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E-Commerce Success in Any Language

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 are attempting to sell, and rightly so. Consumers crave quality shopping experiences and will take their business elsewhere if they don't find such experiences.

by Liz Elting

E-Commerce Times – October 1, 2011

Consumers are increasingly shopping on global sites, and they want to shop in their own language. By demonstrating cultural awareness, businesses will truly be able to expand internationally. Organizations can attract new and returning business from around the world if they listen to the preferences of customers abroad -- as well as 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.

Start With ISEM
Companies can develop a successful international search engine marketing (ISEM) strategy if they work with skilled translation and localization experts. By entrusting ISEM to those who understand the nuances of regional dialects, colloquial speech, and cultural preferences -- as well as the parameters of preferred search engines -- businesses can define regionally relevant keywords.

While Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is the preferred search engine in much of the world, website visitors in China are more likely to rely on local search engine Baidu, which uses different algorithms from Google. The process of choosing the best keywords varies greatly when using different search engines.

After selecting the most effective keywords, businesses can begin campaigns in new markets. These 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.

Focus on 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.

Where machine translation falls short, professional translators are able to catch the details that can make or break a campaign. Consumers are quickly turned off by content with careless translation mistakes.

Offer Choices
Customers appreciate demonstrated international cultural awareness. 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.

Don't Forget About Visuals
If not chosen with current knowledge of local cultures, 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.

Localization experts will be able to assist in choosing effective images to accompany copy. To make the most of the search engine optimization (SEO) potential of images, remember to add specific text in the alternate image tags.

Value Your Customers
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 are 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 e-commerce websites that are not available in their native languages. Often consumers are presented with website translations that are not correct or are confusing because the writer lacked up-to-date understanding of the culture.

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 e-commerce 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 on consumer expectations.