Choosing to move your business to a multilingual platform entails several tasks; the most immediate and logical one is, of course, the translation of your content.
When it comes to product sales and related marketing, however, simple translation is no longer enough. Operating in different markets, including culturally, it is necessary to adapt not only the message, but also the collateral and the entire context that conveys it. This is where the process of Linguistic Localization and Transcreation comes into play. MBK Fincom, which for years has been operating in several important European markets through the ProduceShop platform (with more to come), tells us about best practices for adapting your own voice to the public.
The starting point
The most recent surveys show that more than 70% of consumers who choose e-commerce are more likely to make a purchase if they see a product page in their native language.
This figure is not so surprising if you think about our daily habits; although globalization, especially virtual globalization, leads us to conform to standard linguistic choices (think of the normal use of English), being able to rely on a safe reading is always a source of comfort.
This is why many companies try to adapt by applying translation strategies to their content, in a more or less correct manner. It is not enough, however, to insert your product sheet or blog article into an automatic translator to say you have adapted; the reality of the matter demands meticulous and well-organized work. MBK Fincom, for example, has over the years created a translation department within the ProduceShop team that works according to predefined, effective and consistent schedules and tasks. Let’s take a look at what today’s market requires and what instead should be avoided.
A growing sector
There’s no denying that e-commerce is a constantly growing sector. The last two years in particular have seen the majority of consumers around the world opting for online shopping, even the most immediate and habitual purchases. This growth trend has been observed practically all over the world; however, given that not all national economies have their own platforms, or that in many countries there is a tendency to want to buy from foreign markets (think of Amazon‘s capillarity), the direct consequence of the growth of e-commerce dynamics has been the spread of different markets to more countries.
Consequently, and quite logically, the first problem for large online operators arose: how to adapt my virtual commerce to the local one I am joining? A first step was to re-translate their catalogue into English (if this was not already the starting language); however, this solution found clear limits, since not all consumers, however familiar they may be, can call themselves professionals, or even might not be interested in knowing it. Investment has therefore shifted towards a more responsible choice, namely the use of translators; catalogues and marketing strategies were rewritten each time according to the instructions of various language professionals, translation agencies or, unfortunately, the automatic translator of the moment.
The weakness of the first methodologies soon became obvious: when transposing product information sheets and, above all, communication campaigns and strategies into a new language, the brand’s tone of voice also had to adapt to the new audience. This is where the concept of localization comes into play: adapting e-commerce to the local trade, to its language, but above all to its way of buying, speaking, seeing and thinking. All this by investing the right resources in translation.
Localization: skills inflow
We asked Fortunato D., Copywriter and Language Specialist at ProduceShop, to explain to us from a translator’s experience how to draw up a localization strategy.
“First of all, we need to dispel a myth, or rather reduce it: machine translation is not completely useless.
Of course, throwing a product sheet onto an automatic translator such as Google’s or Yandex’s, picking it up and putting it online is probably the worst of practices; you lose meaning or, even worse, you completely distort it, risking not only losing the user’s attention in the funnel, but even provoking negative reactions. These kinds of tools can help us with short standard phrases, as extremely rich vocabularies, as every translator knows.
The real core of language localization lies in the linguist’s complete immersion in the cultural landscape of the target country; this means knowing, studying and learning about the research and purchasing habits of the users who will be reading that form or article, speaking like them, listening to them and interpreting their needs as they would describe them.
Each degree of knowledge must then be applied to the appropriate context; if I’m translating a text for a specific product, I have to be able to apply all the rules of the language perfectly and apply them to the specific country (for example, making a distinction between an article in German for Switzerland or Germany); all this is purely sales-related.
If, on the other hand, we move on to the marketing side, the situation becomes even more complex (but also more fun); it’s not just a matter of knowing the language, but of having lived in or studied the culture and the market, thus knowing how to apply our vision to consumer tastes and habits. A period spent abroad, or field studies are certainly the easiest way to achieve this.
Naturally, a translator specializing in e-commerce localization needs to combine many profiles, be an extremely versatile and multitasking resource; we are talking about a linguist who also has SEO skills, who is obviously capable of handling considerable amounts of data and discerning them at the right time; who can write, and is therefore a highly skilled copywriter.
In the industry landscape we speak here of a transcreator, i.e. a specialist who deals with transcreation: translation of content that is affected by the necessary manipulation.”
A complex job, but a job that converts
Ronny Soana, COO of MBK Fincom and ProduceShop, adds some very useful specifications, especially in the marketing field:
“In addition to the linguistic side, don’t forget to set up an appropriate context; respecting small details can often make the difference between a quality localization and a rushed job: the first converts, the second bounces back.
Among the details that must be remembered to transfer to the new audience are, for example, the technical indications of a product; not all countries use the metric system, so this type of data must also be converted. Currency and time references are other details that should not be ignored; numeric formats, such as date or time indications. Special mention should also be made of idioms and proverbs; we often take it for granted that these are universal and apply everywhere, but this is not really the case.
For an English reader, “to do the devil in four” (from Italian “fare il diavolo a quattro”) would make no sense at all, just as for a shopper from Tessin it will be more obvious to order a “costume” not for the sea, but for an elegant evening (in common Italian, “costume” means “swimsuit”). In such cases, it is essential to get the right information, study and seek professional advice
If we then consider specific processes such as the naming of a product, or the whole branding phase, the attention must be even higher; it is necessary to consider all the markets in which the product or the brand will be launched, in order to avoid embarrassing situations or having to re-brand from scratch in order not to run into problems.
The specific advantages of good localization
Speaking of numbers,” continues Ronny, “we have found that over 65% of users only reach the final stages of the funnel with properly translated content. If we look at the UX side, in fact, there can be the case of a purchase journey interrupted because an alert, a message or a call to action was poorly translated, preventing the customer from finalizing the purchase.
By adapting the site’s web layout to suit a new language, the percentage goes up; finding a natural and complete harmony in the site certainly motivates the customer to continue to the shopping cart.
Obviously, the advantage over competitors who don’t apply this kind of practice is high; in the end, these are processes that can be mechanized to the point of automation over time. It improves the conversion rates of individual markets while also implementing the user experience. At the level of brand awareness we are talking about important returns.”
An example of localization: the ProduceShop blog
Even when communicating content that goes beyond the product itself and its sale, as in the case of the ProduceShop blog, you have to take into account who is reading, not just their language.
In this example, we see how a small linguistic excursus in an article on cupboards and cabinets has been adapted for Spanish readers; not only by translating, but by tailoring the entire paragraph to their cultural background.
In this screenshot, on the other hand, we see how, we have adapted the reading recommendations in an article on lounge chairs based on the reading trends of two different countries (Italy and France).
These are small examples; anyway, they give a good idea of the detailed and precise work that a good localization process requires, also for marketing purposes.
Going beyond mere linguistic translation, we have come to the conclusion that the real secret to a good language localization strategy, both on the sales and marketing side, is only one: employing professional linguists.
Aiming at skills therefore remains the first commitment of any company that wants to “export” its e-commerce; pay attention not to the expense, but to the investment.
- Corporate PR
- Marketing dept. Produceshop (https://mbkfincom.com)
- Way 2 Global
- Il Sole 24Ore – Alleyoop
- Inside Marketing