Marketers and consumers gain many benefits from digital technology. People are able to communicate faster, exchange information quicker and cheaper and trade goods and services. Shoppers from around the world are able to access foreign brands that are not normally available in their countries or are more expensive than when bought online.
English used to be the most dominant language on the World Wide Web but soon, it became apparent that websites should be available in different languages to reach a wider audience, not only domestically but internationally. Translation services providers were commissioned to translate website content.
A bit about e-commerce
Initial foray into e-commerce or digital marketing started around 1971 or 1972. The first B2B online shopping system of Thomas Holidays UK was installed in 1981. On the other hand the first B2C online shopping system was introduced by Gateshead SIS/Tesco in 1984. That same year, the Electronic Mall in Canada and the U.S. was launched by CompuServe. It was the world’s pioneer in online shopping. It offered merchandise from 85 merchants and provided full color photos and product demos.
What is localisation?
Localisation is the process of adapting product information, website content, communication strategies and language to the preferences of the target audience. When localising, it is not only language translation that is in focus. Localisation means fitting your message clearly and succinctly regardless of cultural or regional expectations and differences. Even English speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States have cultural and language differences, aside from spelling.
Once you do business online, you must localise to reach more customers and grow your business. Digital marketing or e-commerce does not only apply to companies with overseas branches and manufacturing facilities and multinationals. Once you are online, consumers from around the world looking for specific items to buy would definitely come by your site. If they cannot understand your web content, they will look somewhere else.
Website localisation is about:
- Adapting content to regional or international markets
- Ensuring that content is culturally compatible to target locations
- Adapting icons, colours and images as needed
- Adjusting layout to accommodate length of content
- Converting currencies, units of measure, and formats for time, date and phone numbers
- Complying with local regulations
Digital technology has made the world smaller. Information exchange is easier and faster and access to information is almost instantaneous. However, even if there is ease of access, this does not equate to good communication, which is why there is a need for localisation.
You need an appealing brand identity to capture consumers and every marketer will say that it’s hard work. The message should be unified in whatever market you are selling. But it is easy to ruin your efforts if your message gets lost in translation. To avoid this pitfall, it is important to have a robust localisation strategy as well.
Although English is understood by many people across nations, digital marketers realise the value of having websites in other languages in order to encourage more people to shop online. Globalisation opened doors to many companies to reach other markets for business expansion, to conquer new markets and widen consumer bases.
Various industry researches have revealed that only about 27% of users of the Internet speak English as their main language. Likewise, 72% of consumers spend most of their time on websites that are in their language. The fastest growing consumer markets are those coming from developing countries.
Websites are very effective marketing and communication tools, which is why it is important to carefully plan their development and use them effectively. A website is the most direct method to communicate with and engage in business with billions of customers around the world.
As long as a potential customer has Internet access, it is possible for branded materials to reach them. Online shoppers are very adept at looking for specific information about a product or service. The web is packed with websites and content that are vying and competing for consumer attention. You show respect to your international customers by localising your website and its user interface and content.
Reasons to localise
Localisation should be a part of your global business strategy. You have to plan for it and ensure that your investment will bear fruit. It is a long process and need the expertise of linguistic experts who are knowledgeable about target languages and cultures. Here are the main reasons why you should localise.
1. Provide the best user experience
Customer traffic to your website will increase when your website is localised. Moreover, customer retention will improve. When your website is localised, you speak directly to potential customers. You can convince them to look at your products and entice them to buy in the language they can fully understand.
You fit your website to local preferences. You use images that they can relate to and colours that are culturally and emotionally acceptable. You also make it easier for them to shop and pay for your products.
2. Reduce the risk
When your website is localised, you avoid the risk of misrepresentation and miscommunication. When you do business anywhere in the world you have to meet local legislations and best practices and various standards together with religious and cultural norms. When you provide access to support documentation written in the local language you prevent misinterpretations of all content.
3. Increase your international business reach
When you plan to increase your global reach through localisation, you are increasing your business activity globally as well. You can economically and quickly expand your business operations by having your website available in different languages. Creating accounts on popular media sites and linking them to your main website gives customers diverse options to find your website and products easily.
The return on investment on localising your website is easy to measure by monitoring the increase in site visits as well as sales in each language. Localisation allows you to reach more potential customers while exponentially increasing your exposure. Localisation means that you understand your audience – their communication strategies, preferences and motivations. With localisation, you court your audience in their own terms.
Bernadine Racoma is a senior content writer at Day Translations, a human translation services company. After her long stint as an international civil servant, she has aggressively pursued her interest in writing and research. She has notable fondness for things related to technology, travel, lifestyle, social media, and current affairs. She is also an advocate and mother to 7 successful children.