For years, English has been the language of international business. But it’s not necessarily staying that way.
Improvements in technology and growth in developing markets that firmly prefer their own languages mean that English-speaking businesses need to reach customers in their local languages now more than ever. Failure to do so can result in lookalike competitors stealing marketshare, would-be customers walking away frustrated, and, perhaps most important for startups, a glaring lack of knowledge about your customers.
Here are 5 ways you can grow your business using translation. Neil Patel did just one of these (and not even that well, although into many languages) on QuickSprout.com and saw his web traffic jump 47%. Read on for more info.
Languages, Content, and Engagement: The Way Things Are
According to a poll done by European Commission of 23 countries in the EU, nearly 20% of internet users never visit websites in languages different from their own, while over 40% never purchase products or services unless the shopping experience is in their native tongue. Meanwhile in the major economies of the developing world, serving customers in English is even less palatable: Common Sense Advisory reports that nearly 90% of non-English speaking customers are more likely to purchase if information is provided in their local language, 80+% are more likely to repurchase if after-sales care is in their own language, and more than 60% prefer poorly translated websites in their language (e.g. via Google Translate) over untranslated, English-only versions.
The message: in the fastest growing markets in the world, you’re not helping yourself with English-only products, marketing, and/or support.
But, that said, localization is hard and not a small commitment. Yet it doesn’t need to be as hard or consuming as you think it is. Here are five tips (in order of difficulty) to get you started taking full advantage of all your key markets, not just at home.
With localization, dream big but start small. Develop a translation gameplan and take the process step by step.
Begin with your most important non-English language, decided either philosophically or from SimilarWeb stats, and translate the key pages of your website for a two-month trial period. During this time, track and analyze the behavior of visitors to your newly translated pages. Make sure users from a country whose language you’ve translated into knows that the translated content is available. Include social share buttons. At the end of the two-month trial period, you’ll have a clearer idea of the ROI that translation can provide in your given markets.
Localize Your Top-Performing Content
Depending on the function of your website, this is the area where it pays to be creative with your translation services.
If your site has a blog or a newsfeed that keeps visitors up to date with new developments in your company, consider starting there. Assuming you’re already producing a steady flow of high quality and relevant content, translating that content is straightforward and highly valuable to international SEO.
Like above, start small: look at your analytics to discern your most popular content — whether blog posts, case studies, etc — and translate those into just one or two languages to begin with. The rest of your content can follow once you’ve measured consumers’ reactions in terms of visits, shares, and purchases.
Unlike the translation of other high-performing content, translating a blogs does not necessarily require translating your website. Keep an eye on where your users go when they exit the blog. If a significant amount click to your website, it’s probably a good idea to translate the site too.
Pro tip: Consider using tools like LocalizeJS or TransifexLive to easily manage the translations with your WordPress, Tumblr, Ghost, etc configuration. You can also use them to translate your website.
If you’re an e-commerce site, consider translating your top product listings into your top non-English language(s) to start. You’ll want to create a localized version of your site (using the same tools as mentioned above) in order to create a seamless user experience. Once your site and its content is translated, use your analytics tools to keep an eye out for unforeseen customer behavior in your funnels — bumps in shopping cart abandonment, registration dropouts, etc could be caused by a poor translation or culturally insensitive UI/UX, or both. You’ll need to unpack the reasons behind these behaviors in order to fully understand your performance.
Dynamic Content Production
Like e-Commerce companies and those with valuable blogs, producers of large volumes of dynamic content (think YouTube, Coursera, edX, etc) will want to start with just one or two languages, and produce a limited selection of your most in-demand content rather than the entire inventory. Create a seamless in-language UI for this content and populate it with the translated content.
As an alternative to translating your entire website, for scrappier startups, consider simply creating landing pages in your target languages. On these landing pages, use images to instruct users on how to find the content in their language — for instance, how to find subtitles on YouTube.
Translate Your Customer Service
Everybody wants to feel like the company they’re doing business with cares about them as an individual. But did you know that for customers whose first language is not English, more than 80% are more likely to repurchase if customer service is provided in their language? That kind of retention is a pretty compelling reason to translate your customer service.
