Guest blog by Judd Marcello
So, you’ve made your store’s website accessible internationally, at least in the regions in which you’re aiming to grow your presence – congrats! But if you think it’s now just a matter of watching customers from all over the globe immediately stream in, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news:
Translation’s only the first step.
It’s an incredibly important step, of course, but to really take advantage of translation and truly engage retail customers in varying countries and cultures, you must do more. Here are some of the next steps you should take.
All the content on your site – marketing materials, product descriptions, even tabs and buttons – must be tailored specifically to the region and culture you’re targeting. Successfully localizing your site requires research and an understanding of the behaviors, values, and needs of local consumers. Then, you must adapt your already established brand voice to meet those requirements. Personalizing content not only makes your site and business more inviting to new international customers, but it also helps to avoid translation mistakes that can hurt your reputation—occasionally, beyond repair.
This is relevant to images and styles on your website as well – visual items are the first thing most visitors will notice on your site, and if they push the customer away (or offend them), there won’t be anyone around to read the carefully-translated text, or buy anything. It’s also important to keep in mind that communication styles vary around the world—so keep your brand consistent, but tweak the message as needed to make sure it aligns with the intended cultural context.
Bring people there.
You’ve made the site relevant and hospitable to your target customers, but you still need to get them there. Use marketing, social media, and make sure all outreach adheres to the same principles of localization and translation that your website has been privy to in order to drive people to your site. Partner with local or international influencers to gain access to an already-established audience, and build further credibility by association.
Mix up your (product) mix.
The same theory described in localization above holds true here, as well. Curate the product offerings on your store’s site to reflect the needs and wants of the region and culture you’re targeting. For repeat customers and increased engagement, it’s important to offer products in accordance with local customs, tastes, and norms. These cultural traits can be nuanced and hard to define between groups of people, but are extremely important to individuals, in this case potential shoppers. As a result, you need to compete with local offerings that already understand this nuance, and missing the mark (or worse, offending the consumer) can let the air out of an otherwise well-executed campaign.
Build your brand specific to the new culture
Identifying which words are prevalent in a given language and how they can be used to drive keyword-specific searches in your target market is crucial if you want your multilingual website to succeed, so invest in market-specific SEO; if users can’t find your site via local search engines with their usual keywords, how are they going to buy from you?
Just like with your home language site, link checks, browser compatibility fixes, and other quality assurance checks must be routinely performed for all multilingual sites prior to launch, during the initial rollout, and on a rolling schedule on an as-needed basis. It’s important to keep your adherence to best practices consistent among all your language sites—if the site for a customer’s native tongue feels like an afterthought, the customer will likely feel like one, too.
Getting it 100% right on the first time is rare in any field. Get feedback from consumers in regions you’re aiming to expand to as you begin your efforts, or better yet, in advance; identify what flaws there are in your strategy or campaign for that specific culture, and take steps to correct them. If necessary, step up the quality of translation—while translation management software can greatly help efficiency by streamlining the processes around translation and localization, the actual linguistic work should be done by humans to ensure quality.
Judd Marcello is VP of marketing, Smartling