Having a web presence is not enough – localise!
These days, every business has to have a website. Although, in certain cases it is not always clear why a company needs a social networking presence! But the fact is, being behind the curve in web technology almost invariably loses you business. For most companies the internet has created new business opportunities that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. The internet makes possible virtually cost-free expansion of a company’s potential client base, whether it sells chocolate bars or expensive cars. And this is why you really should localise your website.
In the past, a business’s potential for growth was somewhat limited by its geographic location. If you were based in Rome, for example, it used to be hard to reach customers in another city, let alone another country. Today, by contrast, the internet offers an incredible reach. We have all heard stories about Vietnamese artisans who developed a client base across the world through the simple magic of a good website. This in turn has fuelled one of the most interesting developments of recent years in the language services industry: website localisation.
Some internet language stats…
In 2002, 56.4% of websites were in English; the second most widely represented language was German with 7.7%. By 2010, however, the number of English-speaking internet users was just 27.3% of the total, with Chinese second at 22.6%. The data in 2021, tells us something different again:
What this shows is that the prediction that English would be the lingua-franca of the world wide web, which many influential voices espoused, was false. People want the internet in their language. And, more and more, companies are giving them just that.
If a company wants to get the most out of the web, it needs to localise its website, and offer its products or services directly to its target client base, in their language and according to their cultural codes. As we have observed in relation to marketing collateral, even if your target customers speak the same language as you, it is not enough to push a ‘one-size-fits-all’ marketing strategy.
To take a simple example: in Spain, people nowadays rarely use the formal ‘you’ form, usted. In parts of South America, however, it is still very common, and almost all advertising addresses people in this way. Indeed, if a Colombian TV commercial were to use the informal ‘you’ it could seem rather disrespectful, or at least irreverent enough to lose the attention and sympathy of a potential customer.
Similarly, in line with recent demographic changes in the USA, many companies have started offering their websites in both English and Spanish.
HERE ARE A FEW EXAMPLES OF HOW LOCALISATION CAN BENEFIT YOUR BUSINESS:
- It makes entering a new market easier. Language and cultural barriers are some of the hardest to overcome when entering a new market. Proper localisation of your website, advertising campaign, and other content will do most of the job of removing them.
- It increases customer satisfaction. If you localise your website it helps avoid any confusion that can be caused by unfamiliar references or foreign units of measure. It also shows your commitment to your new customers. Localising all parts of the consumer journey, including payment methods and customer support, makes it easier for customers to make a decision. And, it also makes them more likely to choose your business over others.
- It reduces risk. Culture is a tricky aspect, and certain things acceptable in one culture can be unacceptable or even insulting in another. Not knowing the local culture doesn’t excuse you when you make such a mistake and can cost you your reputation. Proper localisation helps avoid that.
- It increases revenue. By making your product or service more accessible to local consumers, you make them more likely to buy it. This will, of course, result in sales growth. Good localisation is a worthwhile investment that will pay for itself in the long run.
When you are taking your business to a new market, especially a new country, there will be challenges. This may involve some investment, but don’t make it an area where you cut costs! Adapting your product, service, or content to a particular market, will make entering the new market easier. This, in turn, results in greater customer satisfaction, and higher revenues.