E-commerce platforms, company websites, landing pages, apps, and other similar platforms have a common denominator – communication.
All these platforms are created to communicate a message to as many people as possible. In fact, the online environment can be the one-way ticket to success for any brand regardless of size and product(s). The trick is to know how to grab and retain people’s attention enough to make them want to know more.
For this, you must find creative ways to deliver attention-grabbing and succinct content, in a format and shape that’s easily shared and understood.
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Sounds easy enough, right? After all, the modern consumer spends hours browsing online (6h and 42 minutes each day), and everyone’s first go-to resource is Google.
However, the situation is more complex and nuanced than this. While it’s true that your audience is online, so is your competition, various sources of entertainment, news & media outlets, lots of education platforms, and social media! This means you have to fight hard for people’s attention, and the only way to do so is by creating relevant and engaging content.
Furthermore, if you want global brand development and growth, you must make sure you speak your audience’s language (not everyone speaks or reads English).
Since you are growing a business in what specialists call the content economy, it’s crucial to address the audience in a language they understand. As such, website translation is the first step to a successful brand development at a global level.
We are going to talk about the reasons why this step is important for your business and how to implement it without wasting precious resources.
Why Translate your Website?
The success of a global brand is defined by the way marketers understand to approach the local culture and population. This is a process called localization and starts with the translation of the website in the local language.
Of course, depending on your development plans, a translation of the entire site may not be necessary. For instance, some brands make do with just a few pages addressed to local customers.
However, big and small e-commerce companies will have to consider translating products and services if they want to be successful. This is one of the reasons why Amazon has such great success overseas. They established several hubs in the most populated areas of the globe (such as Germany, UK, India, China, and more) and the site is available in the most popular language of the area.
Of course, you might argue that Amazon is a global power with resources that are rarely available to any brand. This is true now, but they didn’t start from a high position – the e-commerce giant we know today started small and built their way up using clever tactics and genius marketing techniques.
While it may be more difficult to follow in their footsteps in the current economic environment, it doesn’t mean you can’t use the power of language to grow your audience.
Culture vs. Language
A successful website translation is not just about language; it’s also about integrating local culture and habits. Linguists call this localization.
Unlike regular translation, localization also addresses non-textual and cultural components in order to create an accurate depiction of a product or service for a specific group of people. It’s about adapting the message so locals can grasp all its nuances.
In fact, all successful global websites, apps, video games, or any other type of content is the result of both translation and localization.
Furthermore, localization is not just for foreign countries who speak a different language. A website with content in English will still have to use localization techniques in order o become appealing to audiences in Australia or the UK.
The best way to see how localization at work is by taking a look at the case of sportive footwear. What Americans consider sneakers are called trainers in the UK and runners in Ireland. Now, all these words define one type of product, but if you try to sell sneakers in the UK, you won’t be very successful because people don’t understand what you’re offering.
In summary, it’s not a case of culture vs. language but rather a case of using language and culture to promote your brand.
How to Translate a Website?
Depending on your budget and overall intentions, there are two ways to website translation and localization: a DIY approach and a collaboration with professional linguists and specialists.
Let’s have a quick look at each of these:
The DIY Approach
If you have the necessary knowledge to produce reliable and high-quality translations, then it is possible to do it yourself. However, it is not an approach we would recommend since it requires a great deal of knowledge from two opposing fields: language and web technology.
Most websites use a specialized programming language (such as Python) to create different linguistic versions of the same site that will be available based on the location of each user. While learning Python online is not difficult, you still need technical knowledge of resource distribution, web servers, and more.
The DIY approach only works when you’re running a small website or creating stand-alone landing pages for a language you know very well. Otherwise, if the website is larger (like an e-commerce platform) or you’re using automated translation tools (like Google Translate), the chances of success are slim to none.
Professional Collaboration Approach
You are willing to invest in a strong marketing department right? You are also ready to send people and investigate the market you want to enter. So, it would be unwise to not consider a collaboration with an experienced translation and localization company as well!
It’s also important to keep in mind that you will need translations of the website content, products, marketing materials, and legal documents (for contracts, agreements, labor laws, and more). As such, you will need assistance from linguists with varied expertise.
The good news is that there are specialized tools that can help automate the translation process on an e-commerce platform. These tools connect the translators with your platform and give them access to the content that needs to be translated or edited. As such, there is no middleman to send the content to the translator and then publish it on the site.
Human Translation vs. Machine Translation
Machine translation is done by automated software that can perform reliable translations and a certain degree of localization (as specified in its settings). This type of translation is used when there’s a large volume of content and the result doesn’t have to be very nuanced and is not influenced by local culture and values.
For instance, a site like Amazon can use machine translation for their product descriptions. If they would use human translators, it would be a huge investment that will slow down the process of launching the website.
However, they will use highly qualified human translators for all their marketing and legal materials, since this is where localization matters. Also, the main pages of the website (such as About US, Contact, Return Policy, or the Home Page) should be created using human editors and proofreaders.
Website Translation vs. Content Translation
As we mentioned at the start of the article, we’re currently living in a content economy. This means that brands must keep creating engaging content in order to grab people’s attention and lead them to their landing pages. Once there, viewers must be welcomed by a different type of content that will convince them to become customers.
As such, there is a clear distinction between website and content translation. If you only need to translate your website once, content is something that must be produced at a constant rate. Content must also be relevant and topical in order to stand out in the ocean of new content created every day.
Furthermore, different audiences require content in different formats. And, depending on the geographic location of your audience, you may have to use different channels. This implies knowing which social media platform works in a specific region, whether blogging is well-received or not, and more.
Lastly, successful brands will also keep track of content produced by their users such as reviews, comments, or blog articles. This type of content has a sense of urgency to it, as you can lose momentum if the reply comes too late. As a result, collaboration with a translation agency that can provide input in local culture and habits is more than necessary to keep track of various campaigns.
The success of any brand is directly related to customer satisfaction. For this, brands must promote open communication and trust, which can only be done with the right message.
Now, a local brand can make do with the help of a great marketing team, but global brands can’t achieve success without the help of highly qualified translators and their tools. As you learned from our article, there are different types of translations and tools that companies can use. In conclusion, the success of a well-organized global campaign comes from combining all the tools and talent at your disposal.
It may be a larger initial investment than expected, but it is worth the extra effort!