08 Jul 2014

How Much Content Should You Translate for Your International Website?

In product and website development, the minimum viable product (MVP) is a strategy used for quantitative market testing. And the lean start-up, something of an obsession in Silicon Valley, is the ultimate promoter of the MVP.

But many lean start-ups that embrace the MVP approach create shallow products with few features which are not likely to resonate with customers.

The same goes for website translation. Companies should ensure that their international corporate and ecommerce websites have enough content and a wide enough range of products to be engaging and stand a chance of competing with established businesses in their target markets.

However, this doesn’t always mean you need to translate all of your source content into the target language. Companies can save vast sums by selecting the right amount of content for translation.

By using your existing website analytics data and conducting market research and competitor analysis, you can better determine how much content you should consider for translation.

MVP in a nutshell

MVP is the most trimmed down version of a product that can viably be released. The final, complete set of features is only designed, developed and placed into production after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.

The strategy is defined by three characteristics:

  • It has enough value that people are willing to use it initially
  • It demonstrates enough future benefit to retain early adopters
  • It provides a feedback loop to guide future product development

While an MVP approach can be useful for gauging public opinion in the short term, it is far from a suitable long term option. More often than not, additional functionality needs to be added if the product is to be a success.

How much content should you consider for translation?

Determining how much content to translate for your international website is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly.

Be sure to put in the legwork when conducting your research, leave no stone unturned and give the problem the attention it deserves. Do this properly and you could soon be reaping the rewards of a successful international website launch.

Make the most of your website analytics

Your website analytics data is an extremely important resource and one that allows you to identify the pages and products that are being accessed by users in your target market.

By using metrics such as number of visits, repeat visits, bounce rate and time on page, you can figure out which pages and products are the most popular for your international visitors and ensure you include these in your website translation project.

Remember that just because these users are spending a lot of time on your site and accessing a number of pages, this doesn’t mean that they can understand the content on your site. Many web users who live overseas and speak a foreign language now use tools like Google Translate, which is integrated into Google Chrome, to translate your online content into their native language.

You can identify the location and language settings of your web visitors using most website analytics tools – even with free ones like Google Analytics. So ensure you take a look at this data before you formulate your website content translation strategy.

Don’t skip market research

Just because you can gain a lot of useful information from your website analytics software, that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to gather information from other sources. Website analytics data typically tells you what your users are doing but doesn’t let you know why.

In order to gain a better understanding of your customers’ needs, you’ll need to conduct market research in your target region. Whether you decide to do it yourself or commission your research via a market research agency, it is crucial to define your research objectives beforehand. In this case, you need to find out which sections of your site are the most popular, what languages users would like to see your content translated to, and what kinds of products they most want to buy.

Market research can be divided into two types:

1. Quantitative research

This type of research is numerically orientated. It requires attention to the measurement of market phenomena and often involves statistical analysis of data. Quantitative research allows you to quantify data and generalise results from a sample to the population. However, in order for your results to be statistically valid you need to ensure that your sample size (the number of respondents you include in your research) is large enough and randomly selected. It is also advisable to support your quantitative research with qualitative research methods.

2. Qualitative research

This technique provides an understanding of the underlying reasons and motivations behind user responses and can be used in conjunction with quantitative research to determine why it is that users in your target market behave in a certain way. So, if your website analytics and quantitative survey data identify that certain pages or products on your site are the most popular, you can use qualitative research to determine why this is and use this information to enhance the user experience for international audiences.

Use competitor analysis to spy on the opposition

While you need to know what your customers think, it is also a good idea to find out what similar companies in your target market are doing. This is where competitor analysis – an essential component of international marketing strategy – comes into play.

Competitor analysis involves identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your rivals, and then using that information to make improvements to your own product or service. The overriding aim here is to outperform your competitors and gain an advantage in the market.

You should also take the time to identify your competitiveness in relation not only to price but product innovation and customer focus. Social media can be a useful tool to identify gaps in the market and allows you to see how your competitors are perceived by their customers.

A lack of robust competitor analysis could leave you at risk of dangerous competitive blind spots – so do not leave anything to chance.

Here are just a few things you need to find out:

  • What markets or market segments your competitors serve
  • What benefits your competition offers
  • Why customers buy from them
  • Information about products, pricing and promotion
  • How much content do they translate on their sites and the languages that they offer

Launch, test and optimise

Once your website is launched you should be able to test your site in the live environment. This will provide you with much more accurate data and allow you to optimise your site for local users. There are a few sources of information you can utilise to learn about your customers’ needs and optimise your online experience to deliver what they want, when they want it.

Ensure you have a local customer service team

According to a 2013 survey by Parature, 48% of customers say that poor customer service is the biggest deterrent to brand loyalty. If you are serious about providing high levels of customer service in your target market you need to ensure that you include local telephone numbers and employ local staff who can speak the native language fluently to handle customer service enquiries.

A customer service team can also be a great resource for finding out what customers want. Feedback from customer service interactions should be recorded and analysed to determine the approaches that work well in the local market, allowing you to build upon successful products and discard ones that aren’t working.

Try A/B split and multivariate testing

Content testing is a way to optimise the performance of your website by testing different elements and observing which ones perform the best for the outcomes you value. Performance is measured against measures such as the effect on conversion rates, basket size or changes in the volume of customer service calls.

When launching an international website, content testing can be one of the most effective ways of improving the online user experience by adding elements that work and removing those that don’t.

Get to know your customers on social media

Social media can be an immensely powerful tool to identify what customers in your target market think of your product or service. As well as using social media to identify gaps in the market left by your competitors, you should also monitor social media to find out what content, products or elements of your service that appeal most to your target audience. Again, you’ll need to employ a native speak of the local language to successful monitor and manage social channels.

The approaches identified above are just some of the techniques that you should employ in your website localization strategy. In the real world, and particularly in the digital one, things move very fast and you may find yourself changing tack many times after your initial product launch. Just remember to stay focused on the customer and use all the data available to optimise the user experience in your chosen market.

If your customers are satisfied then they will communicate positively about your brand on- and offline, allowing you to acquire more customers and grow your international business in the long term.

So…how much content should you translate?

The answer is…it all depends on a number of things including your brand, your competitors, your target region and audience. If you’d like to translate your website content and would like some advice, contact us for a chat.


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