Augustin Prot, co-founder, Weglot, explains localization when it comes to international e-commerce and how it goes far beyond serving appropriate social media messages to regional segments.
When you think of the term localization in a commercial sense, you may immediately think of advertising localization. However, localization, when it comes to international e-commerce, goes far beyond serving appropriate social media messages to regional segments.
Web localization can be an important tool in improving the customer experience for international consumers. And cross-border e-commerce is booming in what is a difficult time for high street retailers. While it has been reported in the US the decline of the total retail market this year is expected to be double that experienced in the 2009 financial crisis, data from Global-e suggests that international commerce had grown 42% by May this year. In difficult time an international retail strategy can be a lifeline.
Many e-commerce and services sites will have multilingual options for international visitors, and many marketers will look to provide regional markets with localized social media and traditional advertising, using appropriate imagery and taking into account cultural nuances. However, many retailers miss out on the finer points of website localization, which can have a significant impact on international sales.
Although translation is at the heart of localization, it is not the whole picture. It also incorporates multilingual SEO, design consideration and cultural context to ensure that international visitors are provided a seamless customer experience wherever they may live.
Customer experience professionals and marketers need to think of localization as an extension of the personalization trend and a key area of customer service. It will encourage sales and cultivate trust; according to the Common Sense Advisory, 75% of non-English speaking online shoppers prefer to buy products in their native tongue.
How to localize
Embarking on a localization project may seem at best daunting, and at worst almost impossible, however with a combination of technology and smart use of people it is in reach of any business big or small. For smaller services sites it will be easier, but for big retail sites with hundreds of regularly updated pages it can seem incredibly time and resource consuming.
First off you need to look at the choice of professional or machine translations. There are drawbacks and benefits of each. Machine translation and localization has the benefit of being quick and more cost effective, and if you’re using a translation solution these platforms enable you to both translate and display the content of your translated website — with new pages going live automatically. Yet there are issues with accuracy, which, although improving all the time, might run against the seamless customer experience you’re looking for.
On the other hand, translation by hired professionals will be more accurate, but the cost can be prohibitively expensive. Essentially, the most effective method is a mixture of the two. A first run using machine translation, followed by a review by professional human translators can strike the required balance between cost and accuracy.
One of the core benefits to automatic translation is the SEO safety net that comes with it. One of the most vital elements in localizing a retail site is multilingual SEO. If you’re going to all the trouble of translation you’ll also want international consumers to find your site easily.
And automatic localization can provide this very easily. Design is also an aspect of localization that is often overlooked, with many retailers focusing entirely on translation. Languages not only differ in sound and syntax, but also in terms of the space words occupy in a given sentence. This is an area where CX professionals need to ensure they are having discussions with designers and marketers. They will need to be mindful of when it comes to incorporating your translated content into your site’s design.
As previously mentioned, localization is not just about translation and so, it’s also important to localize with an eye on cultural nuances. Cultural context can manifest itself in multiple ways. Obvious examples are the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese. You will also need to be aware of differences in holidays or occasions — in the US Mother’s Day is celebrated on a completely different day in the UK.
Following from this, it’s also prudent to consider any images or media on your website. If you’re using images of a typical US family on your site, then the chances are that these images will not resonant in the same way with a customer from Japan.
A well applied localization strategy provides international consumers such a seamless customer experience that they won’t even know the site they’re visiting is in the US, and retailers should immediately see a boost in international sales because of it. The reality is that localization doesn’t have to be the huge undertaking many CX professionals may think, but it does require careful consideration. But in a world where COVID-19 has accelerated the movement of retail from bricks and mortar to online, international e-commerce can be a make or break for retailers moving forward.
Augustin Prot is co-founder of Weglot.