The best way to move forward is to export—expand into Germany and France but do it the right way with an initial investment in quality translations with the added support of customer service. Don’t cheap out… human translation is an absolute must, if you don’t use it you won’t succeed and Amazon will suspend you. ICE pulled us out of the fire and they did a beyond fabulous job. We were very pleased.
Roland Brana, Bikers Gear
Client: Bikers Gear
Bikers Gear is a leading manufacturer and retailer of quality motorcycle apparel and gear. Having had success in the UK, the company wanted to broaden their reach and expand into Europe…
Expansion target: Germany
Even though their expansion plans began relatively close to home, Bikers Gear still had significant changes to make. Their listings needed to be translated in to German. Originally they aimed to have their listings translated by professional native translators but Bikers Gear was persuaded to go with a company offering machine translations at a fraction of the price of human ones. These translations may have been inexpensive but the quality matched the price. Nonetheless, Bikers Gear’s early German sales were strong—until suddenly everything fell apart. In summer 2014, Bikers Gear was suspended from Amazon Germany.
What went wrong?
Problem #1: incorrect sizing
Motorcycle gear needs to fit snugly while still permitting the biker to move freely. It has to be tight, but not too tight and bikers, like everyone else, come in all shapes and sizes. This makes correct sizing complicated. Of course, it becomes even more difficult to get the right fit when you’re shopping online. Customers rely solely on the sizing and measurements provided by the seller, assuming they’re accurate and precise. Since Bikers Gear’s listings were literally translated by machine, the sizes weren’t changed accordingly and unfortunately, German sizes vary from those in the UK (e.g. UK men’s 48 is 56 in Germany). These discrepancies meant Bikers Gear’s sizes and titles were incorrect. Items were returned en masse, and Bikers Gear was left paying huge amounts to couriers for returns, not to mention the daily customer service headaches.
Problem #2: language barrier
When their German customers wrote with complaints, Bikers Gear turned to the same machine translation company to translate the messages. Unfortunately, the subtleties were often lost in machine translation, and sometimes the customers’ issues or requests were entirely misrepresented. A customer would write saying a package hadn’t arrived, but Bikers Gear would be informed that the customer was requesting a refund. Unaware of the mistranslation, they’d request the customer return the item for a full refund. This led to confusion and frustration on both sides. Bikers Gear ended up with unhappy customers, negative feedback and A-Z claims.
After their Amazon Germany suspension, Bikers Gear considered throwing in the towel. Yet since their initial international expansion sales had been strong, it was clear there was a market for their products if they were translated and listed properly. This time, Bikers Gear contacted InterCultural Elements (ICE). ICE immediately wrote an Appeal Letter to Amazon DE in German on Bikers Gear’s behalf, and Bikers Gear’s account was reinstated after ICE’s Account Managers produced a detailed plan of action for Amazon. Bikers Gear’s cross border trade solution included:
- Professional native translation & localisation: ICE’s professional native translators tackled Bikers Gear’s listings, ensuring the search terms, titles, and text were translated and optimised.
- Customer service: Instead of recruiting and training a specialised foreign language customer service team, Bikers Gear signed up for ICE’s customer service solution. The ICE customer service team responded promptly to any inquiries or concerns in German.
- Account management: ICE’s Account Managers continued to monitor Bikers Gear’s account. Shortly after it was reinstated, Amazon DE co-mingled their listings. Since Bikers Gear’s staff don’t speak German, these listings errors would have gone unnoticed, but with ICE’s help, the errors were quickly resolved.
Since then, Bikers Gear has expanded successfully with ICE into Germany and France on both Amazon and eBay. They continue to use ICE’s translation, customer service, and account management services and have also started using ICE Global Returns. Now they have access to local return addresses in up to 19 countries — important when it comes to meeting Amazon’s latest return guidelines for international sales.