The Internet has narrowed the gap between brands and their target audiences. However, having a website or app is not enough to sell. As a brand, you have to find what makes you stand out from your competition, and make your consumers want to explore the pages of your website until they are comfortable enough to make a purchase. Still, none of those elements will work if you skip the most important step: localising your online store, that is, making it available in a language your audience understands. Do you want to learn why you should localise your online store? Then keep on reading!
If you aim to sell to several different countries, your online store must be available in more than one language. Although some customers may speak more than one, studies show that few feel 100% secure in making a purchase when a website is not in their native language. In those cases, they will only actually buy something if they already know the brand, if it has been recommended by someone they trust, or if there is no other alternative way of getting the product under the same conditions (price, delivery time, etc.). If none of the above are true they won’t buy from you, for one simple reason: they have another option that makes them feel more comfortable.
When your potential customer doesn’t understand the information presented, he loses interest. There is so much content online that in seconds your website will be replaced with a video of a kitten.
Customers must have a nice experience every time they interact with your brand. Even if they don’t intend to buy from you, potential customers should enjoy the moment whenever they come across one of your adverts. Their curiosity should be piqued, they should want to see or click on your ad and explore the entire universe of your brand.
For you to get this level of engagement, your content has to do two fundamental things: reach your customers and be immediately understandable. The former will depend on your media strategy; the latter will depend on the strategy you choose for the localisation of your online store.
You must go one step further than translating – as a brand, you need to localise your content. You need to not only speak the language and be aware of all its local nuances, but also know about the culture and behaviour of your target audience. Only then will you be able to deliver relevant products, create impactful campaigns and gain consumer preference.
Remember the famous Pulp Fiction dialogue where Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules, explains that McDonald’s had to adapt one of its burgers “Quarter-Pounder with cheese” to “Royale with cheese” (now Royal Cheese) in France because the population uses the metric system and didn’t know what a quarter-pounder was?
Localisation is precisely that, adapting a product or content to a specific location or market. It may include: converting currency or units of measurement (kilometres vs. miles, for example); adapting clothing and shoe sizes (size 38 women’s ready-to-wear clothing in Italy is different to a size 38 in France, for example); adjusting subtleties related to tones and colours; among others.
That’s what you created your online store for, right? So, communicating in your audience’s language is the first step. Only then can you reach more people, connect with them, and explain exactly what your product is for.
Localising product descriptions will also help search engines find your store. In addition to adapting the descriptions, you should also localising the currency (if you are selling outside Europe it doesn’t make sense to keep prices in euros), the means of payment (PayPal might not be a common way to pay in your target market, for example) and delivery options. They may seem like just details, but it is these key factors that will determine whether consumers click on the “buy now” button or leave your website with items still in their basket.
If you really want to succeed in a specific market, set yourself apart from the competition by creating original solutions that are tailored to what people in your target locations truly want or need. Imagine how much Burger King’s profits increased after they made the small addition of a Halloumi burger to its range of products, joining the nationwide craze for the Cypriot cheese.
Most big brands have their content translated into the most common languages, but they don’t localise it. However, disregarding local variations may actually push your consumers away, as they may feel like your communications aren’t targeted at them after all.
An example in English is “football” – a completely different sport in the US and UK (“football” in the UK is “Soccer” in the US, and “football” in the US is “American football” in the UK). British and American customers might buy the same football but expect different products. One of them will always be unsatisfied.
Adapting to local legislation is important, and in some countries, mandatory. Localise your online store and avoid risking non-compliance that could lead to heavy fines. In Quebec, Canada, for example, e-commerce sites must be available in both English and French. Brands that do not comply are fined heavily.
Some think English is the most widely spoken language in the world. It isn’t. English has, admittedly, become the “lingua franca” of the Internet, but, as we said earlier, even the English language varies from country to country. Thus, investing in countries that speak the same language can be a way of reducing costs when translating and localising content, provided the appropriate adjustments are made.
The answer to the question is therefore “it depends”. Your choice of languages should always reflect the business plan and strategy you adopt. If your short-term goal is to have a global presence, communicating in English only is clearly insufficient. If, on the other hand, you would like to break into the market of one country at a time, your best bet will be to localise your online store in stages.
Whichever option you choose, it is important to ensure that you can always respond to the market you are breaking into, so as not to cause frustration to your customers (for example with long lead times), and therefore not lose the return on your investment.