The way that you communicate with your target customers is crucial if you wish to expand internationally and do it successfully. Localization is the key to attract and engage new audiences in different parts of the world. This means paying attention to regional localization that optimizes your content to make it relevant for customers in each of your target countries.
Does this mean that your marketing budget has to go through the roof because you must have a separate website for each region? Not necessarily. One strategy is to adopt a plan of creating content that can be globally reusable. However, can a single-site approach cope with the complexities associated with regional localization? – different cultures, spending habits, buyer expectations, etc.
Problems of Localizing for Language
It would seem to be a smart and obvious plan to design your site so that it can be localized for the languages spoken by your target audiences. However, this could prove to be problematic. For example, you may have a beautiful website designed and all ready to launch. You have been thorough in your groundwork, including researching words and phrases and colors that are universally accepted in every country that you are keen to cover. In fact, you’ve gone over the design with a fine tooth comb to make sure that no member of your target audiences will find it objectionable or intrusive or just plain garish.
What About Languages That Are Not Written From Left to Right?
You suddenly realize that you have overlooked the fact that text is written in a reverse direction in Arab countries. Now the entire alignment of your site needs to be turned around to translate your content into the Arabic language. Can your site design accommodate this? Probably not, right? This is just one example of an issue that can cause havoc with what you thought was your carefully thought out website design.
Can Your Site Accommodate Text Expansion?
When text is translated from one language to another, the length of the original text and the resulting translation may well be different. Some written languages are more concise than others. For example, Japanese and Chinese will use one or two characters to convey a piece of information, whereas in other languages you would need several words. In contrast, languages like Italian and German are very wordy and need upwards of 30% more space than some other languages.
Multiple Languages Spoken in One Location
Relying on only one language in a region where one or more other languages are also spoken will limit your potential audience. How will your website cope with regional localization when more than one language is spoken in the country you are targeting? Here are some tips:
- Language Switching – Make sure that your language switching options are prominently located, not just on your homepage but also on every other page of your site. You don’t want visitors having to spend time searching for your language switcher.
- Let Visitors Choose Their Preferred Language – You might think that allowing users to choose their preferred language would be somewhat of a no-brainer. But, many sites make it not particularly easy to choose a language by forcing users to switch regions instead. E.g., switch from www.product.com to www.product.com/kr/. Just because someone is a Korean language speaker doesn’t mean they want to switch to a Korean regional site. Suppose they reside in New York City and wish to purchase from the U.S. site but want to read content in Korean?
- Build in Language Memory – To further improve the user experience for your visitors, program your site to “remember” their language preference the next time they pay you a visit.
- Don’t Use Flags – The use of flags to indicate a language is not the best idea because:
- Flags represent countries, not languages.
- A country can have more than one official language.
- A language can be spoken in more than one country.
- Visitors might not recognize a flag (because of the icon size), or they might be confused by similar flags.
Cultural Differences in Identical Languages
You are striving to create globally usable content that is not culture-specific so that it can be used across the world with ease and translated without mishaps. However, you need to keep local needs and preferences in mind. It’s also important to understand that there are wide cultural differences between groups that share the same language. You must view your content through the eyes of the local audience at each location to ensure that any little regional differences are taken care of before you go public.
The challenge here is that, often, these minute differences in preference or distaste for specific ideas or phrases may not be evident to someone who is not familiar with a particular group or community. In fact, it may not even be a specific word or phrase that a particular audience does not like, but something more nebulous such as an association or a general assumption that you hint at.
Regional Localization Works Best
The decision to implement a viable strategy for regional localization is one that will set you on the road to growing your international eCommerce business. The more you can relate to your target customers, the more they will become attached to your brand. No matter how big your brand or how profitable your company, your focus should always be on making sure that every dollar you spend is being utilized to the maximum advantage. When you are looking to cut costs, it should never be at the expense of compromising your product. So allocating more funds to regional localization will pay dividends in the future.
Streamline Your Website Localization
Regional localization is the key for any business that aims to build strong customer relationships on a global scale. Localize provides a translation/localization platform where the localization process is intuitive and easy. You can work with an external Language Service Provider (LSP) and/or incorporate your own translation teams into the procedure. To learn more about how you can maximize the potential of your global brand potential by streamlining your website localization, contact Localize today.