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Avoiding Pitfalls When Entering the Global Marketplace

by Liz Elting

Adotas.com – October 20, 2011

Successful e-businesses know that consumers are increasingly shopping on global sites, and they want to shop in their own language. As the holiday season is quickly approaching, many organizations are asking themselves, “How can we maximize our international exposure and meet our global customer’s demands?”
 

During the holiday shopping season, organizations have the opportunity to attract new and returning shoppers from around the world if they listen to the preference of customers abroad – or multi-ethnic markets in their own country.

To avoid the pitfalls of poorly executed international expansion, keep in mind several key aspects of a good translation and localization strategy.

Get a Smart Kick Start With ISEM
By working with skilled translation and localization experts, companies can develop a successful international search engine marketing (ISEM) strategy. Businesses can define regionally relevant keywords by entrusting ISEM to those who understand the nuance of regional dialects, colloquial speech and cultural preferences, as well as the parameters of preferred search engines.

Simply having someone who is on staff in your accounting department and a native speaker of a target language write translations is an appealing way to reduce costs. It is also a sure way to cost you “success” in the global market where professional knowledge of the translation process and the “language” that the most frequently used search engines employ is essential.

In most of the world, Google dominates search activity, making it easier for marketers to optimize their sites. However, in several increasingly important markets, regional search engines take the lead, and they employ different algorithms than Google. In China, for example, Baidu is the search engine of choice. Businesses that want to succeed with Chinese consumers need to learn how to reshape their optimization strategies to take search engine preferences into account.

After selecting the most effective keywords, businesses can begin campaigns in new markets. This might include targeted pay-per-click ads, relevant landing pages, multilingual rich media, adapted banner ads, out-of-home advertising, experiential marketing with people on the ground, philanthropic community involvement, and events like launch parties and networking functions, as well as social media outreach.

Humans Beat Machines for Quality Content
Much weight is placed on quality content in today’s online marketplace, and with good reason. Because of its importance, organizations that rely on quick-fix solutions like machine translation can put themselves at a greater disadvantage than those that don’t translate at all.

Even with adequate time for review and planning, machines can make small errors in localization that have significant consequences. Brands need human experts who can quickly identify faults in automated translations and repair them before damage occurs in important markets.

Consumers are quickly turned off by content with careless translation mistakes. For example, some Spanish words mean one thing to people in or from Mexico and another thing entirely to people from Puerto Rico. If your English copy includes one of those words, you risk offending one group or another. Only an experienced professional can come up with a creative solution to ensure all Spanish speakers get your message clearly.

Provide Choices
Customers appreciate having their culture recognized. Automatically pushing content in one language over another can cause frustration for prospects in countries where residents speak multiple languages – which now describes much of the world. By simply offering customers a drop-down menu of language choices, businesses can breed customer satisfaction and loyalty. Research in the US has shown that many multilingual residents from other countries prefer to read material in their native language.

Pictures Really Do Say a Thousand Words
The images you choose for your international sites signal your knowledge (or ignorance) about those markets. If not chosen with current knowledge of local preferences, illustrations have the ability to instantly show a company’s lack of cultural awareness. While images are integral in decreasing bounce rates and increasing sales, all can be wasted if the image does not resonate in target regions.

For example, a financial services firm selected beautiful images of sites from leading world cities for their home page. They had no way of knowing that an image they had selected for one city featured a structure that was highly controversial and a local symbol of corruption. Fortunately, they worked with a localization team that recognized the problem and worked with them to select a positive image.

Know Your Audience and Value Your Customer
The most important aspect of business should not be forgotten when developing a campaign for international expansion: respect the customer. Consumers are turned off by websites with careless translation or dated/stereotypical information about the countries in which they were attempting to sell, and rightly so. Consumers crave quality shopping experiences and will take their business elsewhere if they don’t find such experiences.

Too frequently, consumers encounter websites that are not available in their native languages or that use expressions that are not familiar locally. Unfortunately for businesses, they either try to translate material themselves, rely on a browser-based translation application, or terminate their shopping sessions when left to their own devices.

Successful Localization
Many executives are unsure whether translated websites have a significant impact on sales globally. E-shoppers cite language as a driver for purchasing decisions and companies would do well to listen and respond to proper translation and localization efforts in order to increase global sales.

By offering quality shopping experiences to international consumers in their native languages, companies will avoid losing potential sales due to poor translation or localization. These proven best practices help businesses deliver successfully on consumer expectations.