Localization

If your customers are American, they expect to see words like “shipping” and “cart.” If they’re in the UK, they typically expect language like “bag” and “trolley.” 

But should you always localize your website? That was the recent question tackled by Paul and Shiva on It Depends. 

When considering localization, you need to:

  • Consider cost implications
  • Consider brand trust
  • Consider the maintenance required

Tip #1: Consider the cost implications 

“Probably the “it depends” is to the level of doing it, of the cost implications for localizing particular product elements and things like that. Not that I would say that you want to go with the default language, but it could be the place where you start, if you wanted to do that. I've seen lots of places just use the Google Translate element instead of having to translate every single piece. I've also seen where organizations have wanted to personalize content specific to an audience. It may be a developer or a CIO or a CTO, they want to talk to differently. And my “it depends” on that one is, yeah, it makes sense, that personalization. It's more specific, it's more relevant. But there's a big overhead there. You're going to have to write more copy. That means that it takes more development. You need additional resources,” Paul said. 

Making updates to one website is fairly simple. But making changes across four different versions of personalized and localized sites can be a more daunting process. 

The “it depends” comes down to the question of scale. How much will you personalize, and where? 

There’s no doubt that localized translations reduce customer conflict and increase confidence. It’s fairly quick to change default values in Shopify, in which case there’s no question that you should go for it. But before you put extensive efforts into copy, consider the level of effort—and therefore cost—involved. 

Tip #2: Consider brand trust 

“Localization in theory, if you can do it, just do it. However, there is that ROI calculation of effort to rewrite the site. And if you're just using Google Translate, you may actually decrease your brand trust rather than increase it if the translations just don't make functional sense to a local,” Shiva said.

If the quality of your localization efforts goes south, it means that customer trust and confidence will take a nosedive.

As discussed above, localization done properly will enhance customer trust. But done poorly, it can actually backfire if it looks like it was done halfheartedly thanks to shortcuts like Google Translate. 

Tip #3: Consider the maintenance required 

When it comes to cost, remember that the dollar signs involved go far beyond the initial setup. You also have to think about upkeep and maintenance over time.

“There's also the cost not only from a copy perspective, but from a resourcing perspective. I was thinking more specifically on the dev side to create a whole other copy of the site. And then there's a lot of overhead to maintain both of those. If you have seven, eight locations, there's that techno technical overhead. You're going to hire a whole localization team of translators. There's so much effort in doing that,” said Shiva

Theoretically, localization is not an “it depends:” you should do it as much as you can. But the extent of your efforts will come down to ROI. As Shiva says, “is the juice worth the squeeze?” It’s a question that all companies undertaking localization must consider. 

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