GLOBAL SELLING

Manage European languages

Hear how successful US-based sellers handled European languages as they grew their Amazon businesses across Europe.

Reach millions of customers across Europe

Reaching millions of customers across Europe sounds appealing. However, many sellers have questions regarding European marketplace languages. After all, Europe consists of over 28 countries, many of which have their own languages. In this article, you’ll learn how successful US-based sellers have handled European languages when selling on Amazon in Europe.

What are Amazon’s European language requirements?

Amazon requires that listings and customer support be provided in a marketplace’s local language. Using the local language makes it easier for customers to understand your listings and buy your products.

For Amazon’s five European marketplaces, those languages are:
  • Amazon.co.uk: English—if you’re reading this article, you’re probably OK on this one, but be aware of differences between British and American English.
  • Amazon.de: German
  • Amazon.fr: French
  • Amazon.it: Italian
  • Amazon.es: Spanish
What this means for you is that your listings on Amazon.de must be in German, your listings on Amazon.fr must be in French, etc.

Customer support must be in the marketplace’s local language too. So if a customer asks you a question in Italian about one of your listings on Amazon.it, you must respond in Italian.

But I don’t speak German, French, Italian, or Spanish. How do sellers handle these requirements?

Before you get scared off, here’s the good news: You don’t need to be fluent in any of the European languages to sell across Europe. You also don’t need to invest upfront in hiring native speakers.

“If you take it one step at a time, language should not be an issue for any US-based seller,” says David Laubner of Blink, an electronics company based outside Boston, Massachusetts.

Many sellers handle European language requirements through a mix of Amazon’s translation support and external translation providers. For many, the process begins with using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).

FBA handles shipping and logistics support

One of the major benefits of using Fulfillment by Amazon in Europe is that Amazon will handle shipping-and returns-related questions in the marketplaces’ local languages.

“When there’s an issue with the shipping or returns, Amazon—as part of FBA—handles that for us, which is great because we don’t speak German, French, Italian,” says Ben Kaplan, co-founder of game company What Do You Meme. “It makes the customer support really seamless and hands-off on our end.”

These “Where’s my stuff?”-type questions typically make up the majority of seller contacts. So just by using FBA in Europe, you’ll immediately reduce the amount of time and resources your business would have spent on European languages.

Translation and language requirements:

  • Product listings
  • Product-related customer questions

3 steps to succeed at selling globally

For these requirements, seller Bernie Thompson of Plugable Technologies suggests the following:

1

Use Amazon’s listing and translation tools

“I recommend you use Amazon’s provided tools to get your initial translations done,” says Bernie, who began selling on Amazon.co.uk in 2011, before expanding to Amazon’s four other European marketplaces.

If you already sell on Amazon.com, you can use those listings for Amazon.co.uk. But when listing your products on the other four European marketplaces, you’ll need to translate your ASINs.

Amazon’s Build International Listings (BIL) tool helps you take your existing product listings—for example, from Amazon.com—and list them quickly across the five European marketplaces. And while it doesn’t translate your listings, it does help you see which, if any, of your listings have already been translated.

“You’ll probably find that at least some of your US listings have already been translated for the European marketplaces,” explains Touma Hayakawa of Amazon’s global sales team, which helps US-based sellers sell in Europe. “Then you can decide which of the remaining listings you want to get translated, either through Amazon’s translation service or other options.”

2

Answer questions using free online translation services

Once your listings are up, the next language issue you’ll likely encounter is customer questions.

“If someone’s asking a question in a marketplace where you don’t have a native speaker, you can use an online translation service,” says David of Blink. “You can provide a perfectly fine experience for the consumer to answer their questions.”

When getting started selling in Europe, many sellers use free online translators to translate and then respond to customer questions. For example, a US-based seller might receive a customer question in Italian, translate it into English to comprehend it, type a response in English, and then use the online translator to translate it into Italian.

This method lets you get started in a new marketplace without requiring additional investment in hiring native speakers. As your business grows, however, the quality of translations from these solutions may not suffice.

3

When you’re ready, hire a native speaker

“The next stage is getting comfortable with service providers who can do ongoing translation for you,” says Bernie of Plugable Technologies.

There are many benefits to having native speakers supporting your European Amazon business, including refining listings and Sponsored Products ads and providing optimal customer support.

“Ultimately, for the best customer experience, you need to be communicating with your consumers in their native language,” David says. Once you’re ready to invest in native speaker support, David suggests two options:

Hire an external translation vendor

Many translation vendors are available to handle your European language needs. These vendors typically charge a per-word rate. Consider using Amazon’s Solution Provider Network to find external translation providers, where you can filter vendors by text or customer-service translation requirements, source and translation languages, and more.

Hire a native speaker in-house

Hiring a native speaker in-house may offer additional benefits, such as greater familiarity with your business and products, or greater cultural familiarity with your European customer base’s specific tastes and needs.

You have options

While Amazon’s local language requirements do mean you need to do a little planning before you get started, don’t let them stop you from selling in Europe. Just remember Bernie’s three-step framework to handle listing translations and customer questions, and you should be able to scale your language capabilities as your European sales grow.

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