Lost in translation? Selecting the right approach for your international expansion…

In an increasingly connected world, it’s easy to overlook the impact of cultural or linguistic difference. Consumer expectations vary widely across some of the world’s biggest markets – and at least 80% of the global population doesn’t speak English. When it comes to content, shoppers favour the familiar: according to a recent study of shopping behaviour in 29 major markets, 65% of those surveyed prefer content in their native tongue and 40% won’t even consider buying something if the product description isn’t in their own language. And in a global economy with global competition, if you fail to provide a stellar online experience, even your most geographically distant rivals are little more than a click away.

Creating a global presence has long been an important goal, but in the current climate it is more critical than ever. The pandemic has hastened the digital-first model, opening up a raft of opportunities for proactive retailers in some of the world’s biggest markets. But while selling internationally offers significant growth potential for ecommerce brands, crafting content that resonates across different cultures and languages can be fraught with challenges – and pitfalls. Even an ecommerce pioneer like Amazon can miss the mark: the tech giant was left red-faced recently when its long-awaited Swedish launch was marred by a series of localisation blunders, from featuring the wrong flag in its ‘choose your location’ section, to describing a children’s jigsaw puzzle with a word for sexual assault.

There are multiple approaches to internationalising your content and selecting which one to use depends on your key ecommerce objectives. Read on to see which option works best, and when.

Direct translation may seem a persuasively inexpensive and quick solution, and AI has certainly made impressive strides in the past decade – but relying on automation or CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools alone would be a calamitous false economy, potentially resulting in some brand damaging, embarrassing gaffes. And while direct translation, with human quality control, can be carefully applied to highly repetitive, factual and formulaic content, our research shows that 79% of consumers are still more likely to buy products described by humans than those translated by machines.

Localisation of content involves a faithful adaptation of source texts, edited and sense-checked for cultural nuance and terminology. This is a relatively cost-effective and accurate solution, and although it occasionally results in less fined-tuned copy from a cultural perspective, it’s generally perfectly adequate for short form content like product or category descriptions. Notably, a recent study found that poor product descriptions were consistently among the top 3 factors which dissuade shoppers from making a planned purchase – so getting this content right across all target markets is absolutely critical.

Transcreation provides a more tailored approach, creating content unique to each market, whilst using source texts as a reference to capture the essence of the brand and original copy. This method is ideal for producing content such as guides, thought leadership, editorial blogs and other articles, all of which will help establish confidence in your brand while providing rich fodder for search engines, helping you attract new audiences. It requires more time and effort than localisation, but it will ensure the essence of your brand is maintained across all markets, and is an adroit approach to addressing cultural nuances.

Origination is a localisation gold standard, providing fully bespoke and original guide and editorial content for key target markets. It’s often avoided due to the operational demands of scaling and adherence to timelines, requiring unique models like our own in order to create high performing, on-brand content at speed and scale. A common brief is employed across all markets to ensure overarching brand consistency. This approach is extremely accurate and fully optimised for performance in local markets, ensuring alignment with local market search engine algorithms and conversion strategies based on local trends. It adds significant value to final translated content.

When in Rome… speak Italian

To navigate a global minefield of linguistic and cultural challenges and cement your success, it’s crucial to develop a content production line overseen by native experts who completely understand your brand.

For more information, please fill out the form below to download our ‘Crossing Borders’ report, exploring how to create impactful ecommerce content in 7 major markets.

Alternatively, please get in touch if you are interested in a Quill Quality Score audit, to assess the effectiveness of your ecommerce content in a specific market.

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