June 2017

Localization: A Short Business Case

 by anthony on  |
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Every business faces several challenges when localizing its website. These range from the actual translation of content, SEO capability, design and functionality of the site after localization. Another huge challenge lies in ensuring the website is culturally adapted to the new market. ROI Potential The Localization Industry Standards Association – which is now the Industry Specification Group for Localization (ISG) – estimates that for every $1 spent on localization, a business will make a return on investment of $25. That’s right, a mind-bending 2,500% return. So, how does this make any sense if your site is in English, and English is the most common language used online? Where’s the value coming from? English only accounts for about 25% of all languages used worldwide, and the online usage figures are slightly skewed. A lot of the time, people who visit your site only use English as a second language and are therefore reading your content in a language that isn’t native to them. Eurobarometer ran a survey that discovered 42% of respondents would never purchase something from a website that wasn’t in their native language. Let that sink in for a minute – your monolingual website will miss out on almost half of all potential purchases from these visitors. Design is Key Most companies spend a lot of time and effort making sure they get their main, native language website right. By building in a measure of adaptability at the design stage, you can make sure you don’t have to start again from scratch for every localized site. The vast majority of businesses spend countless hours perfecting their website content in their native language, but give only a fraction of that time when localizing to other languages.   That’s a mistake which will cost you further down the line. However, you can make life much easier by using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to separate different areas of the site for design purposes. Using CSS, you can edit specific parts of your website to suit your new language, without the need to build a whole new design. There’s also the conundrum of language style and size to consider, which CSS can help to overcome. For example, a word in English may be much longer when translated into Spanish and this will cause design issues in areas like drop-down menus or text in images. Not all languages read from left to right, either. Hebrew and Arabic are read from the opposite direction and this must be accounted for during the design stage. Luckily, using CSS means your site can handle the localization process easily for these languages. However, there will still be some inevitable switches of images and menus around for your site to look native. Simplicity Matters As you know (probably as you read this blog!), writing for online isn’t the same as writing for something like print. Most readers want the vital information as quickly as possible and tend to ‘power read’ content in search of what they need. Rarely will people read the entire piece of content, meaning you must keep it as simple as you can. This is even more important when targeting a global customer base, as it can reduce your workload during the localization process. Language that is easy to read, avoids references that are specific to one country, and is neutral in tone can make the initial localization process easier. It can also make it easier for international visitors to grasp your site quickly. That being said, let’s not forget that it’s always best to localize each language as finely as you can. This type of language will make it easier to initially localize, but it won’t yield the best outcome. Taking your content to the next level requires working with translators who are native to that market and have the ability to add in colloquialisms and native turns-of-phrase. Localization is morphing your content for an entirely new audience, but still maintaining the key point of that content and the brand message that goes with it. Localizer can help here, with a network of professional translators that can localize your entire website in just a few days, regardless of how much content you have.

Cultural Sensitivity and Website Localization

 by anthony on  |
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We’ve talked a lot about the importance of speaking the language of your customers when going global with your website. After all, what’s the point in targeting a new market if they have no clue what you’re saying? However, another hugely important – yet regularly neglected – aspect of localizing your website is understanding the need for cultural sensitivity. This means researching the nuances and differences between cultures across different markets and languages, ensuring there is no marketing faux pas throughout the localization process. Find out the dos and don’ts of every new market you enter – what’s frowned upon in India? Is there a turn of phrase in Mexico that you shouldn’t use? Even applying certain colors or images to your website have the capacity to insult the locals if you don’t know the ground rules. While it may seem like we’re being overly cautious, consider the fact that a culture is built and nurtured over decades and it’s what makes every market different. For example, an attempt at humor might work in China, but be taken badly in Japan. Why? Because they’re culturally different. Failure to understand and implement the cultural needs of your target market when localizing can cause irreparable damage to your brand reputation. Without a good reputation, you may as well pack up and leave. Startups live and die by their reputation, and make no mistake, you will be a startup in any new market, regardless of the size of your business elsewhere. A real-life example of this is Braniff International, an airline company who attempted to enter the Mexican market. They used the slogan ‘fly in leather’ throughout their campaign, failing to realize that the literal Spanish translation of this was ‘fly naked’. Needless to say, this error cost them their place in the market and they were forced to pull the plug. But such mistakes aren’t just limited to smaller companies, even the big boys drop a clanger from time to time. Perhaps the biggest of them all, Coca-Cola, figured out that their brand name translated to “Bite the Wax Tadpole’ in Chinese. A fine introduction to the brand! The point is that the best-equipped companies localize their website to suit every market’s individual cultural needs, all without diluting their brand message. This includes everything from brand name, website color, imagery, and content. Localizing the right way isn’t straightforward, and cultural sensitivity is only one of the hurdles you must clear along the way. But the rewards for doing so are plentiful and you open up your website to a global economy of potential customers. We can’t stress this enough: website localization is more than just translating your content into the language of your target market. It’s changing everything to make your website look and feel ‘native’ to your target market. Abiding by culturally-sensitive issues is a huge step towards realizing your localization ambitions. Don’t launch head-first into a new market without first understanding every nook and cranny. Do your research and arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible.