Expansion Guide IV.: Business localization abroad and translations

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Always listen to the experts, they'll tell you what can't be done and why – and then do it – the forefather of science fiction, Robert Heinlein, slightly exaggerated. The true problem is that some "expert" advice or "exclusive, guaranteed tips" that is out of the blue – "even if we just made it up, you have to trust us that it works" – just don't work. Let's look at it another way. The method that follows verified practices, approaches proven by practice, working according to the laws, from real experts who know what they are doing and what they are talking about and stand behind it.

"Perhaps I should take the liberty of briefly emphasizing the importance of localization, drawing on the experience we have gained since 2015, since we have managed more than 200 projects successfully help with expansion mainly in the CEE region, but also in Western Europe, having to say: one of the key issues for the success of any single online shop is that it should be well localized."

Tomáš Vrtík, CEO & Partner Expandeco

Language is a powerful weapon that needs to be wielded

Our language is virtually the only weapon of any salesperson. Nothing sells itself and even the most ingenious gizmo that could sell better than hot rolls needs to be given the right words from A to Z. But not everyone is a sharpshooter, and in regards to this discipline: just as there is an art to writing a good text, there is also an art to translating it well.

How do consumers see it?

Some statistics won't kill anyone, although experts say it's easy to mislead with statistics, yet even easier to lie without them. Here are the bulletproof statistical facts:

  • 56% of consumers say that being able to gain information in their own language is more important than price

  • 72% of shoppers spend most of their time on websites in their own language

  • 56% of consumers close sites that are not in their native language

  • 82% of shoppers are more likely to buy if promotional materials are in their language

  • up to 76 % of customers in the European Union prefer to buy in their native language

Clear justifications for the need to localize an e-commerce business in a particular country, what do you say?

Who is genuinely important?

The internet is completely indifferent to your desire to make money with it – it hit the nail on the head, said the inspirational Sonia Simone. The important thing is the people who are online and who you give the chance to understand that they need what you have for them. Actually, if you don't speak the "language of the customer tribe", no one is going to click on a conversion button if they don't understand the product description.

What is not localization?

When we rely on a virtual Google translator to somehow translate a complete online shop text from the first character of the source text to the full stop after the last word after © to make its virtual colleagues – Google AI bots – happy. Yes, it's true that we also sell virtually through an online shop, but we sell to people, we speak to people and we write for people. No algorithms or search engines are our customers, they don't want, need or even know how to buy anything from us.

You may have thought that translation = localization, but it doesn’t. Translation itself is the translation of a text from one language into another in such a way that the meaning of the word is preserved. The translator must have a perfect command of both languages and be familiar with the subject he or she is translating. Localization is a complex process and translation is only part of it. We take into account different customs, dialects, culture, legal norms and other things when localizing. The aim of localization is to make the customer think that he/she is shopping on the "parent" site and not at all recognize that it is a translation. To give the impression that it is a source text, not a translation,"

Andrea Tesáková, Head of Localization, Expandeco

Global Localization

This is a paradoxically correct and apt oxymoron. Today we are localizing globally and global business cannot function without localization. Why is this so, and why does one who doesn't localize not sell much either?

"If you choose whether to translate or localize, I definitely recommend localization, because it will achieve a much higher effect. Localization also has a high impact on e-commerce conversion rates, and today's shopper demands a very personal and seamless experience during the shopping process itself, wherever they are in the world. Today's e-commerce market is extremely competitive and the lack of a comprehensively localized site is a significant barrier to the buying process. And native language proficiency determines how your potential customers find your brand online and how visitors become customers. Thus, buying in one’s mother tongue is important. If consumers do not understand the product description, they are unlikely to click the “add to cart” button.

Andrea Tesáková, Head of Localization, Expandeco


Frames, scaffolding and building elements...

...quality best practice are a boring = insurmountable obstacle for many. However, it is important to note that no one really received an award for their contribution in the area of building foundations and scaffolding, but we can't build anything properly without them. Here are the basic framework building blocks of localization according to our expert Andrea Tesáková:

1. Market Analysis

2. Choosing the right business partner

  • who is at home in the area
  • one who has been through the entire process and knows everything there is to know
  • who has knowledge, skills and experience directly at the local level

3. Preparation of content and export of texts

  • a chronological and as detailed as possible itinerary of specific steps
  • taking into account local and cultural differences
  • web audit with a native speaker
  • choice of an efficient data import and export solution

4. Localization of the online shop itself

  • web content must be checked by a native speaker
  • adapting content to the country
  • attention also to the details of the purchasing process
  • testing the entire purchasing process
  • don't forget to blog

5. Check after implementation of texts on the website

  • rechecking of all texts and process tests
  • again with a native speaker

What to localize and what to "just" translate?

The almost Hamlet-like question has again functional answers verified by practice.

  • we translate: internal documents not intended for publication, manuals, contracts and product descriptions that are not top bestsellers
  • we localize: website, top product descriptions, marketing materials – newsletters, banners, keywords, shopping cart, blog content, social media content, case studies, images

Native-speaker translators are the best

The language they translate into should be their mother tongue and the language from which they translate should be their father tongue. But let's not count on the fact that these naturally born bilingual masters and masters will translate 794 variants of 156 almost identical products. They don't need it, they don't need to waste their precious time because they use sophisticated translation tools and modern machine translation solutions.

Is machine translation artificial and artistic translation natural?

A charming answer comes to mind: "It comes down to who's reading this..." Again, like a well thrown boomerang, we return to the beginning somewhere, and if we're not writing for searchbots, but for humans, then they should understand us. But honestly: do you think that the most common customer in Romania or Liechtenstein knows the difference between automatic, artificial, machine translation and native, "live", artistic translation? For example, the texts of an online shop that is exported to the whole of Europe and sells, for example, crayon sharpeners or other trivial banalities? He/she probably doesn't know...

But when it's not about graters, but top content – including yours – it's about something else. You know how Neil Patel did "localization"? He had his "parent" website machine-translated into the 30 most widely used languages and regretted it rather quickly. He received an avalanche of disgusted comments on the defiling of the original site by local translations accompanied by a dramatic rate of exits. So he turned the sails around and focused on live, professional, local translators, increased the number of languages to 82 and saw a crazy increase in traffic. He commented on the whole experiment as follows:

"Overall, site traffic and page views have increased dramatically. My click-through rate has also increased. After making this change, I saw a 47% increase in overall traffic. Plugins and online translation tools do not work well. They simply fail to capture the nuances of different languages. They almost always contain major errors that are easy to detect. If someone reads the content in broken Spanish, they probably won't remain. Always remember to optimize your best content with the best possible translation."

And you know about this?

Just as it is always problematic to translate a hilariously clever joke, but one that works in only one language, we can also encounter local language pitfalls when translating online shop texts for localization. One untranslatable example for everyone: “I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.”

What needs to be added?

Let's not make the unnecessary mistakes that others have made for us, and let's avoid admittedly honest, hard, perhaps passionate and diligent work on things that don't work, don't produce results and are practically meaningless. Let's not waste precious time, energy and money on trial-and-error-disaster testing and focus on best practices that work. Because today we have no time to waste. Let's not look for shortcuts, but functional and proven expert models for locating a business abroad applied by experts.

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