The benefits of localising your online offering are undeniable.
In a 2014 Common Sense Advisory poll surveying 10 countries, consumers showed a strong bias towards localised online services and reported avoiding English-language websites when English was not their native tongue. Those surveyed also reported spending less time on a site if it was not in their language, and frequently declared they would not purchase from a site without post-sales customer support in their own language.
The extent to which consumers demand a localised service seems to vary from country to country. Across all of Europe it’s thought around 44% of people are open to using websites in non-native language, but in Italy only 35% of people said they would consider reading a website in a language other than their own. Whilst the extent to which users will tolerate sites in non-native language varies, in Europe it seems a considerable number of users will be excluded by your website if it isn’t localised for them.
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Localisation: more than just language translation
Many brands seek to localise their online offering in pursuit of the higher engagement and conversion rates a localised web presence can bring. But localising your brand is about more than just translating the language it uses. This process of localising your online offering is known as transcreation. This term encompasses more than just language translation: transcreation is about adapting a brand’s entire identity and message to maximise the brand’s relevance in local cultures.
Transcreation includes adapting any use of things such as symbols and colours to better appeal to other cultures. It also involves translating ticket labels into the local prices, using standard product sizes, calendar dates, holidays, and matching expectations in terms of privacy and financial security.
In one example of transcreation done successfully, UK-based catalogue clothing brand Boden found it needed to localise its clothing sizes when it moved into the German and Austrian markets. This simple transcreation increased the number of orders and reduced the returns.
An example of bad transcreation is when Pepsi lost market share in south east Asia when it changed its vending machines to a light blue shade associated with mourning. It’s important to remember that the visual identity of your brand doesn’t necessarily carry the same meaning overseas.
It’s also important to be aware of what other brands in the marketplace are doing. In Africa it’s common for food manufacturers to put a picture of the content of a food package on the outer label, so illiterate consumers understand what’s inside.
This convention means it’s important for baby food manufacturers to avoid putting pictures of infants on their food labels! Brands moving into these markets need to understand they cannot simply translate the language on the label – they also need to redesign it to match the local conventions.
Importance of brand
Transcreating your brand into another market involves trying to make it have cultural relevance in that location. In order to achieve success in that new context, you need to build a localised brand identity that engenders trust, resulting in repeat purchases and loyalty. How do brands transcreate themselves successfully to build trust and loyalty outside their native markets?
The answer is – build trust in your brand overseas in the same way you would do at home. Building a brand’s integrity demands consistency, accuracy, commitment over the long-haul, and transparency. However similar the approach may be to brand building at home, it’s difficult to do when it’s combined with a relocation exercise that encompasses translating and redesigning the site for a local audience. Perhaps the main thing to bear in mind is that it takes commitment of both time and resources to transcreate a brand successfully into another culture.
Cutting corners as part of the transcreation process can lead to serious brand-damaging errors. To use an example from the United States, the poor translation of the ‘Obamacare’ health website for Spanish speakers damaged the reputation of the program not only for Spanish speakers but also got on the political radar and damaged the reputation of the controversial healthcare program. The badly-translated website reinforced the view that the government was indifferent to the plight of Hispanic Americans.
How to transcreate successfully
Maintaining your brand’s integrity during the transcreation process can be a challenge. Here’s some advice on how best to approach the process so your brand continues to thrive:
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Be prepared to change
Things that may seem essential to your brand may need to be reviewed as part of the transcreation process. To successfully transcreate your brand into another cultural context, everything needs to be up for grabs including key aspects of the brand’s visual identity.
It’s important not to cling to visual or messaging elements that you believe are significant as they may not carry over as successfully into another culture. This is often why an outside agency can be a good partner in the transcreation process; they bring fresh insight and have less attachment to the brand’s identity than insiders.
Commit to a testing program
A programme of user testing is essential to assessing the success of your localised website as this is the best way to discover its flaws and fix them. To maximise the conversion rate, it’s also recommended you implement as much multi-variate and split testing as you can to really optimise your localised web offering.
In the context of a localisation program, the approach is called cultural multivariate testing as the purpose is to find the best website design for that distinct locality. One tourism website that undertook cultural multivariate testing found German and French visitors responded to the site’s colour differently, with German visitors preferring purple background with white text rather than the white background with black text favoured by French visitors.
Get the right help
Remember that transcreation really isn’t the same thing as translation, so you shouldn’t limit the skillset you use to just translators. You need to employ the skills of native-language copywriters who understand the web and their target audience intimately. Because you are employing creative copywriters rather than translators, you’ll need to be working from a brief rather than just providing copy for translation word-by-word.