SDL blog

Isn't it Time Retailers Took Translation Seriously?

The recent collapse of the UK’s Arcadia group into administration is another example of the need for retailers to embrace the new reality of digital shopfronts and implement an effective online retailing strategy.
Topshop, Arcadia’s leading brand, failed to keep pace with more agile online competitors and while the pandemic undoubtedly accelerated its decline, retail experts pointed to Acadia’s lack of investment in a digital strategy led to an online presence that failed to support its ailing high-street business. 
But this is only part of the story.
Many retailers view international markets as a vehicle for growth and a way to mitigate exposure to one core market. Indeed, having an international online storefront can be a very attractive low-cost route to new markets. 
However, building a brand in international markets first requires overcoming key obstacles, such as the language barrier. It’s now accepted as a simple truth for retailers that if customers “Can’t read”, they “Won’t buy”.

Some retailers believe that English is sufficiently well understood globally, making translation unnecessary. While these retailers target non-Anglophile audiences with some English proficiency, English is not typically the customer’s preferred way of engaging with a brand. The recent increase of competitor sites means that buyers are less likely to engage with English-only brands when offerings in their native language are available.

It’s clear then that building a successful online presence and gaining revenue from international markets depends on speaking your customer’s language. Not only does a translated site provide a far better customer experience, it also defines how prospective customers find your brand online in the first place. And – crucially – language is vital to converting visitors to customers. 

The CSA Research “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” report surveyed 3,000 people in 10 different markets where English was not the primary language and showed just how important language is to conversion rates:

  • 75% prefer content in their native language
  • 60% rarely or never buy from English-only sites
  • 50% prefer sites in their own language and avoid English-language sites completely; making them less likely to engage and convert

One of retailers’ most common questions is “How many languages should I localize my online content into?”

Approximately 90% of the global market is made up of only 15 languages, defined as the Tier 1 languages by CSA Research. When pursuing global expansion, businesses should focus on the 90% because they offer the most coverage to the widest audience and strong potential for return. 

However, Tier 2, made up of another 16 languages or 7% of the global market, offers solid expansion opportunities since these markets are less saturated and can deliver a strong ROI for brands willing to invest.

But, where to start? In a recent paper, The New Frontier: Using localization to fuel online growth, we examine how brands can set themselves up for global success by implementing a localization model that caters to the needs of their target audiences and markets.

The paper offers a few takeaways worth considering when entering new international markets:

  • Are your global content plans aligned with your brand’s strategic plans?
  • What languages are really needed and what impact may culture have?
  • Include language in all customer experience plans and use analytics to validate
  • Low-quality translations will satisfy some buyers, but turn off others
  • Don’t focus simply on cost, instead carefully analyze and evaluate the potential ROI

You can watch our webinar, Why appearing local is the key to success in global eCommerce, where Céline Rodrigues, Localization Manager at Kingfisher shares her views.
Other brands such as RS Components, Best Buy Canada and Under Armour have used targeted localization techniques to optimize the online customer journey and to expand their international business. Want to learn more about creating a successful eCommerce global strategy? Contact us.