Think of the last time you made an online purchase of any sort.
Would you have bought what you did if you couldn’t read the description because it was in a language you don’t speak (or even recognize)? What if you weren't certain that you could get the item shipped to you? Or what if you couldn’t even see the price in your country’s currency?
If you were motivated enough, you might tough it out with Google Translate or ask someone to help you, but you’d be far more likely to move on to another option available in your language, country, and currency. However, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose you finally do make the purchase but run into trouble with the product and can’t find anyone in a support center who can communicate with you. Would you be likely to purchase from that company again?
Going Global is More Than You Think
Going global is about far more than translating a few pages on your website. CSA Research’s analysis of major brand websites shows that the typical global enterprise translates only about 5% of its web content, focusing on brand awareness pages.
Although this is a great first step, it misses out on the potential upside. Our examination of the buying behavior of more than 8,700 customers in 29 countries reveals that failing to localize product information into local languages leads to a drop-off in willingness to purchase of 49% or more and that 76% prefer to purchase products localized into their language, even – and sometimes especially – in countries with high levels of English knowledge. It also reveals that customers prefer having mediocre translations to having no content available in their language at all.
There are many points during the customer experience when language makes the difference between engagement and abandonment. Here are seven such points where the customer experience may break down due to lack of content localization and some ways to address them:
Emails & Social Marketing
Are your email or social marketing campaigns localized or are you relying on everyone to speak English or your primary corporate language? Emails in the wrong language go straight to the trash folder. Capturing contacts’ language preferences – or at least targeting them with the primary language of the country they’re in – goes a long way for getting attention.
Your Website (Beyond the Homepage)
Does your website provide enough depth to engage clients or do you redirect them back to another language as soon as they are actually interested? Many sites promise a language experience on the homepage, with localized navigation, banners, and information links, but these quickly lead visitors back to a language they may not really understand, even though this is the point where you can finally engage them.
Search Engine Optimization
Have you engaged in international SEO and is your site structured in a way that makes information discoverable? Many brands invest a lot in their content, but nobody finds it because they neglect to do the basic work needed to make it findable. Surprisingly few enterprises use HTML features like hreflang or localized site descriptions that help customers find them.
Do you provide the ability to read product reviews in other languages or, better yet, do you have reviews written by customers in your markets directly in other languages? Our examination of customer behavior shows that 76% of global customers would prefer products with user reviews in their own language, even if the product itself isn’t translated.
Customer Support Channels
Do you have staff who can answer questions in other languages? Customers and prospects who take the time to send inquiries are worth more than those that never engage. Those that send an email or chat request that never gets answered because you can’t read it will not be impressed. Bonus tip: Machine translation can play a valuable role in assisting communication with customers and prospects.
Does your e-commerce storefront support the languages you do business in or do you leave customers high and dry at the moment they want to give you their money? Similarly, do you support local payment and shipping solutions? In many countries, few customers have credit cards, so you need to support relevant options such as Alipay in China, M-Pesa or digital wallets in many African countries, or cash on delivery in parts of the UAE.
Do you provide post-sales support content in the languages you sell in? If not, you are giving up brand control when your customers go to YouTube, online forums, or other resources to find the information you aren’t providing for them. Support is one of the best candidates for machine translation: You are more concerned about getting information in the hands of customers than in getting style perfect and it lets you provide what they need upon demand.
At the heart of these points is the need to see customer engagement as a conversation between you and customers. If you stop the conversation because you can’t understand them or respond, it’s unlikely that they’ll continue it. This means that you need to treat localization as a basic part of your corporate communications and customer experience strategy, and you need to build it into your organization’s DNA.
Those companies that focus on meeting customers’ needs in the languages their customers speak will reap a bounty of goodwill and brand loyalty, setting themselves apart from competitors that can’t – or won’t – extend the same service to people who want to spend money with them.