For many customers, live chat is the preferred customer support channel, meaning you’ll want to place a live chat window on your website. But again, it’s crucial that your chat operators have the capacity to communicate with customers in their own language.
Unfortunately, providing live, multilingual chat support is not an affordable solution for most companies. The current options are to either employ foreign-language agents or outsource their duties to part-time contractors that may or may not be experts in your product, both of which are prohibitively expensive. Alternatively, you can use Zopim’s live machine translation feature, which is affordable but certainly not seamless nor native quality. As such, live chat options are currently, unfortunately, relegated to being icing on the cake.
Help Center & Tickets
For the time being, the best, most affordable and scalable multilingual Customer Support options are to provide your customers baseline support via a multilingual self-service Help Center (examples: Pinterest, Eventbrite, Chartboost) as well as translated emails/tickets.
If you choose to follow this path, monitor your tickets for common issues to populate the Help Center with. Be aware that users from some locations will need content specific to their needs, meaning your Help Centers will not necessarily be mirror images of one another. On the ticketing front, you’ll want to ensure that automatic in-language replies are sent to customers, lettingthem know that you’ve received their issue and are in the process of resolving it.
A bit of shameless self-promotion: for Zendesk customers, we offer translation of both the Help Center and Tickets. Check us out.
Localize the Payment Interface
It pays to know the shopping habits of your local market and how you can best meet their needs. Start by showing all prices on your website in local currency.
It may seem like common sense to list your prices in euros for Germans, yen for Japanese, and so on, but this is a surprisingly common mistake for first-time-abroad business. You’d be surprised at how foreign a website in an unfamiliar currency feels. Very few people can convert currencies in their head, and unfamiliar dollar symbols may drive consumers to a local competitor’s site, where they know for sure how much they’re paying. Ideally, you would be able to automatedly infer a customers’ currency preference based on locale and/or past preference, but worst-case include a dropdown box in your check-out area that would allow your customer to choose which currency they wish to pay in.
Similar to the not-insignificant backend work necessary to make sure you’re able to accept payments in your customers’ preferred currency, also make sure you’re able to accept their preferred payment methods. Common sense yet unbeknownst to many, people from different countries tend to prefer different modes of payment: while Americans rely on credit cards, Germans more commonly use wire transfers, Chinese prefer AliPay, and Russians are more comfortable with WebMoney’s online payment system.
Build Local Communities
All together, the goal of all of this is to build a loyal community in each of your target markets. As you can see, there is much more to bringing a group together behind an idea than just community building, but community building (especially the digital part) remains important. To drive more traffic Here are some pointers for building passionate communities in foreign markets.
Community Building Principles
The same principles apply to building a community abroad as do to building a close-knit team in your home office. Here’s a short list of Do’s:
- Get people excited about your brand.
- Keep an open dialogue going between headquarters and local branches.
- Do what you can to encourage free discourse. Invite people (i.e. real people) to give their input.
- When possible, sponsor contests/giveaways and host events.
- Ensure that both colleagues and consumers overseas understand you value them for their thoughts and ideas in addition to their business.
Put time into localizing your social media accounts. How often do you click through on other-language Facebook posts, or Tweets? Never, right? That’s because they don’t make sense in the context of an otherwise entirely English stream of data.
For this reason, ideally, you’ll have independent Facebook, Twitter, and local social media accounts. From there, translate your tweets and posts across accounts. You’ll want to use a tool like Buffer tied in with another tool, like Fliplingo, to handle automatic translation of scheduled posts. With a local social media presence, the chance that followers share, reshare, click through, and otherwise engage with your social media content is significantly improved.
Pro tip: On Facebook, use the Power Editor to designate what language and location certain posts should appear in.
Needless to say, all your attempts to build personal, meaningful relationships with your customers and thus grow your business will ring false unless your company makes the effort to communicate in consumers’ native languages. It may seem like a huge challenge, but if you use quality translation services to localize your content, marketing, and customer support, you’ll find that the benefits far outweigh the costs.