You’re preparing to expand your company into a new foreign market. One of the things you need is to have your website translated, or localized, into different languages, so that local customers in those countries can navigate with ease. You figure it’s a fairly simple task: simply compile the text from your current website and run it through Google Translate, and you’ll be all set, right?
Not even close. Even if machine translation could offer a perfect, word-for-word translation of your content (which it can’t), there are many more factors to consider when translating your site besides just the words on the screen. Here are four points to consider when localizing retail websites for foreign markets.
1. Currency and Payment Options – It’s important to make sure that the prices of all your products are converted into the appropriate currency for the country where they’re being sold, whether in Euros, Rubles, Yen, etc. But more than that, you need to consider different payment options in different countries and regions. In the U.S., you may handle most of your transactions through PayPal, but that may not be as popular in Germany or China, for instance. Become familiar with the popular payment options in the country and accommodate your customers in that region who prefer to pay by those methods.
2. Fulfillment – How will you ship your product to your customers? Will you ship internationally, or have local shipping facilities in each country? If you’re shipping internationally, what are the extra international shipping costs, and what customs fees or import duties are applicable? If you don’t inform your customers in advance, they’re likely to be surprised when checkout time comes around, and the extra costs could be problematic. If you’re shipping locally, what shipping service will you use? What services are available/popular in the area, and are they reliable for getting the customer their product in a timely manner?
3. Product Descriptions – A good product description is one that connects with the customer and entices them to want to buy the product. Unfortunately, when you simply translate word-for-word, you can end up with a product description that’s dry and dull, or one that doesn’t accurately convey its message for another culture and language. When translating product descriptions, it’s important to use engaging language, including colloquialisms and a creative tone and style that will appeal to the culture.
4. SEO – You optimize your English site for certain keywords, and your localized websites should be no different. Only they ARE different, in terms of which search terms people are actually using. You will need to research the popular keywords for your industry in foreign markets, just as you do in your local market, and make sure to incorporate them into your site in a helpful and logical manner. That means no keyword stuffing or other black hat tactics; the same rules of SEO “do’s and don’ts” apply no matter what language you’re writing in.
You’ve undoubtedly seen websites with menus of multiple versions available in different languages. In a lot of cases, the localized version in your own language may seem stilted and unappealing, and often poorly translated. Branding and marketing are essential in any language and any market. If you’re not able to make a good impression on your customers in a foreign market, or make your site easy for them to understand and use, then what’s the point of selling in that market at all? You’d be wasting money maintaining a service that people aren’t interested in.
That’s why translation and localization of your website is about more than just words. It’s about culture and context. Your company’s website was designed for customers in your local market, with their cultural needs and preferences in mind. You owe your business and new customers in foreign markets that same courtesy.