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Top tips for currency localization

Currency localization is vital for global ecommerce enterprises.

People like to do business in a way that feels familiar to them; in their own language, with its own customs and formatting. And, when making a purchase, customers expect to see the price in their local currency.

Have you ever left a website or an app because you didn’t trust the payment process and felt you might be defrauded?

Poor currency localization can contribute to that feeling of unease. Instead, properly localized currency improves user experience; building customer confidence and reducing shopping cart abandonment.

What is currency localization?

Currency must be uniquely formatted according to country and language. Currency localization combines local practices of number pattern with currency symbols and codes, and the correct separators, to indicate the currency. When you multiply this across 180 currencies worldwide it’s a lot of localization.

Thankfully, there’s a practical global standard to follow.

CLDR - following an international standard

The CLDR, Common Locale Data Repository, is the global standard for currency localization. It’s also the standard for formatting for date, time, and amount.

It’s a helpful guideline you can follow, but here are some tips you can action right now.

Formatting currency symbols and currency code

Currency Symbols

Currency symbols are the graphical representation of a currency, for example £ for Pound Sterling, $ for dollars, € for Euro or ¥ for Yen. These symbols might be placed before or after the currency value, depending on the local custom.

Using currency codes

Depending on the context or to provide clarity (in cases where the same symbol is used for more than one currency e.g. $), a currency code might be used instead of, or in addition to, a currency symbol.

Currency codes are defined by ISO 4217, as a standardised way to represent a currency. These codes are internationally recognized and help clarify currency across the globe.

By the ISO 4217 currency code, currencies are represented both numerically and alphabetically. Most commonly, by using three letters to represent the currency. You might recognise a few of these alphabetical codes in the table below.

Country/Region Currency Currency Symbol(s) Currency
Code
UK Pound Sterling £ (pound) GBP
Eurozone Euro € (Euro), ¢ (Euro cent) EUR
USA Dollar $ (Dollar), ¢ (cent) USD
Canada Dollar $ (Dollar), ¢ (cent) CAD
Norway Norwegian Kroner Kr NOK
Switzerland Swiss Franc Fr CHF
Korea South Korean Wan KRW
Japan Japanese Yen ¥ JPY
China Chinese Yuan (Renminbi) ¥ CNY

Example 1 – How to localize the dollar

The dollar sign can feel ubiquitous – over 20 countries use it across the world. If you operate in these markets, you need to make it clear to which dollar you’re referring.

The US dollar is written:

$1.23
USD 1.23
US$1.23

But, a Canadian customer should only see Canadian dollars for the price, not American prices. So, the price could be made clear in the following ways:

$1.23
CAD$1.23

As with so many things, even to this there are exceptions that prove the rule. In Canada, you might also see the price written:

C$1.23
CA$1.23
CAN$1.23

Formatting decimal and grouping separators

There’s a lot of meaning behind a space, decimal comma and decimal point. In currency formatting they separate numbers to convey their value. Across the globe, countries use them differently.

Example 2 – The Separator

The example below shows how exactly the same value of currency, in this case the Euro, is formatted across different European countries:

Ireland €12,345.78
Sweden €12 345,78
Germany €12.345,78

It’s not just European countries. Latin America has different formatting per country, traditional Spanish or US format.

In India, the numbering system groups differently again. It separates the three rightmost digits of an integer together. Then the following digits are separated into pairs:

₹12,34,567.89

Numerical alphabets and right-to-left languages

Currency localization takes into account the numerical alphabet. Most countries use Western Arabic numerals, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on. But, there are some locales that use different numerical alphabets such as Eastern Arabic, Thai and Bengali numerals.

Western Arabic 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Eastern Arabic ٠ ١ ٢ ٣ ٤ ٥ ٦ ٧ ٨ ٩ ١٠
Thai ๑๐
Bengali ১০

Script direction also needs to be taken into consideration, with languages such as Hebrew and Arabic travelling right to left. For example, this could affect the layout and design of your ecommerce app.

Example 3 – Script direction

Let’s imagine you needed to show a USD price on an Arabic based website, the Arabic text would read right to left, but the USD is left to right, so it would look like this:

English layout: Total price USD 12.34

Arabic layout: USD 12.34 ecirp latoT

Top tips

Here are some top tips to help you on your currency localization journey:

  1. Confirm up-front to which countries you sell and which currencies you want to support.
  2. Address your currency localization as part of an overall numbers, dates/times, and sizes localization strategy.
  3. Define your standards for currency localization. These can be handled at code level but, sometimes, you may need to pass these onto your language provider as part of a style guide.

Does your next project include currency localization? Contact Lingo24 to find out how our team could help.

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