What To Consider When Localizing Your Website Into English

By Emma Bertouche. Filed in Web 2.0

For a lot of businesses the thought of expanding is appealing but the move can be fraught with concerns over cost and straying into the unknown. It is all too often the case that businesses find themselves in a catch-22 situation; the ROI of localization is an unknown, however it will remain unknown unless you take a leap of faith.

But what if there was an easier way? Did you know that you can initiate your expansion plans by targeting English speakers across the globe? Rather than worrying about producing content in a language you can neither produce or proofread yourself, there is potential "low hanging fruit" which can kickstart your expansion plans without the headache.

So You’ve Been Told To Export…

Since the recession, businesses have been repeatedly told that the road to recovery is to export, businesses localize their product offering and send it out into the wider world. But there is a message that has been undersold, which is that you do not have to localize your website into 5, 10, or 20+ foreign languages to capitalise on this growth.

Things you will need to consider (but probably haven’t even begun thinking about) are:

  • Your web platform — Can it support localized content?
  • Is your systems and technology integrated enough — Can you handle transactions in alternative currencies?
  • Is your current operation scalable – Can you meet the needs of other markets?

Where To Begin

As with any new project there will always be elements that you had never even considered, but you are not alone, help is at hand.

Converting your prices into US or Australian Dollars, Euros or Pound Sterling might seem easy enough. But if you want to really maximise conversion for these customers you need to consider that the tone and subtleties in spelling are correct in your chosen target language.

These implementations will also help you to identify any modifications that are needed to your technology in order to cope with your international expansion without the confusion of dealing with on-page copy that you don’t understand.

Methodology

Free programmes such as Google Analytics provides your company with access to enormous levels of data on website performance, but the challenge is knowing what to do with the information before you.

There is still a sizable number of businesses that struggle to understand how to analyse the information at their disposal or have no tracking on their site – which means that they are immediately handicapped in understanding how effective their website can be.

No matter what language your website is in, you will find that you generally attract traffic from traffic across the globe, albeit to a lesser extent than the countries which are their primary targets i.e. USA, UK, Australia, Ireland.

Even without tracking your website traffic you may already know where all your converting customers are coming from because of the details you gather from them when they complete a call to action. But how many conversions would you gain if your site was tailored to the customer’s expectations?

Localizing Businesses

It’s well documented that visitors are far less likely to complete the sales process if they don’t understand the information before them — bit of a no brainer! But how many people are turned off by the idea that their purchase has got to cross the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean? In a world where people expect next or same day delivery, this could definitely be a factor.

What if you were to create the illusion that your business is in the same country that the purchase is being made? OK, if the buyer is savvy enough, they will be able to find out that your business is based elsewhere, but the majority of visitors probably won’t dig that deep, and even if they do, who’s to say they won’t buy your products regardless because you’ve gone the extra mile to present information to them in their plain English?

Points To Consider

Here are a few points to look into:

1. Getting The Product There

So, how do you win over as many visitors as possible? Firstly, make sure you can deliver! Identify how easy it would be to get your product to that country. Are there areas that might cause problems e.g. they’re remote, there are political issues, the cost of shipping outweighing product value, etc. (For UK businesses the UKTI offer a great business checklist or for the US the Office of the United States Trade Representative also has a wealth of information.)

2. Availability of Products

Are all your products going to be available to all countries? For example in the case of pharmaceutical or nutritional sites, there might be ingredients in some products that are banned in other countries. If so, you need to develop collateral omitting those products to avoid causing customer disappointment.

3. A Local Site

Format your site information so it looks local. This involves currency information, telephone numbers, even localized domains and email addresses. There are obvious details such as spelling differences and use of language; for example in the UK something that is customised can be referred to as bespoke, whereas this is not a term that people in the US would ever use.

Also make sure your pricing is competitive, taking into account shipping costs; you don’t want all your hard work to go to waste just because you’ve priced yourself out of the market when you could have easily avoided doing so.

4. Customs In Making A Sale

Lastly, think about the user journey; this might not be such a deal breaker as the previous points, but it is worth considering. Just because two countries broadly speak the same language doesn’t mean that their cultural ideologies are the same.

Some buyers are comforted by customer testimonials being displayed throughout the buying cycle; others prefer the checkout process to be as clean and simple as possible.

And if you do use customer testimonials, use customers that are relevant to those regions. If all your testimonials are from people in Australia this might not inspire buyers in the UK, or vice versa.

The Future And Beyond

The buying cycle doesn’t end once the goods are bought and paid for; your product might require repeat purchases, and if not, you might want a testimonial from that customer to spread the word about their fantastic experience.

Therefore it is important to consider your after-sales care. Do you need customer service representatives to be available over a more diverse range of time zones? Do you need to localize the content of your automated emails, invoices or receipts?

It’s these small things that could make a big difference.

Editor’s note: This post is written by Emma Bertouche for Hongkiat.com. Emma is the Head of Digital Marketing for Capita Translation and Interpreting. Capita TI have a wide range of website localization customers, including MyProtein. You can find him on LinkedIn and G+.

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