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In essence, it’s striking that fine balance between having a worldwide brand that your customers can easily recognise and ensuring that your brand is ‘localised’ enough for people in different cultures to be able to relate to and understand it.
Let’s face it, global marketing isn’t for the faint-hearted. It is a complex and changeable beast. Planning and executing an in-depth global marketing plan, is key to international success. There are many resources to help you online, including this Global Marketing Playbook by online marketing software, HubSpot, which recommends that, amongst other things, businesses prepare for localisation. And localisation isn’t complicated. It’s mainly common sense.
There are a number of very simple things that businesses often overlook when it comes to localising their global online presence, including but not limited to:
a) Localising details such as Postcodes/Zip codes, street names and numbers and currency choice.
b) Offering country specific delivery options
c) Offering payment choices with attention to the cultural payment preferences
d) Polished and professional translation
For businesses looking to achieve success on an international scale, an important part of ensuring excellent localisation of their global online presence, is making sure that translation into local languages is carried out by a professional translator.
All too often, we come across websites that have been translated using machine translation or a non-native speaker. Sometimes, the meaning of the content simply fails to come across or unintentionally gives customers inaccurate information. Sayings in one culture, for example, may have no meaning in another and can be confusing. And of course, search engines such as Google do not like machine translation so your ranking may go down.
Worse, there are many examples of companies who have unwittingly translated their content into something quite offensive to native speakers, immediately alienating their target audience.
When localising your online global presence, it is vital to ensure that customers within each target country can connect with your brand. This means that you’ll not only need to make sure that your content is translated in a meaningful way, but that your website structure and payment methods are right for each culture’s needs and wants and that other methods of communication, such as images and videos, make sense and do not offend.
Fail to address these issues and your international business plans could be over before they’ve even begun.
As we’ll see from our examples below, just translating your content is simply not enough to achieve localisation excellence. So, let’s take a look…
Whilst studying common localisation pitfalls and working to ensure that you avoid them is helpful, it is also essential to look at examples of how successful international brands are achieving excellent localisation.
Airbnb is a prime example of how excellent localisation paves the way for success on an international scale.
From startup to thriving global brand in under a decade, there are many different factors which contributed to Airbnb’s rapid growth in popularity, one of which is its excellent website localisation.
One key element of this is translation. Airbnb has a sophisticated translation management system (TMS) which enables it to update content in a range of different languages, as well as easily adding new ones.
Speak to a translation agency if you need a TMS (Translation Management System) as used by AirbnB. A TMS is designed to streamline the process of updating content using professional translation services, as opposed to machine translation.
Airbnb also pays close attention to detail, with different spellings in, for example, American and British English, resulting in a positive experience for its customers. Not changing spellings of words for different countries can result in the impression that a brand doesn’t care about a particular culture and can put customers off.
Airbnb has also worked hard to involve its audience via social media. One campaign used Vine videos (six-second videos) created by people from all over the world, whilst another asked people to perform random acts of hospitality for strangers and then document it and share it online, using #onelessstranger.
Knowing which social media websites are popular in different countries is vital, if you want to effectively engage with audiences around the world.
If you’ve ever looked at the same global brand’s websites for different countries, you’ll notice that they’re usually set out quite differently. For localisation to work really well, websites should be designed to suit an audience’s preferences and should include all of the options they would expect to see on a website.
A badly set out website can alienate an audience before they’ve even looked at your products or services.
Canon is a brand that understands that the functionality, as well as the design, of its local websites is vital and it places great emphasis on ensuring the visits to its local websites result in a positive experience for its customers.
For example, Canon’s Hong Kong website looks very different to its UK website. With many more menu options and pictures on the front page of the Hong Kong site, it looks a little too cluttered to a UK audience but perfect for a Hong Kong one.
Canon’s UK index page is clean and clutter free.
As compared to Canon’s Hong Kong website above. The cultural contrast couldn’t be more obvious.
Canon also uses specialised professional translators (in fact, Brightlines is its partner!) to ensure that its message can be easily understood by audiences around the world.
By localising its campaigns and opting for international sponsorships (Manchester United being one example of this), Nike has been able to grow its presence worldwide.
Nike also has a ‘co-creation platform’ where customers are given the opportunity to design their own trainers. This has enabled Nike to make trainers for customers around the world which fit with a customer’s particular culture and style.
But much of Nike’s localisation success surely comes down to its strong cross-cultural appeal, with powerful imagery that connects with audiences all across the world.
Nike’s thoughtful use of cross-cultural imagery is a smart and powerful localisation tactic.
Nike also makes subtle changes to its local websites. For example, after Portugal won Euro 2016, Nike placed a picture of the winning team on the front page of many of its websites. However, this was not the case for the French Nike website. France was a runner up of Euro 2016 and a picture of their defeaters may not have gone down well!
Global retail brand H&M ensures that its local websites work for its customers.
In fact, H&M has been so successful on an international scale, many people would struggle to say where in the world the brand was founded (Sweden BTW).
Each H&M website offers relevant payment methods to its audience, as well as meaningful and globally optimised translations of its product pages.
These two elements work, with others, to ensure a positive, local user experience for its customers.
In 2011, H&M launched their ‘Conscious Collection’ campaign, which focused on encouraging customers to become more environmentally aware when buying their clothes, at the same time as being fashionable. Environmental consciousness varies according to culture, and H&M were very mindful of this localising accordingly. In English, organic cotton and worker safety were mentioned. Whereas on the Chinese website, the focus was on recycled polyester.
Interestingly, in 2017 the brand has adopted the Nike approach to imagery, using strong and intelligent photography that has the ability to be used across cultures.
H&M, another brand showing intelligent use of cross-cultural imagery, also invests in professional translation and pays special attention to the translation of its product descriptions.
These four brands are excellent examples of successful localisation. Any company wanting a global online presence can study these ‘masters of localisation’ to help them become a successful worldwide brand.
Do you want to know more about how to achieve excellence when it comes to localising your brand online? If you’d like to discuss how it would work for your business, please get in touch with one of our SEM specialists today.