How to Succeed in the Global Market


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How to Succeed in the Global Market

By Liz Elting

iMediaConnection.com – September 13, 2011

In a recent survey of international businesses and the customers who frequent them, respondents were asked about the importance of language to the shopping experience. In a striking disparity in perception, a majority of executives ranked translation and localization as only minimally important, while a majority of consumers said these elements drive their purchasing decisions. Whether they hail from the United States, Japan, France, or anywhere else around the world, prospects want to shop in their own language, and they choose to do business with companies that demonstrate cultural understanding and sensitivity.

Businesses that want to grow internationally would do well to listen to the desires of their potential customers abroad. To avoid the pitfalls of poorly executed international expansion, follow these tips for translation and localization:

Create an international search engine marketing (ISEM) strategy
ISEM starts with research into regionally relevant keywords. Translation and localization experts should spearhead this activity. Entrust ISEM to those who understand the nuance of regional dialects and colloquial speech, as well as the parameters of preferred search engines. In most of the world, the latter means Google. However, in China, for example, website visitors are more likely to use local search engine Baidu, which uses different algorithms than Google.

With the most effective keywords selected, businesses can begin building multi-pronged efforts in new markets. This might include targeted pay-per-click ads, relevant landing pages, multilingual rich media, adapted banner ads, out-of-home advertising, experiential marketing with people on the ground, philanthropic community involvement, and events like launch parties and networking functions, as well as social media outreach, if appropriate.

Develop quality content (and don't employ robots to do it)
Keywords alone will not achieve corporate goals. Content counts, too, and this is an area in which machine translation shows its flaws. Organizations that rely on such solutions can put themselves at a greater disadvantage than those that don't translate at all, since machine translation is not adept at catching the nuances that can make or break a campaign. This can be a singular activity, as in building a static website, or an ongoing one, supporting blog and social media communications.

Empower customers with choice
One way to demonstrate awareness about an international customer base is to offer customers a choice in language. Automatically pushing content in one language over another can cause frustration for prospects in countries where residents speak multiple languages -- which now describes much of the world. A pull-down menu of language choices can be effective in breeding customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Pictures must be "translated," too
When a business selects an image to accompany its copy, its choice can pay huge dividends by quickly communicating facts or emotions -- or it can instantly illustrate the company's lack of cultural awareness, increasing website bounce rates and decreasing sales. Choose images that will resonate in target regions, and confirm assumptions about art choices with localization experts. In addition, remember to add appropriate and specific text in the alternate image tags to make the most of the search engine optimization (SEO) potential of images.
 
Translate your respect for customers
These tips focus on strategy, technology, and marketing, but they all stem from a core principle of growing businesses: Respect the customer. It's no wonder consumer respondents to the survey mentioned above were turned off by websites with sloppy translation or lack of knowledge about the countries in which they were attempting to sell.

Seventy-three percent of the consumers who participated said they encounter e-commerce websites that are not available in their native languages. Nearly 68 percent said they "always" or "sometimes" encounter website translations that are not correct or are confusing because the writer lacked an understanding of the culture. And more than half said when left to their own devices, they either try to translate material themselves, rely on a browser-based translation application, or terminate their shopping sessions.

Consumers around the world want the same quality in their shopping experiences, whether they are doing business with a native company or a multinational business thousands of miles away. By following some proven best practices, businesses can deliver on that expectation.

Liz Elting is co-founder and CEO of TransPerfect.

 
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