends will give locals what they want and need. Don’t try to dangle sharp sales in front of your Chinese consumers. Offer them a product that they need.

How To Be Big In Japan

Japan is the 4th largest e-commerce market in the world with a continued growth projected in the coming years.22 That being said, much like the Southeastern markets and China, a thorough understanding of the local culture and buying behavior is essential if you are looking for any kind of success with your business.

Despite its reputation for technological innovation, economic stability, and 95 percent penetration rate, Japan is often not the first country on a company’s radar to set up shop. However, next to the big foreign players such as Amazon and domestic firms like Yahoo! Japan and Rakuten, innovative startups have also been sharing the limelight in Japan.

Their success is defined by two things: high-quality localization and speaking to local trends and behavior. The newer eCommerce companies who can speak of success, have been focusing on customer-to-customer e-commerce (C2C).23 This means that platforms such as eBay and Etsy can speak of particular growth, especially when focusing on the young female market looking for bargains.

The big secret behind C2C success in Japan is the Japanese eCommerce app Mercari. With over 17 million active users per month, Mercari has been downloaded more than 100 million times, overtaking both Yahoo and Rakuten.24

So here too, we see that mobile app localization is the main motivator behind the eCommerce success. What does this mean for your business? A well-localized app in Japan might just shift the balance of power from C2C to B2C.

The Takeaway For All Asian Markets: Look At Consumer Behavior And Learn From It

Going mobile and following trends are not the only strategy that will greatly impact your conversion rate. While responsive designs and easy-to-navigate platforms are essential, you will need to know your audience more deeply to make that connection that will turn a visitor into a customer. This is what localization means in essence. More than just the language, you are talking to your audience with your images, your checkout procedure, your use of color, and of course your products. Here are some essential tips!

  • Which payment methods do your targeted regions prefer? The checkout procedure is highly sensitive, and users are not likely to complete a purchase if they don’t feel the process is secure and familiar. Singapore, for example, favors PayPal, eNets, and credit cards. What about the rest?
  • What are some of the most popular eCommerce platforms out there? Have a look at who your competitors are and learn from them. If you can, form local partnerships with companies who have similar strategies.
  • What are the most used Social media and communication channels? This will be good to know for marketing purposes, but also to talk to your audience on their own turf. Southeast Asians, for example, are committed Facebook and Instagram users, while the Chinese favor the use of WeChat with more than a billion active monthly users, and Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
  • Don’t forget about International SEO! International SEO is a multifaceted strategy that combines authentic and relevant keyword localization, with accurately implemented technical applications. Much like how you optimized the source language, International SEO is all about sending the right signals to Search Engines so that once you are set, your new customers can actually find you.

eCommerce Localization in Asia: Challenges And Solutions


Your Choice Of Translation & Localization Service Matters. This Is Why


We have already mentioned localization and translation here and there. But what we haven’t quite touched upon yet, is exactly what your strategies would look like. How do you make it all practical and feasible? Especially in a market as complex as Asia and a platform as diverse as eCommerce?


Well, the quick answer is this one. There are three main services that will define the success of your multilingual eCommerce Platform in Asia. These are Machine Translation Post-Editing, Localization, and Transcreation.


Machine Translation Post Editing (MTPE) combines the speed of a machine with the intuition of a human linguist. This means that this service will serve you very well when you are dealing with User-Generated content and product descriptions. These content types pop up on your platform quickly and will need to offer a fast but still qualitative translation if you wish to stay competitive.


The opposite should be said about your website content, blogs, and marketing materials. Here, machines don’t come into the equation and only expert linguists will do. So here, Localization or Transcreation will be your friend.

Pro tip! Localization or Transcreation? How do you know which one is best? Make sure you pay the right price for the right service and check out our blog on when to choose transcreation services, and when to explore other options!

We understand you might still be a little hazy on the detail. So have a look at the graph below to get a better idea of which content types suit which services.

Want a quick introduction? Have a look at our video explaining the process of translating marketing content and exactly what needs to be taken into account to connect with the Asian market:

For those of you looking for a more in-depth analysis of these eCommerce services, have a look at our blog on the top translation challenges faced by ecommerce platforms where detailed solutions and the complete video series are featured.

Multilingual eCommerce Platforms have their own unique translation challenges. You may be wondering which service you should use for the marketing content? And what about the User-Generated Content? Or the Product Descriptions? Have a look at our 3-part video about the 3 main eCommerce Translation Challenges and how to overcome them! Just press play and every video will play automatically!

What Are Some Common Translation Challenges?

There are plenty of languages in Asia, but let’s have a brief look at the translation challenges of the three most popular languages so you will understand why the use of native, in-country experts is so essential!

Chinese Japanese Indonesian / Malay
What matters most in the Chinese language, is context. Chinese has no singular form, nor does it have a plural one, and there are also no verb conjugations to discern the tenses. So, the only way to tell the difference is by being aware of the wider context used in the content.Context extends beyond the linguistic aspects, to regional and cultural values. Japanese writing has three major writing systems are developed to alert the reader as to which type of language is being used. For example, the Japanese language consists of many borrowed words. Katakana is the writing the system used to express these borrowed words, while Hiragana is used to present Japanese words. One of Malay’s most important and most widely spoken dialects is Indonesian. While these languages are very closely related and even to some extent mutually intelligible, it is certainly not advisable to apply one translation to fit all regions. There are distinct differences in vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and even pronunciation to consider.


The Asian market has stellar opportunities for those who are devoted to the highest level of localization services and are prepared to dig deep into the culture to explore buyer behaviors. But eCommerce in Asia is diverse. Southeast Asia is ready to explode, and you will benefit most from developing a high-quality app geared towards local preferences. The same goes for the Japanese market whose C2C eCommerce business has blossomed due to the powerful apps that made this revolution happen. Want to be China’s next eCommerce revolution? Give the consumers what they want and prioritize high quality and health over low prices.

At Laoret, we provide only native, in-country experts who can demonstrate proven experience in the eCommerce industry. We strive to innovate our services with full online availability, 24/7 support, and specialized translation technologies tailored to our client’s needs.

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