Make Your Shopify Store Multilingual With Headless Architecture

  • January 29, 2021
  • Misc
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A typical concern: how do I include numerous languages to Shopify?

Over years of working together, there’s one repeating concern that we’ve been asked on nearly every job: “How do I include numerous languages to Shopify?”

And it isn’t an unreasonable demand. A great deal of our customers work and live – like us – in the EU. It’s the world’s biggest trading bloc, a unified whole for company and commerce. Subsequently, our customers frequently think about other EU states as members of the very same market.

But whilst the EU is combined on company, it isn’t combined on language. In reality, the appeal of the bloc depends on its range of cultures and languages, each of them gathering to make something higher than the amount of its parts. To maximize the EU’s possibilities, then, a single language is inadequate. To offer clients throughout the bloc the experience they desire, and the experience they are worthy of, organizations should adjust shops to their language.

And obviously, there are other factors to desire numerous languages on Shopify. We have customers from all over the world, not simply within the EU, and any of them that dream to scale worldwide will require to make their shop multilingual.

Until just recently, nevertheless, there was no acceptable method to include numerous languages to Shopify shops. Here, we’ll describe why the previous techniques were no great, and we’ll inform you why we relied on headless architecture as a resolution.

The issue

Oddly, the issue originates from among Shopify’s strengths. As all of us understand, the e-commerce platform is an all-in-one solution for building stores from scratch. It supplies whatever – from stock management to CMS, POS and front-end customisation. And this method has actually shown effective. Shopify is the very best SaaS e-commerce platform, providing whatever you require at either a great or extremely high level.

But whilst covering more ground than other platforms is a strength, Shopify simply cannot be the best-in-class at every single aspect of e-commerce. CMS is one such aspect. Shopify’s is good, but it isn’t the best. It lacks multi-language translation capabilities and advanced CMS modelling. As a result, Shopify doesn’t support multiple languages without some sort of tweaking.

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Multiple stores and translation apps

Before headless, there were two ‘solutions’ offered to Shopify users in need of a multilingual store: creating multiple instances of their store, or using translation apps.

Multiple languages and multiple stores

As standard, Shopify offers its users another instance of their store. From the Basic to Advanced plans, Shopify users can essentially duplicate their store back-end to create a separate store. Shopify Plus users are afforded up to twelve instances of their store. This offers some possibility of multiple languages.

With each new instance, you’re able to select the store’s language. Non-Plus users can effectively create two stores with two separate languages, each with their own separate back-end. And Plus users have the luxury of twelve expansion stores – what’s not to like? Quite a lot, in truth. But we’ll return to the pitfalls of this technique after briefly talking about translation apps.

Langify translation app

Shopify’s app store has apps for pretty much everything. That includes translating a store into many different languages. Langify is a multi-language app. Weglot is another. Are they an answer to the problem? That depends. Yes, they can translate a Shopify store into multiple languages. But at what cost? We bet it’ll be one more than one you’re willing to pay.

Unsatisfactory solutions

Here we’ll go through the reasons why neither of the above ‘solutions’ is tenable. There’s a few of them.

1. Increased content management workload

Duplicating a Shopify back-end means each adjustment must be done separately in each instance. Every product upload, every new image, every piece of text. All must be completed separately within each instance. Not the end of the world if you have only two. But if you’re a Plus user with an international brand (or if you one day hope to be) you’ll have to input new information four, five, six, seven times.


2. Duplicate stores, duplicate subscriptions

Every app you have running your Shopify store will have to be installed for each back-end. And if those apps have a monthly subscription fee, you’ll have to pay it for each instance.

3. Decentralised customer information and account management

Say you have stores in Dutch and German. Two separate back-ends, supporting two separate languages. Customer information is also kept separate. An order placed by a customer to the Dutch store isn’t visible in the German store and vice versa. Account information too. A Dutch customer cannot log in to the German store and review their account. A helpdesk cannot efficiently survey all necessary information from one place. This is far from ideal.

4. Cannot mix and match languages and currencies

An often unconsidered downfall of duplicating back-ends to achieve multiple languages, customers cannot choose combinations of language and currency. An English customer living in Germany would be unable to shop in English and pay in Euros. An unoptimised user experience like this is guaranteed to negatively affect conversion and traffic.

5. Weak URL structure

Multi-language stores are effectively multiple stores. Google will index each of them separately, with each building their own domain authority. But this is no good. A strong focus on one domain is required to be considered the authority. This shotgun approach lacks that focus.

Further, your URLs will be ugly – or, rather than and Not only do the former sites engender unease in your customers, jeopardising traffic and conversion, they’re also damaging to SEO ranking.

6. Translation apps damage site speed

Finally, the key issue with Shopify’s multi-language apps is the subsequent deceleration of your site. Translation apps essentially add a ‘fake’ layer of translation on top of an existing website. The layer is created by adding Javascript to the front-end, giving glitchy results and a much slower site speed. Site speed is an essential component of good SEO ranking, and anything that slows you down will drop your place on Google results as well.

The headless solution

It’s all been a bit doom and gloom so far, hasn’t it? Hopefully, at the extremely least our own frustrations at Shopify’s lack of multilingual options have come through. But we’re happy to say that there is now a satisfactory solution to the problem. One that doesn’t damage site speed and SEO (quite the opposite), and doesn’t leave the shop owner with more work to do. It’s headless architecture.

Without going into too much detail here, headless architecture is the decoupling of front and back-end. It means you can keep Shopify doing what it does best (SaaS e-commerce platform, back-end dashboard, etc), whilst introducing a best-in-class CMS to take care of all content. Crucially there’s only ever one back-end, keeping everything in one place and essentially negating gripes 1-5 above. For a more in depth look at headless, check out our thoughts here.

With a headless Shopify set-up, we use Contentful CMS. This takes care of all translations, keeping them on a separate front-end rather than having them integrated into the back-end. Contentful can also handle the highest quality media content – images, videos and animations – and therefore gives business owners much greater scope than only a multilingual store.

User experience is improved, site speed is kept fast, URLs are optimised and SEO is unaffected. Headless architecture is a real game changer for multiple language abilities on Shopify. Of course, there are drawbacks to choosing this option. To find out what those are, read on about headless architecture and multilingual abilities on Shopify here.

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