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What’s your web site localisation strategy?

By Export Council of Australia · December 01, 2015

Localised web sites are often viewed simply as translated versions of the original site. But translation isn’t everything: a great web site is also about the information it delivers and its relevance to the user.

According to entrepreneur blogger Mikal Belicove people are four times more likely to buy from businesses that communicate with them in their native language. So if businesses are seeking to expand into overseas markets they must consider cultural and behavioural factors impacting user experience with their web site.

Coca-Cola is one example of a brand that required full consideration of cultural relevance when translating its name into Mandarin. In this language the translation of ko-kä-kö-la means something like ‘bite a wax tadpole”. So Coca-Cola is called Kekoukele in Mandarin, which means tasty fun.

Web site translation essentially means translating the business’s online profile and all its digital assets like blogs and images into the language of its target customers. The translation process incorporates local cultural sensitivities and practices to enhance the acceptance of the product in the local context.

Competitive advantage

 Having a localised approach means considering the target customers’ personae, that is, their behaviour while interfacing with the business. For example, companies such as McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut have adapted their menus to suit the local palate in various markets around the world. For instance, in India these companies do not serve beef products while in the Middle East, the menu is devoid of pork products.

Marketing objectives

There are three potential strategies business can take when localising their web site:

1.    Creating awareness in the market

Suppose someone in China is searching online for a particular foreign brand of yogurt using key words or strings of key words such as healthy yogurt, Greek yogurt or Greek natural yogurt. The success of the business’s localisation strategy is determined by whether the web site appears in the prospect’s search results. If the web site is not localised with relevant keywords and key phrases in Mandarin the search results may not return the web site as a result even if the company is marketing the best yogurt in the world. 

2.    Acquiring and converting the customer

Lead generation is one of the objectives of web site localisation. User experience is the critical driver creating the ‘First Moment of Truth’. This occurs when the business has successfully generated interest from the customer who then decides to visit its web site. The lead generation effort will have been wasted if the prospective customer finds the product they are looking for but the product instructions and information are in English. So all images, instructions and content must be localised to prevent the company from losing the customer’s attention and business.

3.    A customer advocate

According to Brian Solis in his book What’s the Future of Business? the ultimate test for the company and its product is when customers convert their experience into discoverable reviews such as blogs and testimonials. Businesses that have achieved this have generally been successful in localising the content of their web site.

Understanding customers’ behaviour and their journey is what creates a valuable digital experience. This journey includes many online touch points and must reflect the message the business wishes to deliver to its customers. The message must be in language the customer understands, sensitive to the culture where the customer lives and the information must be presented in a way that is accessible.

Article written for the Summer 2015 issue of International Business Today by  Megh Shetty, marketing manager and Alex Fairie, director of European operations, ONCALL Interpreters

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