Shopify Goes Multilingual: What To Expect and How it Helps Your Store

One of the easiest ways to expand your store's reach around the globe is by incorporating a multilingual interface. This means that a website that's usually shown in, say, English, could be instantly translated to German, Italian, or whatever language the current user wants.
In addition, multilingual websites often have options for accepting multiple currencies at checkout. In the past, one of the primary downsides (there aren't many) of Shopify was the fact that it didn't offer many multilingual tools at all. However, Shopify has recently gone multilingual, so it's time to celebrate and talk about what this means for your business.

What it Was Like Before

Prior to Shopify going multilingual, you would have to either consider a completely different platform, or you would have to find a Shopify developer who would be willing to custom code some multilingual tools into your website.

And if you've ever asked a programmer to work with language functionality, it doesn't always go that well–or it's extremely expensive.

In terms of web design, the current options for getting a multilingual, and multicurrency, website is to hire a custom developer or to find a template that offers this type of functionality built-in. For instance, you can locate several WordPress themes with multilingual tools–although not all of them are that reliable.

Your best bet is to go with an ecommerce platform that has the multilingual and multicurrency features built into the system. This way, you don't have to worry much about it and you know that the features have been tested and rolled out to thousands of other users.

The Big Change

That was what multilingual functionality was before. But now, that's all changed.

In mid-2018, Shopify announced that it has developed and implemented a multilanguage and multicurrency system inside of the platform. The primary release is expected during the Fall of 2018, but testing and implementation have already begun.

In fact, many current Shopify users already have the multilingual features through the beta access.

What Are The Main Multilanguage Features?

The main thing to look forward to is the multilingual tool in the Shopify admin section. With this, you're able to activate the feature so that customers can automatically translate your content to their own language. From the sounds of it, Shopify only expects to roll out a select number of languages at the time being, but we're sure this number will increase into the future.

In addition, you can set your store to accept a wider range of currencies. In this situation, your store might typically accept credit cards but only provide transactions to go through if the customer is paying with US Dollars. Now, a customer from, say, Germany, comes to your website and may be able to checkout with the Euro.

Similar to the languages, currencies in Shopify will be limited to about six during the early months. However, one can expect these numbers to increase so that you're not so limited.

What to Expect With the Implementation

Shopify is being very transparent about the release of the multilingual and multicurrency tools. It states that beta users do indeed only have access to a handful of languages and currencies. In addition, the company talks about how you might notice some portions of your website not getting translated, especially on the mobile version of your site.

This is normal and should only improve as time passes and testing gets rolled out to more users.

If you're not used to working with a feature that's not quite perfect, the beta version of the multilingual Shopify isn't for you. However, you can join the beta today if you want to get your hands on the feature and potentially provide feedback from your experience.

It's also worth mentioning that the current feature only allows the admin to change the language. Therefore, you won't see a situation where a customer comes to your site and the site detects the location and changes the language. We can only hope for this in the future. Instead, the admin of the store can change from English to a different language, converting the entire site to that language.

Now, you might be wondering, how does this help, for instance, a company in the USA that primarily sells to English-speaking customers?

Well, we have two answers to that. First, many companies have predominately non-English speaking customers, so those particular stores will be able to now consider Shopify as a full-fledged ecommerce solution.

Secondly, companies with primarily English-speaking companies still have the opportunity to expand into a different market, with a bit of work.

To do this, you would have to make a completely different site in that target country. Take Amazon.com, for instance. The brand has completely separate websites for all countries, which allows it to target better based on language and currencies.

So, you might have a site like myawesomewebsite.com and then make a new one called myawesomewebsite.de for the German version. Then, you'd have the option to flip the switch on the German site to Euros for the currency and German for the language.

Keep in mind that I'm not even sure if German is offered at the time, so this is just an example.

What Do You Think About Shopify Going Multilingual?

This is big news no matter who you are and what type of online store you're running. It at least shows that Shopify is working hard to make multilanguage and multicurrency sites a real possibility because other competitors have definitely been in front of Shopify in this realm. What's more is that Shopify has some current workarounds for you to enable a more user-friendly multilingual website, especially for getting a button that actually asks customers to choose the language they want to see. From what I've seen from the user feedback, this isn't exactly an ideal configuration, but it's at least a start. We can only hope to see better options in the future.

If you have any thoughts or questions about Shopify going multilingual, let us know in the comments below!

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Joe Warnimont

Joe Warnimont is a freelance writer who creates tools and resources to help other writers get more productive and market their work.