Website localization explained in 5 minutes
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“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” ~ a popular (mis)quote from Nelson Mandela
Speaking your customers’ language is probably more important than you think. Language is incredibly powerful. The most successful businesses out there know the value of nurturing the human element at the heart of how they work, communicate, and connect.
Whether it be B2C or B2B, you’re selling to people. The only real difference is that you could be selling directly to people who are also the end consumers, or to people who represent a company.
But everyone speaks English anyhow, right? Well, actually, the answer is a resounding no. Although English has frequently been the lingua franca of business, diplomacy, and entertainment, only about 5% of the global population are native speakers, and about 83% of people speak no English at all. You’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity to expand your target market if your store’s content only appeals to English sensibilities.
If you want to expand your eCommerce store’s reach and capture more customers, you need to adapt your site’s content to different languages and sociocultural contexts. Creating a multilingual website is how you can achieve this.
Read this post to learn more about website localization and why it’s a key differentiator and driver of global growth.
What is website localization?
Website localization is the process of adapting your website and digital assets to suit a different language and culture.
Although website localization often begins with translation, it extends far beyond simply translating the text and leaving it at that. Localization means adjusting every aspect of your website to fit your target market’s preferences, including:
Portraying visuals that consider cultural sensitivities
Adapting product offerings, promotions, and sales
Providing your customers with preferred payment processes
Providing shipping options appropriate to the region
Setting up multilingual customer service
By adapting the entire customer experience to make your visitors feel at home, you foster the personal connection and trust customers need when buying online. You want them to feel like your website content was created with their culture, needs, and language in mind. To truly succeed at designing an authentic localized experience, you can’t treat localization as an afterthought.
Let’s take the IKEA website as an example. Upon opening the website, you’ll see completely different product offerings, promotions, and sales depending on your location. This is due to website localization: the proven process of creating global content that resonates with existing local audiences and reaches new ones. Thanks to clever and carefully planned localization, IKEA is one of the leading global brands. Your brand can get there too.
Benefits of web localization
By ensuring product information is available in your target audience’s native language, you’ll be able to increase sales, build brand trust, and encourage customer loyalty.
1. It increases customer engagement
One study shows that 73% of customers are more likely to read product reviews if these reviews are written in their own language. Presenting information in the language your customers are most comfortable with can boost your store’s engagement. Engaged customers are more likely to make repeat purchases and become word-of-mouth ambassadors for your eCommerce business.
2. It boosts sales
An eCommerce store saw a 61% increase in sales when it localized its website for the French market. Before localization, your online store only appeals to people who speak one language. After localization, your online store’s content becomes relevant to people in diverse target markets because they can easily interact with the content.
An increase in sales translates to more cash flow and profit for your business. You can invest some part of this revenue into expanding your business and reaching more customers.
3. It creates a personalized customer experience
A Twilio survey discovered that 45% of consumers are likely to shop elsewhere if a brand fails to deliver a personalized experience.
Website localization personalizes the customer experiences by delivering content in the language and social context that your shoppers prefer. The localization code detects the geolocation data in the shopper’s IP address and uses this information to pull and display content in the right language and format.
4. It helps you rank higher in search results
A reported 43% of all eCommerce traffic comes from organic Google search, according to a Wolfgang Digital study. The higher you rank for relevant keywords, the more search traffic you can drive to your eCommerce store.
Website localization enables your store to show up in multiple search results for location-specific keywords and language variations of a keyword — allowing you to drive traffic to your website from multiple locations at the same time. For example, Amazon’s shoe collections rank on page one for “buy shoes” and “acheter des chaussures,” which is the French variation of the keyword.
How to localize your eCommerce platform
There are four important steps to localizing an eCommerce website.
1. Create a localization strategy
Just like you wouldn’t set out on an unknown journey without a map, you also cannot start the website localization process without having a solid strategy in place. A localization strategy sets the overall direction for the entire localization process and keeps you on track.
