Website localization means making your website look and feel local to your target audience. This involves much more than just translation into another country’s official language. It means adapting all your website content to the local culture and language.
But do prospects care if your website feels local to them? They do. First, because if you want to sell in one country, but use a non-localized variant of its official language in your product descriptions, your prospects may never even find your product in the first place.
For instance, many French words mean one thing in France, but another in Quebec. If you list your alcoholic beverage as “liqueur” on your Canadian French website, your Quebecois clients will never find you, because in Quebec “liqueur” means soft drink.
But even apart from the obvious question of language, the fact is that people generally relate more to content that refers specifically to their culture. According to a 2014 article published on Marketing Week, “more than half (53%) of the UK’s black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) population say they prefer to purchase from brands they feel ‘meaningfully’ represent their culture.”
This means that adapting your website content — images as well as words — to your prospects’ culture will give you an advantage over your competitors who overlook localization.
So, in order to successfully localize your website, here are three aspects to remember.
1. Respect the local variant of the language
When you speak to your prospects in their everyday language, you help them find your product and understand your descriptions. Don’t just translate your website into Spanish — localize it to the Spanish variant spoken in your target market. This will make a huge difference. For instance, did you know that “manteca” means “lard” in Mexico, but “butter” in Argentina?
2. Localize your website images
We’re not talking only about images that contain text, though of course those must be localized as well. But think also of the cultural aspect of images. Do your models belong to the same ethnicity as your prospects? Are the landscapes and activities your ads portray relevant to your audience?
For instance, imagine a sports brand that advertises their hiking shoes by showing people hiking in snowy mountains. Their ads may have perfect visuals, but they won’t feel relatable to most prospects in a country where it does not snow.
3. Take other elements into account
There are many cultural elements that vary from one place to another and have an impact on how clients interact with your product and website. For instance:
• in countries where the alphabet is written from right to left, that’s how people “read” images as well, so a sequence of images in an ad should go from right to left
• the same color can have different meanings — for instance, red signals danger in some cultures, but joy in others — so you must be careful to adapt your ads’ colors to the local perceptions
• sometimes local superstitions that you have no idea of can ruin your product name or ad — for instance, the Chinese never say the number “four” aloud, because it sounds too much like the word “death”.
For all these reasons, it’s crucial that the translation agency you work with can provide not only translation services, but localization services as well. A team of native localizers will ensure that you get all the linguistic and cultural nuances right on your website. And this in turn will enable you to attract your foreign prospects — and turn them into customers.