By Liz Elting
October 18, 2012
With the holidays quickly approaching, online businesses are strategizing now to prepare for the influx of shoppers around the world who will flood the Internet looking for the best deals. In fact, many online retailers are putting the final touches on their site codes and will launch holiday-themed landing pages before the end of October. While most retailers understand the need for optimized, consumer-facing initiatives during the holiday season, if these initiatives are in English only, those businesses will miss a huge opportunity to increase holiday revenues and build brand loyalty with consumers who either need or prefer to shop in other languages. For example, a retail site that offers Web content and product information in Spanish but provides an English-only checkout can see as much as a 90 percent drop in conversion rates. A retailer that offers in-language content and checkout options, as well as recognition of Hispanic culture or imagery can expand its conversion rates significantly.
A global message with a localized approach
E-commerce companies are faced with the challenge of reaching a wide scope of consumers with different backgrounds, cultures, and languages. Even the word “holiday” has different connotations in different parts of the world. One message can have a different meaning for different audiences. Online shoppers have choices, and they want to be exposed to content when, where, and how they want it. This is where content localization comes into play; retailers must take into consideration the culture and atmosphere in which the message is distributed in order to drive the accuracy of the message beyond language translation. To perfect localization, marketers are partnering with language service providers to reach global audiences and present relevant messages to targeted customers in key markets. In doing so, online businesses can capitalize on brand engagement and convert shoppers to buyers.
E-commerce beyond the campaign and throughout the sales lifecycle
Content translation and localization is crucial to the effectiveness of a global, online campaign, but that is just the first step. Shoppers will visit retail sites this holiday season with the expectation that they will read messaging in their native languages from the initial browsing stage until the point of checkout and even post-sale with shipping and return instructions. In-language customer support must be available via phone, online chat and email in order to create an environment as interactive and supportive as an in-person sale. Shoppers who invest the time to seek customer support are likely serious buyers, and online businesses must meet their needs in order to guarantee sales.
Translation beyond the machine
Machine translation has been a long-standing solution for converting large amounts of content into various languages in order to reach a global consumer base, but it has flaws. To get it right, machine translation needs the help of trained people who can check for context and accuracy. Not all words and phrases mean the same thing across borders. In fact, within one language, take Spanish as an example, a word or phrase can have a different meaning to people in Mexico than it does to people in Puerto Rico. A poor translation can send a negative message about your brand, encouraging online shoppers to abandon ship and shop elsewhere. Marketers need to keep the human element in mind. What message are you trying to convey, and how are members of different cultures going to perceive it? This can be addressed in a number of ways. They can present your team with suggested alternatives that will ensure a positive message in your target market.
Your holiday shopping strategy is crucial to closing your company’s revenue for the year on a strong note. According to a recent report from eMarketer, online holiday sales are expected to account for nearly a quarter of the $224.2 billion in U.S. retail e-commerce sales forecasted for 2012. With the proper strategy, preparation, and resources, e-commerce companies can capitalize on the most prosperous time of year for online retail. With so much riding on your holiday sales, it makes sense to globalize your approach and work with a language service provider to increase your customer base.
Guest author Liz Elting co-founded TransPerfect in 1992. Today, TransPerfect is the world’s largest privately held provider of language and business services with more than $300 million in revenue. The company, which continues to be owned entirely by its co-founders, operates in 70 countries with more than 2,000 employees worldwide. Elting oversees the day-to-day operations of the company, headquartered in New York City. She has earned numerous awards for her outstanding entrepreneurship, including Working Woman’s Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Customer Service, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and American Express and Entrepreneur’s Woman of the Year Award.