An effective localization strategy spells out how you will adapt your store’s content and context to fit different geolocations, the timelines for these processes, and parameters for measuring the success of your localized website. To create an effective localization strategy, you need to:
Conduct market research
Market research helps you understand the behaviors, culture, and preferences of the markets you want to target. You need these pieces of information to help you adapt your store’s content to fit all the social nuances of the target market — not only their language. For example, the target audience might not be open to dressing in a certain way, and if they see such clothing items on your website, it might put them off.
You can put out a survey or poll to your target audience or use competitor data to discover insights into the behaviors of your target market. You can also conduct SME interviews with some of your target audience to better understand their preferences and social nuances.
Create a localization workflow
A localization workflow shows how team members will collaborate with each other to complete different phases of the localization process.
Your workflow depends on the type of localization you’re doing and the tool you’re using. If you’re doing a waterfall localization — which happens when you already have an eCommerce store with a base language — then all the code might be set, and your developers wouldn’t be too involved in the process. But if you’re doing agile localization — where you’re building the website and localizing content simultaneously — then every team member would be on deck at the same time.
No matter the tool or method you choose, ensure you assign tasks and roles to your team members, so they are easier to track, and you can achieve accountability.
Set SMART goals and KPIs to measure the results of your localization strategy
We’ve all heard the good old business adage: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” It’s a timeless truism. If your starting point is prioritizing the metrics you’re already measuring; you’ll have a head start. So, what are the metrics you should be looking at?
Looking at website performance, you can check your Google Analytics to pinpoint the pages that generated the most traffic and analyze where the traffic originates. Next, you can look at the highest converting pages and most sold products. Working with data means you have validated content that your international audience is likely to engage with. Beyond that, it enables you to make an informed decision about how you plan to adjust your marketing strategy for global markets.
2. Internationalize your website
Internationalization prepares your website’s codebase to accept different language configurations and automatically display content in the right language based on a shopper’s preferences.
To internationalize your website, you’ll add a code to your store’s front end to automatically detect where a shopper is accessing your store from and render the content in the preferred language. You can do this easily in a content management system like Storyblok.
Read our article to learn more about setting up internationalization in Storyblok.
3. Translate your content
The exact website translation process depends on the software you’re using. Storyblok, for instance, supports three types of translation: field level, folder level, and space level.
Field-level translation is used when the website’s content structure remains the same across all languages.
Folder-level translation is used when there are structural content changes within each language and target market.
Space-level translation is a good choice if you have multiple spaces and need to manage your languages for the different spaces.
You need to work with a localization consultant or professional translation services to help you choose the most appropriate language version for your target location and supervise the machine translation process for quality assurance.
4. Optimize your website for multilingual SEO
You may have already search optimized your site in your native language, but to truly compete in the new markets, you need to optimize it for multilingual SEO, also known as international SEO.
In a nutshell, multilingual SEO is the process of optimizing a website for search engines in multiple languages. When creating a multilingual SEO strategy, you should evaluate which target markets matter, what the cultural differences between those markets are, where different customer segments search for information, etc.
Researching region-specific keywords (bearing in mind search engines other than Google), using dedicated URLs by language, and international link building are basic tactics that you can start implementing right away.
Using Storyblok and Lokalise for website localization
As a headless CMS, Storyblok makes it easy to create and manage your content across different channels. Lokalise brings the same simplicity to structuring your localization process.
With the Lokalise integration for Storyblok, you get the best of both worlds. Now you can easily deliver localized content wherever you need it, to the delight of your global audience. Lokalise is a collaborative localization platform that helps you centralize all your translation efforts by bringing different team members together. In just a few clicks, you can invite your teammates, freelancers, or partner agencies to work on translation projects in a single workspace.
The best part? You can use Lokalise to continuously translate your Storyblok content, meaning it’s always ready for release. Give your audience content they love in their language — fast. With advanced QA checks and other useful features, you’ll deliver faster across all languages, minimize errors, achieve translation consistency, and lower costs.
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