How to Reach and Sell to International Customers With Localization

Many of us have seen the sales attempts of companies that just didn’t get it right. That marketer who tried to overuse internet slang that went out of style four months ago for an ad. A website that displays text in a new language poorly. The internet is awash with examples. And, of course, we’ve all heard of the famous ad campaigns that didn’t quite translate into a new culture: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave” in China is a classic example.

Such examples highlight the importance of localization particularly for efforts towards globalization in India by foreign companies and Indian businesses wanting to expand to new shores. Customers want to be met on their own ground and feel understood by their brands. As such, we’ll explore below what localization is and why it matters so much in international eCommerce.

What Is Localization?

What is the concept of localization? Localization means making sure a message translates into a new culture. Translation—the actual conversion of text into a new language—is technically a part of localization.  

Localization covers many aspects of an eCommerce site, including:

  • Changing graphics to match the style and tone of target markets
  • Updating to local requirements, like new currency symbols 
  • Making use of the right formats for the new culture, for addresses, dates, phone numbers and so forth
  • Updating content to suit the consumption habits of new markets 
  • Providing designs and layouts that match the text in the new language
  • Checking that the eCommerce site complies with local regulations such as privacy laws and seller licenses  

As you can see, localization is a multifaceted approach to selling in a new market that takes many levels of detail into account.

Why Is Localization Important?

Localization is important beyond just the act of changing currency symbols. Done well, it can help companies to build their brands and reach new customers. A survey of 3,000 online shoppers across 10 countries found that 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites. Clearly, localization is important for businesses that want to help those customers to spend their money. 

Further, English makes up 25.9% of internet users across the world. Chinese sits just under that at 19.4% and Spanish sits at 7.9%. These stats mean if you want to get the greatest number of customers possible online, it pays to reach out to customers who speak other languages. By doing so, you are showing customers that you value them, their business, and their culture. From the shopper’s perspective, it’s easier to become a repeat customer when a company is easy to work with and goes out of its way to meet you on your terms.

Localization is also a way to reduce risk. While there are always costs to expanding a business into a new market, successful localization can make the process smoother. It means you’ll be in line with local legal requirements and run less risk of misunderstanding the local culture. You’ll also come out strong, with a well-formatted and easy-to-use website, regardless of the language it’s in.

How Can Localization Boost eCommerce Sales?

Localization can boost sales in a number of ways:

  • It can help you target customers in different regions based on their local search terms. For instance, a face covering that leaves a part of the face exposed is typically called a ski mask in the US and a balaclava in the UK  
  • Think about how it feels when you happen across a website that is in another language or even just has foreign currency symbols. You’re more likely to leave the site. Localization can make a site more familiar and mean you’re more likely to stay on it.
  • Localized eCommerce sites can help you customize sales based on regions. For instance, if you sell Blu-rays, you can sell multiple language versions of that format.  
  • You can help sellers in diverse markets sell their wares, for instance with systems like CS-Cart Multi-Vendor.

When and How Do You Find Localization?

If you want to expand into a new market, start by finding localization services. Even if you have a foreign market website already, and didn’t use localization services to produce it, a translation and localization agency can still optimize the site for the local market.

Many translation agencies also handle localization services. You might also lookup language services by the term “full-service language service provider” or LSP for short. You can find these services listed online. You can also ask around your professional network to see if they’ve had success with a language agency.

When vetting a language agency, there are a few tell-tale signs that you are working with pros:

  • Their website should look update-to-date and professional, with plenty of content, including a blog that showcases their knowledge.
  • The agency should have case studies of past projects and testimonials from past clients to demonstrate their experience. Individual localizers may have referees you can call.
  • Your point of contact should be easy to communicate with and forthcoming in answering questions.

You should enquire about how the localization process is handled. A good agency will have multiple stages of review and a system for keeping everyone on deadline. By vetting your potential localization service, you can avoid a poor working experience and get the best out of your efforts to sell to international customers.

Author bio: 

Ofer Tirosh is CEO of Tomedes, a translation and interpretation agency that helps businesses connect with international customers.

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