Translation is NOT enough - localization makes the difference
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executives and web designers spend lots of time worrying
about why, when, and where visitors leave their websites.
As such, Common Sense Advisory sought to uncover the
reasons visitors leave across the buying experience
as visitors transitioned from casual visitor to browser
to shopper to buyer to customer. We conducted an eight-nation
survey of over 2,400 consumers who answered questions
in their national language about their behavior and
preferences for website visits and purchases across
a wide range of product types. Our survey focused
on their preferences for buying in English or in their
own language, having products supported in local language
or English, and what events or factors caused them
to abandon websites.
were asked to rank eight reasons for leaving a website,
categorizing them across six stages of an online interaction:
- Enter. Based on first impression
upon arriving at a website, the visitor determines
whether or not to stay and look around – or immediately
- Browse. The visitor clicks around
to see what is there or searches the site to find
something specific. Lack of immediately identifiable
content in the visitor’s native language exponentially
increases the likelihood of his early departure
from the site.
- Shop. At this stage, visitors
find an item they are interested in, and check pricing
and availability. They may also check shipping and
legal terms. Absent clear indication of local currency
pricing and shipping information, many would-be
buyers bail at this juncture.
- Register. This phase involves
the visitor submitting personal information through
web forms. It may happen with or without the shopping
and buying steps. Forms that don’t accept addresses
in the format used in their country – that is, forms
that have not been internationalized – will cause
another layer of buyers to peel away and look elsewhere.
- Buy. The visitor enters payment
and shipping info and completes a transaction. A
committed buyer has jumped through all hoops. But
the final sale is not the end of the relationship
sooner or later, there will be another interaction.
- Support. The visitor requires
post-sales support by phone, e-mail, or web. As
soon as a buyer of your product needs assistance,
he will return to your site or call you. Inadequate
language support at this critical moment determines
whether or not that visitor will ever buy from you
again. Data from our survey showed that post-sales
support in the local language is much more important
than at the point of sale.
We categorized the reasons for leaving
across the buying experience as visitors transitioned
from casual visitor to browser to shopper to buyer
- The uncommitted can bail out at
any time. Sites can make only one first impression.
First-time visitors review the look and feel of
the site, sense the performance as they browse,
and decide whether or not to spend more time there.
Some exit immediately, driven away by slow page
loads, unclear navigation cues, or by the site’s
rapid reversion to English
- Driven by desire or need, searching
and shop ping begin. Actively browsing the site,
visitors search for something they want to buy.
At this stage, they might find an item and check
pricing, availability, shipping charges, and maybe
even customs terms if they are savvy international
shoppers. Some may find the cost too highand leave.
Others may find that their English-language skills
– adequate or “fairly good” up to this point – are
not up to the task of reading lengthy, complex legal
- Buying adds a “localization” concern
to navigation and forms. Visitors who decide to
buy must provide personal details and payment information.
They may find that data forms on the site haven’t
been adapted to their country, so they cannot enter
phone or postal code data. Some of the logical structure
or functions of the English-language site are missing
or not translated. They might discover after filling
out a form that the site won’t accept their credit
cards or ship to their country. Once you pass that
hurdle, you can begin building a lifetime relationship
with your new customer. But only if you remember
that the customer experience does not end with a
delivered product – and that you need localized
support to tie the knot.
UNDERSTANDING BUYING BEHAVIORS
OF INTERNATIONAL CONSUMERS
So how does all this translate into
buying behaviors? People peel off at different stages
based on their language confidence. We did find some
commonality among all visitors, regardless of their
comfort level with English – the need for speed. “The
site is slow to load” outscored all other choices
for both groups.
- Language and pre-commerce issues
drive away low-or-no English visitors. After sluggishness,
the top reasons less proficient visitors leave a
site include quick reversion to English, lengthy
agreements to read, requirements to provide too
much information, and the prospect of paying hefty
shipping costs. Next up on their list of site turnoffs:
the absence of transaction support for their country,
followed by the inability of the site to accept
local credit cards. Finally, too much animation
and graphics diverted their attention from the transaction.
- Commerce issues drive away English-proficient
visitors. The demand for too much information followed
slow-to-load as the most cited reason for these
people to leave a site, reflecting the universal
challenge of registration and pre-purchase data
collection forms. Next, the lack of transaction
support for their country, lengthy agreements, and
shipping costs sent them on their way. If they managed
to get past all of those pre-purchase hurdles, the
site’s inability to accept credit cards from that
country derailed their purchases. Finally, animation
and graphics, along with a reversion to English,
trailed their reasons for leaving a site.
WEBSITE GLOBALIZATION POSES CHALLENGES
Real problems and tough
choices hobble the plans of many companies globalizing
their web presence – whether they’re first-time localizers
or firms revising multilingual sites. Many blanch
at the idea of translating the massive quantities
of content at their sites, but we have found that
it’s not the translation that gets in the way. Instead,
the bigger challenge is organizational.
A global web presence demands a coordinated
and harmonized brand and messaging, consolidated database
and content efforts, and matrixed IT, marketing, and
operational organizations. For most companies, this
happens in stages, usually after several failed attempts.
Each failure increases the sense of urgency and competitive
anxiety. What should you do to increase your chance
of crossing the global chasm?
- Be realistic. Don’t pull any punches.
Website globalization is a classic good news, bad
news story. The good news is successful localization
will bring more visitors and good business. The
bad news is that it costs a lot to get started –
and the costs don’t go away. The initial work revolves
around deciding to go global, aligning the forces,
deciding on your approach, internationalizing the
infrastructure, and designing global templates,
local business logic, and operational process. Longer
term, you must budget for running, maintaining,
supporting, and enhancing the localized content
and functionality for each market you choose to
enter. Be realistic about costs and returns as you
build your business model for website globalization.
- Put somebody in charge. This job
crosses many business units – and it won’t likely
go away any time soon. 
It takes time, budget, resources from marketing,
IT, and operations, plus management oversight to
make globalization work. Smart executives realize
that their company’s web presence is a key strategic
asset for communication and commerce. Global by
nature, the website presence must be owned by someone
with the power to make things happen.
People buy from you today, from your
competitors tomorrow. Whether they’re buying iPods
or I-beams, international customers begin their buying
cycle online, where they can get answers to their
frequently asked questions, product information, and
transactions — all in their local languages. Prospects
can review product offerings, safety advisories, technical
data, and competitive descriptions.
Tailoring services to local languages
and customs is a natural extension to personalized
marketing, creating a personally and culturally relevant
experience that will strengthen the customer relationship
and improve customer satisfaction. After all, people
won’t buy what they can’t understand. And they can’t
buy if you haven’t enabled transactions supporting
local buying practices and credit cards.
ABOUT COMMON SENSE ADVISORY, INC
Common Sense Advisory, Inc.
is a research and consulting firm committed to the
objective analysis of the business practices, services,
and technology driving translation, localization,
and business globalization. Its analysts deliver in-depth
reports on topics including: website and translation
content management; translation services and best
practices; product and website localization; software
supporting international business; on- and off-line
ethnic marketing and messaging; and more. The firm
also provides hands-on consulting and training to
global business teams. For more information, visit
Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Spain,
“Localization Maturity Model,” Common Sense Advisory,
“Chief Globalization Officer,” Common Sense Advisory,
News Magazine - www.clientsidenews.com
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