If you’re committed to reaching customers in a new market and making sure your brand resonates with them, it’s crucial that you give them a truly customised experience. Simply translating your content into my language doesn’t show me that you ‘get’ me, and failing to recognise my local preferences (whether it’s how I prefer to pay, or the social media channels I like to spend time on), will do nothing to help me trust you and want to buy from you.

So what are the key aspects of a truly localised web experience, and how can you help international customers feel like your website really speaks to them, so that you achieve your ultimate goal of maximising sales and conversions.

Below I’ve summarised the top 10 aspects of your website to localise:

  1. Content translation. Some people think translation IS localisation. It’s really just the beginning, but it is something you must do well if your new customers are to trust you. Machine translation is not OK! With translation costs ranging from £0.04 to about £0.15 per word, you’re better off prioritising what content must be translated and taking a staggered approach while doing it properly, rather than relying on Google Translate to give you something like… ‘tiny grass is dreaming’. If budget is an issue, start with just a well-translated welcome message on your homepage, letting your international audience know about your shipping and returns policy to/from their location.
  2. Local Currency. Obviously, it’s easier to decide to purchase something if you know the exact price. Causing your shoppers to worry about currency exchange rates or leaving them to perform mathematical acrobatics on a shopping page, is a sure-fire way to lose a sale.
  3. Preferred local payment methods. Not all customers prefer to pay with credit and debit cards, like we do in the UK. Whether its mobile wallets, like Paypal and Apple Pay, cash on delivery, or invoice services like Klarna, make sure you’re aware of the payment preferences in your target market, and then offer them.
  4. Merchandising: It hopefully goes without saying that you should make sure your content respects local cultural factors, such as modesty for fashion brands targeting predominantly Muslim markets. But it’s equally important to tailor your merchandising to local life – make sure your promotions target local holidays, different seasonality and so on. Using localised imagery specific to the target market is another way of building trust and connection.
  5. Pricing. This is a big one. Will you simply use an exchange rate equivalent to price your products, or will you localise your price for market conditions (taking into consideration local competitors, availability of similar product, demand levels and so on). This should be decided at a strategic level, and if you round prices up to cover some of your other localisation costs, you need to be clear with customers on what your value proposition is. It’s all too easy for a customer to look at the UK version of your site, as well as the local one, and feeling like you’re getting a bad deal is never a good feeling.
  6. Local Customer Service. This is a two-part deal. First, can I speak to you in my local language if I have questions or need help? And second, can I call you on a local line? Offering a local phone number, as well as live chat and email, during the business hours of the local market is key. If you make customers work too hard to get help, they’ll probably go look for it (and the products they were going to buy) elsewhere.
  7. Local return addresses: 88% of online shoppers look at a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase (Comscore). Customers want fast refunds and a simple return process. Offering a local returns service (including a local return address AND local carrier services whether that’s standard postal service or regional couriers) is key to converting more sales. There are plenty of companies who can offer this service – ask me for recommendations.
  8. Local legal requirements: This is less about protecting the customer experience, and more about protecting your business (although it can impact both of course). Make sure you know what you can and can’t sell in each new market, as well as checking that your products comply with local regulations, including licensing, labelling and so forth. You also need to be aware of international legislation in relation to your business practise, including things like Germany’s Green Dot programme, whereby sellers are responsible for recycling packaging.
  9. Sizes & measurements. To avoid confusing and disappointing your customers, make sure that you use local preferred measurement units for length, weight, volume, temperature and size. For clothing retailers, this is obviously crucial, and will help maximise conversion and minimise returns (or at least those due to poor fit).
  10. Social media. Globally, one in every five minutes spent online is spent on social media. It’s where many of us conduct our social lives, plan our days, share our news, and solicit and share recommendations about services, products and brands (and yes, pictures of kittens). The social accounts you link to and promote in new markets should be relevant to that market with customised, translated content, images and promotional activity.

I hope I’ve illustrated how localisation is much more than simply translating the words on your website. If you follow the top 10 localisation tips above, you’ll be off to a great start. There’s a lot more you could and should do to make your website more accessible for and visible to your international target audience – things like using the optimal URL structure, using technical and on-site SEO and geo-location – but that’ll be a post for another day.

Contact me today to discuss your specific localisation or international ecommerce aspirations.