Any retailer with an online presence already has access to a global audience, but until brands commit to translating e-commerce web sites, apps and e-mails, they can only capitalize on a fraction of the total holiday sales opportunity. Driving personalization en mass on a global scale requires savvy localization technologies and approaches.
As preparation for the holiday shopping season gets under way, it may be tempting to focus your marketing dollars on high-spending U.S. customers. But considering nearly two-thirds of consumers actively make cross-border purchases, it’s imperative not to dismiss international commerce.
Last year, worldwide holiday sales in November and December increased 5.5 percent over the same period in 2016, amounting to a total of $691.9 billion. Securing your fair share of this market share requires understanding the trends and technologies driving global commerce.
Here’s how you can fine-tune your digital marketing strategy to attract holiday shoppers on a global scale:
Personalization Drives Dividends
Retailers can distinguish their brand by offering localized experiences tailored to the markets they serve. This personalization can go a long way to showing customers you value their business, leading to better customer relationships, improved conversion rates, increased customer acquisition, and the potential for exponential growth across international markets.
According to McKinsey & Co., personalization reduces acquisition costs as much as 50 percent, lifts revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increases the efficiency of marketing spend by 10 to 30 percent. Marketing technology, automation and advanced analytics techniques have now reached the level where effective personalization at scale is possible, but personalization falls flat if translation and localization are not on point. According to Common Sense Advisory, 75 percent of buyers agree or strongly agree that they are more likely to buy a product if the information is in a language they understand.
To be truly effective, localization must permeate across every customer touchpoint. Shoppers expect digital experiences tailored to their device type, geographic location, product preferences, purchase history and a host of other factors. Any retailer with an online presence already has access to a global audience, but until brands commit to translating e-commerce web sites, apps and marketing materials, they can only capitalize on a fraction of the total opportunity.
Next-Generation Multilingual Experiences That Build Trust and Convey Brand Promise
When it comes to building one-on-one relationships with your customer, language translation is key to building trust. Buyers who can purchase a product in their own language want to understand more than the product they are buying, they want the opportunity to connect with your brand and its promise. This might include receiving special offers or important information regarding product availability, shipping, returns and more.
Content fuels personalization. There are more types of content than ever before, with new technologies enabling the creation of more content requiring translation. Case in point: Personalization is being integrated into the fabric of the very clothes we wear, as smart, digital services and connected cloud capabilities are being stitched in.
As this space evolves and we continue to see more digitally enabled apparel, it will fuel the demand for more dynamic content translation. Many of these objects will use voice recognition and voice commands, which may also be paired with AI and machine learning, and these technologies will require seamless integration into a flexible translation software that can further the goal of personalizing and localizing the experience for the end user and consumer.
Fine-Tuning Localization Strategies
Retailers need to determine where they’re going to play and how they’re going to apply localization to engage consumers. Prioritize geographic markets by opportunity size and strategic fit. Next, determine which content is of high value from a translation/localization perspective — in some cases, 20 percent of web site page assets drive 80 percent of revenue, and in other cases, anything other than 100 percent translation is a customer experience failure.
Map out the crucial steps of the buyer’s journey and the content that guides them in their journey — this likely will include web, social media, digital, video and technical information. In many cases, localization needs to go beyond language translation. For instance, what users may really be craving for may be a customized feature or a payment gateway suited to local requirements. These types of needs can often best be determined by conducting user surveys and market studies.
Once priority markets and priority content assets are identified, it’s key to orchestrate the right internal and external resources — e.g., agency and technology partners — to manage the process through a coordinated cohesive function.
Selecting a Translation Solution
There are many translation approaches. To determine the best fit for your business, you should be mindful of flexibility and cost considerations. There is a whole spectrum of translation options, from professional translation with thorough review and proofreading, to machine translation, and everything in between. Translation can get costly if you don’t have the right solution to automate manual processes or if you don’t have the right tools to help all involved be as efficient as possible.
Typically, more expensive methods produce a higher quality translation. In other words, a method involving multiple translators with an editor and reviewer has a higher likelihood of producing a high-quality translation. Many businesses opt to use this more expensive or thorough option to translate brand content or high converting content to make sure it’s clear and accurate for their audience but also feels fluent and has personality.
Alternatively, lower quality methods of translation such as a free machine translation service might be better for translating user-generated content or content that needs translating for search engine optimization purposes and not customer conversions. This method is great for getting to market quickly with your content since machine translation can be close to real-time and immediate, however, you do risk quality, which is why many brands will apply this method to lower converting or ephemeral content.
Savvy brands might consider using a combination of both methods — machine translation as a first pass to push content live and get to market quickly, and meanwhile, they re-run those translations through a professional process to push a higher-quality version out at a later date. Cloud-based software and tech-enabled services can help retailers address these requirements and translate digital content to go global faster and more cost-effectively.
The pervasiveness of the web and mobile computing are bringing a robust and growing global audience to your brand’s digital doorstep, ushering in tremendous opportunities to capture market share. To capitalize on the booming cross-border commerce market, retailers need to embrace content translation and localization to connect with their global audience. Translation strategy is a growth strategy, and retailers can get a jump on the holiday shopping season with the right approach and the right technology.
Juliana Pereira is vice president of global marketing for Smartling, which provides global businesses with tools to translate their content and products. Pereira has nearly 15 years of experience in marketing for e-commerce, consumer software, and retail across a variety of industries: from nonprofit, music and art to consumer electronics, tech and fashion. Prior to Smartling, she was with Ralph Lauren, leading operations and analytics for the wholesale online strategy and marketing division.