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Localisation is required to achieve full potential of international e-commerce

Far too many retailers are failing to recognise the value of localising their websites for overseas markets and are therefore losing lots of potential sales. By Glynn Davis


Localisation is required to achieve full potential of international e-commerce

Far too many retailers are failing to recognise the value of localising their websites for overseas markets and are therefore losing lots of potential sales. By Glynn Davis

Ahead of speaking at the 2nd Retail Bulletin International Expansion Summit 2013 on March 26 Karin Nielsen, commercial director at Codex Global, says retailers are behind other sectors in localising their sites, but adds that there has been a growing interest.

“It was never a focus for retailers until recently. But expansion is now on the agenda as they are all scrambling into new markets. It was previously a dead market for us but we’ve now got customers coming to us and it’s taken off over the last 24 months. It’s also a lot more complicated than you think but it’s well worthwhile,” she suggests.

The added complexity is because localisation is much more than simply translating blocks of text into the local language, although Nielsen says this is absolutely essential because only 20% of online users around the globe speak English: “The fact is you are more likely to sell more products if the site is in the local language.”

As well as translating she says retailers also have to consider functionality, the aesthetics of their site, the information they provide to customers, and various technical aspects. In some markets Nielsen says there will be more of an acceptability of customer interaction online, with user generated content, whereas in other countries “this is not the norm”.

The aesthetics are also important as flashing bright images are popular in Asian markets but not in those where subtlety is preferred. There should also be consideration of some colours having negative connotations in certain markets, and also whether the company’s logo is perceived positively.

Translating into a local language can also impact on the technical aspects of a site. In the German language, words will often be too lengthy for the menu buttons when translated and so will be cut off. Nielsen says in these instances an alternative word is clearly required.

Another point relates to the amount of information given on products in each country being consistent: “Often international customers are treated as second class citizens because there might be 500 word descriptions on the UK site but only two lines are translated into the local language [on overseas sites].”

Such actions come down to the ongoing question many retailers have over the level of resources they are willing to commit to localisation. There is a well trodden path of assigning it a low budget and simply engaging a “rudimentary translation service”. And mistakes in certain markets, where there are big cultural differences such as Japan, have tended to put retailers off localisation.
“They often don’t have the resources inside their businesses so they try and scrimp and save rather than investing in full localisation. They try and do as little as possible so they don’t get the impact [in the overseas market] and then do not get the required ROI,” she suggests

Nielsen cites a major retailer that opened a German website and after only two days recouped the cost of the localisation. She is an advocate of getting expert third-parties involved as early as possible because she believes this helps avoid retailers make the wrong initial decisions.

Another recommendation is to take one market and language at a time and to get the returns on the investment before moving onto another country.

Karin joins a top-quality speaker line up at the 2nd International Expansion Summit 26th March 2013 including George International, Bench, Costa Coffee, Hobbs, The Hamleys Group, Alliance Boots, Mothercare Group, Austin Reed, Icon Live, Codex Global, The Javelin Group, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, Ogone UK.The event is designed for UK retailers who are planning for and are developing an international growth strategy. Register now to secure your place.


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