For websites and online stores to be globally successful, they need to be translated. But translations alone are no longer enough; the pages and applications must be localised, i.e. integrated into the language and culture of the target country.
Localisation is important, as indicated by a survey reporting that nearly 70 per cent of consumers were more likely to shop on websites in their native language. Personally, I also prefer to shop in online stores available in Finnish, where I can have my familiar payment and delivery options and customer service in Finnish.
In addition to translating the text, localisation is concerned with the entire user experience as a whole. This means accounting for the target culture, customs and habits, not simply the language. The target audience should be addressed in the appropriate style, prices localised in the right currency and numbers and symbols marked in accordance with target country practices. Attention should also be paid to the payment and delivery options as well as to the legislation of the target country. In other words, localisation is more than just the translation of language, but language is an important part of it.
Zalando – Europe’s number one online store
Have you ever mistaken Zalando for a Finnish online store? According to a survey conducted by Paytrail, a large proportion of consumers think that online stores such as Zalando are Finnish. This is no wonder when, for example, the online store, customer service and advertisements are in fluent Finnish. However, Zalando is a German online fashion store. According to a survey conducted by Postnord, Zalando is the largest online store in Europe, alongside Amazon. According to the same survey, Zalando is also the largest online store in Finland.
Zalando operates in more than 20 countries across Europe, and the online store is localised in more than 15 different languages. In addition to the website, Zalando’s localisation also comprises customer service, payment methods and marketing, for example, all of which are available in the language of the target audience. During a podcast, Delphine Mousseau, Zalando’s former Marketing Vice President, gives a good example of how important it is to localise payment methods, for example. In addition to online and card payment options, Zalando’s online store in Italy offers cash as a payment option, as many Italians do not have a bank account. By offering cash as a payment method, Zalando was able to gain more customers while also improving customer satisfaction rates. In Belgium, changing the language from standard French to the Belgian variant had an effect on customer satisfaction as well.
One of the key factors in Zalando’s great success is undoubtedly the investment in localisation. According to one source, every euro Zalando spends on localisation generates up to five times more revenue in return. Zalando would not have succeeded in so many countries and grown into an e-commerce giant in just a few years without competent localisation. In the case of Zalando, localisation has proven successful and paid off as an investment.
Other brilliant localisations from around the world
The AirBnB website and app are available in up to 62 different languages. In addition to AirBnB’s own content, user-generated content, such as accommodation reviews, are localised in the user’s language. After booking accommodation, AirBnB also offers localised tour guides to the area the person is travelling to. Localisation has been taken even further to personalisation.
Nintendo’s customers do not want westernised or altered versions of the games. Thus, Nintendo localises its games and related marketing materials already during game development. This way, the consumers do not get the feeling of Nintendo’s localised game being an alternative version to the original.
And, believe it or not, just over 10 years ago Netflix was only available in the United States and in English. Nowadays, Netflix offers the entire application localised, along with subtitles for movies and series in a variety of languages. In addition, a dubbed version of much of the content is also available, as dubbing is very common in countries in Southern and Central Europe, for example, while in Finland, with the exception of children’s films and series, we are used to watching foreign-language content with Finnish subtitles. Netflix has succeeded in understanding its international customers and their needs, providing localised and interesting content.
Localisation stories from Finland
In addition to Finland, Marimekko is also popular in Asia, especially in Japan. In fact, Asia is Marimekko’s second largest market. Japan has a significant network of Marimekko stores, and Marimekko’s online store is also localised in Japanese. The secret to Marimekko’s success in Japan probably lies in the similarities between the two cultures. In both countries, nature and simple design are a big part of everyday life. While strong colours and floral patterns appeal to the Japanese, it is only through localisation that Marimekko becomes easily approachable.
The Finnish health technology company Oura Health also invests in localisation. Localisation is part of Oura’s global mission to encourage people to take responsibility for their own health. Oura focuses on localising its content in those areas where it is most needed and contributes most to growth. What makes Oura special in terms of localisation is that, according to the company, localisation is something they see as crucial for the company’s growth. According to localisation specialist Tarja Karjalainen, the company exports Oura rings to more than 100 countries and an integral part of the growth strategy is gaining market shares through localisation.
Why should we localise content?
Localisation can increase your net revenue and customer base and improve customer satisfaction rates, brand recognition and credibility, among other things. You can increase your sales with professional and convincing localisation.
However, localisation is not a one-off cost; different language versions require maintenance, and marketing in a foreign language is expensive. When it comes to localisation, the degree of profitability to the company’s business should be weighed. Localisation is an investment, so it should also have a return. Before starting a localisation project, it is worth considering which markets and languages should be accounted for in the localisation in order to maximise the benefits.
Therefore, do not make hasty decisions about localisation, but consider whether it could actually bring business benefits. Try to assess the profitability of localisation in advance and measure it after the project is completed. It is not a good idea to include every possible language, and sometimes it can be a good idea to delete overly expensive language versions.