Learn what’s digital localization, why you need it, and how to implement it for your product.
Can’t read, won’t buy.
Can’t find my currency, won’t buy.
Can’t find relevant offers, won’t buy.
This is the approach that most international customers take when deciding whether to make a purchase from an online business. With English being the global language, it’s easy to assume that customers in a country with a different official language will still buy from you. However, the reality is very different.
There’s evidence that up to 60 percent of online shoppers rarely or never buy from English-only websites because they prefer to access content in their native language. So no, not everyone who speaks English wants to make purchases from English-only websites. On top of linguistic considerations, there’s a lot of other things to consider to make your digital localization strategy effective, including currencies, customer support, and even design. Let’s take a closer look at them and learn how international businesses can improve the localization strategy and go beyond translation.
1. Digital Localization Essentials: Language, Dates, Times, Currency, and Shipping
Every effective digital localization strategy begins with the essentials. Every country has its own local formats for dates, times, etc., which means that ecommerce content needs to be truly localized, not just translated.
So, if you’re creating your localization strategy, make sure that every page created for a specific country speaks the language of the locals, and this goes beyond a mere translation.
Let’s consider some examples.
The official website of the well-known automaker Volvo is great for that. For example, the following page shows the price list for maintenance service packages on the official Polish website of the company.
As you can see, the website content is fully translated and offers prices in the local language.
The next important consideration is the localization of customer support. Let’s use Volvo’s website for this as well: below, you’ll see the Contact Us (or “Kontakta Oss,” in Swedish) page on their Swedish website.
As you can see, the phone numbers and electronic mail that the company offers to use to contact the local customer service are all localized (+46 is the country’s dialing code + the email is firstname.lastname@example.org, which means that the service is Sweden-based).
So, to compete in a foreign market, you need to localize your website fully, so a local visitor has no problems with getting the information about your product or service and any additional info like guarantee and maintenance, buying, and receiving quality customer support. If you don’t have a localization expert in your team, keep in mind that you can use online review platforms like PickWriters to find a reliable online translation service online.
Digital Localization: Design
Now let’s talk about something that a lot of companies ignore when designing websites, they use to sell internationally: design localization. Creating a consistent design across all versions seems like an appropriate option, but if you want to really connect with international customers and be more successful, you need to localize it.
Here are the most important design-related things to consider for your digital localization strategy.
2. Local Sellers and Customer Support Elements
Many websites offer options for finding local customer service points and dealers to international customers, which is something that absolutely needs localization. For example, the Polish site of Volvo has a dealer office locator that allows starting with the target country’s capital city – Warsaw or “Warszawa” in the local language.
All the visitor has to do is type the name of the city, and the locator will display the nearest locations on a map. Moreover, if granted with the information on the location of the visitor, the locator also shows the distances to the locations (in the local format, of course).
By implementing – and localizing – such a helpful tool for Polish visitors, Volvo makes it finding a local dealer a very easy task, which is exactly what a lot of people are looking for.
Customers from all other countries where Volvo sells its vehicles are treated with the same convenient locator. For example, here’s the localized version for Japanese customers.
In addition to the language considerations, note that the locator’s design is consistent across all regional websites. This is a deliberate strategy that ensures a consistent brand website experience for all customers regardless of their location without making any localization-related sacrifices.
Important! Even though it may not be obvious because of language differences and font sizes, Volvo’s website uses one font across all regional websites. This means that the font has multi-lingual support, which is something that you should remember when selecting fonts for your own website as well.
3. Consider Modular Design to Ensure Right to Left Flip
If your website needs to be localized for languages where the text is read from right to left (these include Hebrew and Arabic), the design should allow it to be flipped. Modular website design, defined as an approach to design where every element is built using a block grid pattern, is great for this, as it makes the website structure more flexible while keeping the layout clean and uncluttered.
For example, take a look at how the Apple site’s design is localized for the Arabic language.
Keep in mind that design localization for languages like this should not mirror the following elements:
- Graphs. Their orientation is consistent in all languages
- Images. Except in the case, the image points to something in the text
- Video controls.
4. Consider Local Cultures and Preferences
Many companies consider local consumer taste and cultural differences when they design their products. One great example is the gold iPhone designed for the Chinese customers; apparently, this color is loved by Chinese people because it’s considered to be the most beautiful in their culture (on top of that, it symbolizes wealth and prosperity, just like in other cultures).
“A big reason for why we released the gold iPhone as because many Chinese consumers like the color gold,” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook told Quartz. “To be clear, sales for the gold iPhones in China have far, far exceeded other markets.”
This applies to digital products as well. For example, if you take a look at Yahoo! website in different countries, you’ll notice how the content changes according to the target users’ preferences and interests. Here’s the homepage of the French version of Yahoo!
As you can see, the homepage focuses on the latest news and has a design that many can consider cluttered, but it’s nothing compared to the Chinese version. Take a look.
Clearly, the colors, layouts, and content are very different on the Chinese version of the page. This shows that well-known companies consider the culture as well as the interests of the locals when designing their products for them.
What this means for you is that you need to research your international customers before creating a product for them. You can start by visiting the websites of your competitors and see what they came up with for some inspiration and examples.
5. SEO Optimization
Simply writing the text for a foreign version of a website isn’t enough. Every copy for a specific language should be optimized for SEO to ensure that it’ll rank as high as it possibly can. This also includes localized and optimized meta titles and meta descriptions in the target language.
Over to You
Hopefully, these tips will help you to develop an effective digital localization strategy that you can apply to create a truly localized website or another digital product. It seems like a lot of work to do – and it is – so hiring a local expert for localization help is also something that you should consider. Good luck and happy designing!
About the author: this is the guest article by Donald Fomby
Title image from Ouch, the library of free vector illustrations