Say, you are checking out a few items for sale on a website. If you see pictures of a person belonging to a region or culture different from yours using those products, how likely are you to buy that product? I’d say, probably not as likely as when you see someone from your region which you can relate more easily.
In the first article of this series, we looked at the history of eCommerce and how it opened up many doors for small and big businesses. It helped them find and cater to customers beyond the boundaries of cities, states, and countries. Today, all eCommerce brands have a diverse customer base – their customers speak different languages, belong to different cultures, and have varied sensibilities. Localisation comes really close to providing a personalised eCommerce experience to individual customers.
However, eCommerce localisation is easier said than done. Localising every element of your website – language, visuals, descriptions, symbols – can be pretty challenging. One must have an in-depth experience of that particular culture and be a native speaker of the language to do an excellent job localising the website. Hence, many brands seek help from eCommerce localisation services to create a culturally relevant experience for their customers.
Localisation, when done wrong, can offend your customers or cause them to lose their trust in your brand. In this article, we’ll discuss some eCommerce localisation mistakes brands have made and the lessons we can learn from them.
When Snapdeal sounded funny in multiple languages
After realising that a major part of their customer base in India consisted of non-English speakers, many eCommerce brands rushed to make their sites available in multiple Indian languages. Among these languages were Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu.
Snapdeal, too, got its interface translated into multiple languages through machine translation. While this decision was expected to be met with cheers from their non-English speaking Indian customers, it resulted in many inaccurate translations.
For instance, the product tagline for Davidoff Cool Water Men (125 ML) was translated to ‘एक सूक्ष्म अभी तक बोल्ड छाप बनाता है’ in Hindi. If you are a native speaker of Hindi, you would know that something is not quite with the translation. When translated to English, the Hindi tagline means “one subtle till now makes a bold imprint.” For instance, ‘अभी तक’ when translated to English means ’till now, and not ‘yet.’
Snapdeal chose the machine translation route as “they upload over hundreds of products and associated content online on a daily basis.”
Each language is very culture-specific and carries certain nuances that need to be considered while translating. These nuances can only be understood by a human translator who is a native speaker and can understand the cultural context well. Snapdeal failed to understand the importance of this context and may have lost its customers’ trust.
Takeaway: If your eCommerce brand has a consistent requirement of translation and localisation projects, it would be wise to seek the help of a human translation service that can handle enterprise volume. Getting an expert to proofread your translations will ensure that you correctly communicate information and marketing messages.
When Best Buy thought “what’s in a name?”
The famous electrical appliance eCommerce brand Best Buy acquired China’s Five Star Appliance in 2006. With this bold step, Best Buy aimed at replicating its success in China’s retail market. In order to appeal to its Chinese target audience, Best Buy localised its brand name to “百思买” (Bǎisīmǎi). This name was a combination of words that, when transliterated, was ‘best’ (Bǎisī) and ‘buy’ (mǎi). Now, Bǎisī in Chinese means “think deeply.” This translation made the Chinese connect this brand name with the famous Chinese idiom – No matter how hard you think, you will never think it out.
This interpretation worked completely against Best Buy’s message as it told people to “think twice before buying.” This localisation mistake was reflected in the fact that Best Buy’s local searches in China didn’t even exceed 500 after its launch.
Takeaway: Best Buy made the mistake of not considering the cultural and linguistic nuances of its audience in China. If you are planning to launch your brand in a new market, localising your brand name is a great idea. A localised name will help create a great brand recall value among your audience.
However, it’s essential that you seek the help of native speakers. Your localised brand name must convey your brand’s primary marketing message in the best possible way to make a great impact.
When eBay’s organic traffic suffered due to SEO issues
Given the large number of pages and descriptions, eCommerce sites have, ‘thin content’ is a recurring issue for quite a lot of them. For Google, any content that matches these characteristics is ‘thin content’:
EBay’s fall in search ranking happened mainly due to its category pages with just a few lines of text for each product and many links to similar product pages. When Google updated its algorithm to identify low-quality content, eBay lost more than 33% of its organic traffic. It fell from position 6 to position 25 within three days.
Takeaway: If your eCommerce website has multiple pages, they all contribute to its SEO. Hence, your translation service must provide SEO-friendly translations that maintain your SEO ranking and improve your site’s ranking in local searches.
When Target didn’t quite hit the bull’s eye in Canada
For a U.S. based company like Target, it would have been easy to expand its reach to Canada. U.S. and Canada have quite a few similarities, and Canadians have shown great love for Target stores in the U.S. However, the brand shut down its stores after two years of launching it in Canada. While people blamed bad customer service, inadequate logistics, and a hurried launch plan for Target’s failure, its unimpressive online localised experience was a factor too.
Canada has two official languages – English and French. Target’s website was not localised or translated for 7.2 million French-speaking Canadians, except for the check-out page. Also, the website allowed customers to select their currency as USD when the selected region would be ‘Canada.’ This meant that customers saw double the item cost at check out as the total amount would include Canadian taxes and duties.
Takeaway: Before launching your eCommerce website into a new market, it’s wise to ensure that you have a localised customer experience. This experience includes researching the target region’s linguistic diversity and translating content to make it convenient for every customer to access information on your site. Also, localising currencies and prices are essential. Confusing the customer at the check-out stage leads to cart abandonment and loss of trust.
Creating an end-to-end localised experience for your eCommerce brand takes time, effort, and money. On the other hand, localising your eCommerce listings or website is half the battle won. You would’ve done your part to ensure that your potential customers feel like the entire experience was designed especially for them. And what is better than appealing to your customers in all parts of the world?