Expanding into international markets is an excellent way for e-commerce businesses to capitalise on the growing demand for goods and services. In fact, the number of digital buyers continues to rise, with 2021 estimated to reach 2.14 billion people worldwide.¹ Considering that number has risen by nearly 1 billion in seven years, there’s certainly no shortage of online customers.
However, when your business already performs well in English, you may wonder why you need to consider translating content and product information. Well, the answer is simple—you’ll miss out on a potential 1.1 billion people if you don’t! That’s right, despite the prevalence of the English language, it’s only natively spoken by approximately 360 million people worldwide.²
DEFINING A TRANSLATION STRATEGY
Investing in a translation strategy that meets your customers’ needs is crucial to the success of expanding into international markets. By taking the time to understand how your new customers communicate and shop, you’ll quickly reap the benefits where it matters—online sales.
We’ll cover exactly what you need to consider for your translation strategy shortly, but first, let’s take a closer look at the benefits of taking translation seriously.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A TRANSLATION STRATEGY?
Of course, the primary benefit of any successful translation strategy is sales—plain and simple; however, the impact on your business goes much deeper. Below are three reasons why you need a translation strategy.
BUILDS TRUST AND CONFIDENCE
People want to browse, communicate, and ultimately buy products or services from websites they can trust. If international markets can’t understand what makes your business stand out or how a product works, then building trust is impossible.
Accurate translation is your way of presenting the information international customers need to make an educated decision. Don’t forget; you’re not the only company on the internet competing for a slice of those 2.14 billion online shoppers.
Trust and confidence are crucial to standing out, building your brand’s reputation, and securing new customers. More than that, though, confidence in a product or service is what brings people back, time and time again.
SAVES TIME AND MONEY
You already have a company website, well-written product descriptions, and a service people believe in, so what’s easier or more cost-effective—developing something new for a finite pool of existing customers, or translating and expanding into multiple international markets?
Financially, it makes far more sense to expand your existing digital content into new languages. Yes, there will be a cost for setting up a translation team, but the potential ROI is significant. In fact, tracking your success with tools like Google Analytics is a great way to see just how profitable translation is. You can easily split your traffic information by country-specific domains, giving you valuable insight.
IMPROVES SEO PERFORMANCE
While numerous factors feed into your search engine ranking, the principle of sites like Google is simple: they aim to provide the most relevant search results to answer a person’s query. And one of the factors that feed into that is how many people are visiting a site. However, by sticking to a single language, organic growth is often challenging.
Fortunately, search engines treat translated content as unique, not duplicate. As long as you provide accurate and localised text, every language you add to your website funnels more people to your site. With potential improvements to SEO performance, translation is an excellent choice for online businesses.
Just don’t be tempted to take shortcuts, as many automatic translation tools won’t make the adjustments needed for content to be considered unique. They often copy text directly, without much thought on grammar, and they certainly won’t consider localisation. The money you save by using these tools won’t be worth it when your website ranking starts to fall. If there’s one thing all search engines hate, it’s duplicated, poor-quality content!
Investing in a translation strategy that meets your customers’ needs is crucial to the success of expanding into international markets.
4 WAYS TO IMPLEMENT A TRANSLATION STRATEGY
With the benefits of translation clear, how exactly do you implement a strategy that works for your business? Nearly all translation strategies depend on the four principles outlined below. Get these elements right, and your international expansion will be off to a flying start.
INVEST IN NATIVE SPEAKERS
The first step to dominating international markets is really understanding your new demographic. To do that, you’ll need native translators who understand the language and tone of the audience you are trying to attract. Depending on the country, product, or service, that may even mean investing in region-specific translators.
For example, content aimed at Londoners in central England will use different terms, phrases, and colloquialisms to Devon or Cornwall. Similar examples apply worldwide. So if your target market is particularly niche, you’ll need native-speaking translators that can match that specificity.
Also, while you’re hiring your new translation team, use the process to research keywords and phrases related to your business. Why? Because words have different search intent depending on the language and country.
Let’s say you’re a UK-based crisp seller, but want to expand into the US. Sadly, you won’t get much organic traffic because the correct keyword is “chips” in the US. It’s a simplified example, but the principle remains no matter where you choose to expand. Discussing the most effective term with a native-speaking translator will help you focus on valuable keywords.
TRANSLATE PRODUCT INFORMATION FIRST
Although it’s tempting to get all of your marketing, social, and blog content translated first, it may not be the most effective start to your international venture. Instead, your focus should be on building the trust and confidence we spoke about earlier. And the best way to do this? By translating product pages and product information.
Customers are more likely to purchase online when they understand and have confidence in how a product or service works. The focus for your native-speaking translation team should be the core website pages (homepage, about us, values, terms & conditions, etc.), the products, and product/service information.
Another key watch-out is website menus, automated emails, and payment pages. We often take them for granted because we’re so used to seeing them, but a new customer using your site for the first time will be extra critical. If the checkout page of your website reads poorly or contains incorrect terms, then all of your hard work could vanish in a mere click.
ALLOCATE SUFFICIENT RESOURCES
You will get an ROI on translation, but only when you invest the resources it needs. It’s no good launching a new range of products only for your international customers to have to wait for your one-person translation team to catch up. By that point, a competitor could have beaten you to it.
Instead, try to get the bulk of your content translated before you make the jump to new markets. Then, as your business expands (which is almost inevitable), your translation team won’t be playing catch-up.
It’s also crucial you don’t underestimate the time it takes to translate content correctly. Sure, a translation tool can do the work in several hours, but we’ve already highlighted why that’s a terrible idea. Instead, hire several translators and a native-speaking editor who can manage their workload and give you clear timescales—it’s an investment worth its weight in gold.
USE TRANSCREATION FOR MARKETING CONTENT
While technically not translation, transcreation is a natural extension of converting content for international markets. It’s also a much better fit for marketing and social media content. To attract international customers, it isn’t enough to simply change the words; you need to ensure the themes of your content match your audience.
An excellent example of transcreation comes from Coca-Cola and their “Share a Coke” campaign. The premise was simple: cans printed with the top 150 names. But what are the top 150 names if you sell products all over the world? To solve this issue, Coke tailored its marketing campaign to individual countries, even using relevant historical or cultural events.
It sounds simple, but as you start to get a handle on translation, your continued success abroad will hinge on marketing your product or service in a relevant manner. With all the effort of developing an effective translation strategy, it’d be a crying shame to lose customers because of poorly received marketing or social media campaigns.
CONTINUALLY EVALUATE YOUR TRANSLATION STRATEGY FOR LONG-TERM SUCCESS
Even after researching new markets, setting up a reliable translation team, and transcreating marketing content, your work isn’t done. Languages are continually evolving, which means your translation strategy needs to as well. This doesn’t mean weekly meetings to establish the latest slang term or colloquialism, but keeping an eye on trends is important.
All of the advice above comes with one fundamental benefit: increasing your brand’s reputation on a global scale. Do that successfully, and you’ll not only secure your fair share of online shoppers, but you’ll stand head and shoulders above competitors while increasing organic traffic. Formulating an effective translation strategy could propel your business into markets all over the world, so what are you waiting for?
1. Published by Daniela Coppola D, 13 O. Digital Buyers Worldwide 2021. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/251666/number-of-digital-buyers-worldwide/. Published October 13, 2021. Accessed November 18, 2021.
2. Written by Keith Breene K. Which countries are best at English as a second language? World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/11/countries-that-speak-english-as-a-second-language/. Published 2019. Accessed November 18, 2021.