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SDL – Expert’s View

How can retailers best ensure they successfully replicate their domestic brand experience when expanding into international markets?

Whether it’s on the high street or online, when it comes to customer experience, global brands need to take a number of variables into account when communicating with consumers in a way that’s both personalised and relevant. Although language may seem like an obvious component to communicating with a customer appropriately, true language translation often goes beyond traditional translation and can be the differentiating factor in creating an exceptional customer experience and impacts what goes in the shopping cart.

Localised marketing and cultural awareness are especially important when it comes to reaching savvy online millennial shoppers. The first key to an effective global growth strategy is to centralise the web content through a common template that can be broadly machine translated, but then modified at the local level. This way, your brand identity will look consistent without having to sacrifice deployment speed.

Cultural variances are present on the high street, from what products are offered to how they are merchandised, but these nuances are often lost online. Cultural awareness is critical, both in terms of language and visual merchandising. Knowing the local slang (“sneakers” for Americans, “trainers” for Brits and “tennis shoes” for Australians) means that keywords can be tailored to regional preferences, delivering a far more personalised shopping experience than base language alone. Culture also greatly impacts merchandising.

Step one should see you build a language and cultural content strategy. Forty six percent of millennials surveyed by SDL shared that that language plays a critical role in their purchase decision. Retailers are likely already collecting cultural preferences, including language along with other data sets, and if so, the next natural step is to decide how to leverage this data to engage with your customer. Consider looking into more sophisticated options than simply offering two to three language options on the website, such as translation services. These days, savvy online customers pay attention to how technology is used to market to them, so simply offering local language websites, ad hoc and last-minute fixes are not nearly enough. If you can provide relevant experiences, you will have the ability to engage with your customers on their terms.

When it comes to talking to customers you need to target them in their native, not geographic language. Customers live in multilingual settings, even within the same country. In the UK, one in four millennials speak a language other than English at home. In other English speaking countries, the percentage is higher at 32%. By being culturally not geographically sensitive, retailers have an opportunity to reach between a quarter and a third more customers. If you embrace a localisation strategy that is grounded in customer engagement preferences and engages them through culture and conversation that isn’t limited to geographic boundaries, it will be easier to establish trust with your customers.

And finally you need to focus on keeping the conversation active beyond the sale by continuing the conversation in the customers’ language beyond pre-sale, purchase and support. Making a wide range of self-service assets accessible for customers in their language will keep them coming back and engaging with your brand. Five out of six millennials reported to SDL that they connect with brands over social networks, which is a great opportunity to continue to engage with loyal customers beyond the sale in a way that can expand your reach. When customers share information in their language of choice with their networks, it opens the door for you to expand your presence in cultural market segments. In today’s global economy, retailers that are able to replicate the in-store experience and provide a localised approach to online shopping will have a significant advantage. Speaking the language of your customers pays off for the relationship and ultimately your bottom line.

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