Chinese shoppers walk past a Cartier display in Beijing.


“The report of my death was an exaggeration.” — Mark Twain

Twain’s quote could just as well be echoed by many bricks-and-mortar retailers. We’ve seen in recent years several brands closing a number of their stores or moving exclusively online. However, others have evolved their retail locations into destinations that seamlessly blend their digital presence with bricks-and-mortar through omnichannel efforts to create delightful, hyper-personalized customer experiences. Retailers who ignore omnichannel shopping do so at their own peril.

For years, brands at the digital forefront have used their digital footprint to drive in-store sales. A 2017 Forrester report on Digital-Influenced Retail Sales Data highlights that $1.26 trillion (almost 30 percent) of the $4.5 trillion bricks-and-mortar spend was impacted in some way by digital media, online activity or mobile devices. Examples of the many retailers who have taken advantage of this approach include Nordstrom, which leverages location-based data to alert customers of store proximity, and Sephora, whose mobile app allows users to book in-store appointments.

warby parker store baltimore

Warby Parker in Baltimore.  Courtesy

In contrast, pure-play e-commerce brands like Warby Parker, Birchbox and even Amazon connected first with customers through online stores and digital programs, and later branched out using face-to-face pop-up events to strengthen customer relationships and drive revenue.

Whether or not you approach retail today as a pure play or traditional bricks-and-mortar, the fact remains that perfecting omnichannel engagement isn’t easy. Brands are already using big data to power cross-channel personalization to build brand loyalty. But retailers who go a step further with localized content will gain a huge competitive advantage, particularly when applied across all customer touch points, both in store and through digital.

What Is Localization and Why It Matters

Localization is the process of adapting a product or piece of content for a specific market or locale but goes beyond simple one-to-one language translation by connecting with consumers on a personal level. Localization strengthens a brand’s image in a way that maintains its uniqueness while ensuring cultural relevance and accessibility to the target market. In short, localization is about building trust with your global consumers by showing them your brand speaks their language and understands their cultural norms.

According to industry analyst Common Sense Advisory, 75 percent of buyers are more likely to buy a product with descriptions in their own language. Quite simply, translation and localization of products offers ambitious global brands a competitive advantage. By creating localized experiences, retailers can seize more opportunities to enter new markets, expand business in existing ones and deliver more meaningful experiences for customers that build customer loyalty across borders.

Ultimately, retailers must demonstrate that their brand understands the customer, and ensure that the customer understands the brand. With hyper-personalized shopping experiences becoming the expected norm for consumers, retailers must rise to the occasion and consider the impact of language and local culture on that experience as well. Successfully translated, localized content results in a fully branded and consistent end-to-end experience for customers.

There are several considerations necessary for creating localized omnichannel experiences that drive online and offline sales.

First, start by validating your international markets through close analysis of customer data. Who are your gold star customers in your different markets? Where are these customers transacting: in store, online, or both? In which locale do these customers live, and where is your brand gaining the most momentum? These are a few of the primary questions to consider when choosing into which languages you should start localizing your omnichannel experiences.

Second, assess all the content involved in your omnichannel strategy. Not all content is created equal, so highlight the content with the highest value and the most conversion potential. This high-value content, sometimes referred to as minimum viable content, can be thought of as the smallest catalogue of content absolutely necessary to provide a valuable user experience. Typically in commerce and retail, high-value content is most prevalent at the point of sale and checkout, or it can be the content related to customer accounts and personalized messaging.

Evaluate and identify your highest value content across all your channels, and use that as your point of departure for developing your content localization strategy. Don’t be overwhelmed with translating your full breadth of content since the amount can be staggering. Start small, but with enough content to prove the impact of localization on the customer journey for your target markets.

A final consideration is understanding that the process of localizing digitized content is cumbersome and highly manual, and can be facilitated through the use of technology. Translating and managing multilingual omnichannel content requires agile cloud-based software, machine learning and adaptive technologies to facilitate your localization efforts across the enterprise. Every brand and retailer has a different tech stack they use to enable their content creation and delivery to consumers through omnichannel means. A powerful localization software will centralize all your multilingual content creation activities in one place, regardless of the system where the content was originally created.

A robust tool will provide the process automation necessary to streamline the manual work involved in translating content within a collaborative space that allows for instant communication and full transparency. And don’t forget all of the tools that your translators need to produce high quality translations and maintain your brand’s consistent voice across all content types (checkout, customer profile, mobile, etc.). Without computer-assisted or tech-enabled translation tools, ensuring translation quality becomes a time-consuming and uncertain endeavor. And when you’re dealing with a dozen or more systems powering your omnichannel efforts, only an agile and flexible technology can layer on top of that complex tech foundation to make sure all those content systems play nice.

Want to win in omnichannel? Understand the impact of speaking your customer’s language to deliver that next level of personalization. Use localization to drive business and create a better, global experience of your brand. The byproduct will be happier, more loyal customers, not to mention the incremental revenue.

Juliana Pereira is senior director of marketing at Smartling and is responsible for the company’s demand generation, digital, content, field and product marketing efforts. Having 15 years of experience in marketing and e-commerce, Juliana joined the Smartling team in 2015 after holding the role of senior director, wholesale online strategy and marketing at Ralph Lauren.

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