Sell internationally: Create a multilingual Shopify store May 21, 2015 03:00

While selling your products on Shopify locally or within your country is a good start, you may be missing out on global opportunities by not selling overseas. Selling internationally can be a great way to increase your customer base and make your brand more recognizable.

In this post, we will go over different ways of making your store multilingual in order to reach local markets in different countries. This not only builds trust in your store by showing a customer-centric approach, but also gives your store a competitive advantage in foreign markets against a single-language competitor.

Why sell internationally?

According to a 2014 eCommerce report, global eCommerce sales grew almost 20% between 2013 and 2014.

For almost all categories of products available on online stores, Latin America had the highest number of people browsing products online, while Asia-Pacific had the highest number of people intending to purchase products online.

With technology improvements in devices, internet service providers, and transactional infrastructure, emerging markets may have the highest potential for growth in eCommerce. As millennials mature and obtain more purchasing power, online shopping and services are attuned to creating convenience as shown by the global growth of online platforms like Uber and Airbnb.

Creating a multilingual Shopify store that can sell internationally helps position your shop to take advantage of this growth.

Ways to make your Shopify store multilingual

There are a number of ways to make your store multilingual. Having your store in more than one language signals an international presence and helps to index your store in search engines native to specific countries that crawl websites in a specific language.

Without getting into code, Shopify allows for having more than one language for the front-end store. You can also translate your checkout process even though it’s hosted at Shopify (though this requires you to do a bit of fudging by displaying several languages at once).

We outline 4 ways of making your store multilingual:

  1. Have different domains and sub domains
  2. Use Google Translate Widget
  3. Use a translation-ready theme
  4. Use a translation app

Different domains and sub domains

One easy way to make your store have different languages is by having multiple domains or sub domains for each country/region you want to sell to. For example, you can set up your primary store at yourstorename.com and set up a store on a different domain for different regions like yourstorename.au or yourstorename.ca.

You can also use sub domains like http://au.yourstorename.com or http://ca.yourstorename.com.

With this option, you don’t have to use translation apps or themes, and can use almost any available theme to fill content in a different language. This provides a simple way to manage a language on each store.

But, this also means having a different store (orders, inventory numbers, etc.) on different domains. This may be a good or a bad thing depending on whether you like your inventory management separate or together amongst the stores. Another con is that whenever an update needs to be made, you have to manually make it on each store.

Google Translate Widget

Shopify allows a Google Translate widget to be added to your store. This embeds a dropdown language selector which uses Google Translate to show your website in different languages.


Note that the translations are only as good as those that can be obtained from Google Translate. Check out a demo Shopify store that uses the Google Translate widget (found above the site title) to see how it works.

Follow the instructions found in the Shopify Manual to embed code from Google Translate that activates the widget in the store.

The pro of having Google Translate is that your customers can quickly toggle a number of different languages. The widget is also fairly quick to set up and makes your store multilingual easily.

But the con is that Google Translate may not have a translation of all the content on your site (toggle to a different language, like Hindi, on the demo store to see how much content gets missed), or may not have the accurate translation in a language based on context.

Use a translation-ready theme

New Shopify requirements for submitting a theme in the Shopify Theme Store ask for the theme to be internationalized, that is, the themes enable merchants to use the Shopify Language Editor in order to have content on their storefront in different languages. This means that newer themes on the Shopify Theme Store come with a translation-ready feature.

To check if the theme you are using is translation-ready:

  • Go to “Online Store”
  • Select “Themes”
  • Click the […] button
  • Click on the “Edit language” button
  • Click on one of the languages
  • If you see a full list of translation tabs, like General, Blogs, etc., then your theme is translation-ready

More details of how to check your theme can be found in the Shopify documentation.

Translation-ready themes allow you to use Shopify’s simplified translation process that uses the built-in Shopify Language Editor to translate your store.


This is the simplest way of translating your store through the admin backend. An example of a multilingual Shopify is the Coffee House theme by Shopify Ninjas.

Translation apps

If your theme itself is not translation-ready, you can still translate your storefront content without using any code using a number of available apps.

Here are a few apps that allow you to internationalize your existing store that may not be translation-ready without having to switch to a newer theme:

  • Localize.js – starting at $15/month – 5 star review rating
  • langify – $17.50/month – 5 star review rating
  • Shop Translator – $8.50/month – 4 star review rating

Internationalize your store

There are a number of ways to make your Shopify store multilingual to help sell your products globally. North America and Europe are not the only regions fuelling eCommerce demand as infrastructure and technology in the rest of the world catches up to support online activity. Having an multilingual Shopify store positions you to reach a wider customer base globally.

Have you used other ways to translate your store? Let us know in the comments below.


Cover Photo Credit: epSos.de ( CC BY 2.0 license)

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