The world today is more open and connected than it has ever been. The global economy delivers a wealth of opportunities even for relatively small businesses to expand and compete in new locations. Each new opportunity presents the challenge for organisations to make their contact with customers in disparate parts of the world engaging and culturally relevant.

It is no longer enough to just have one website in one language; localisation of your website for the target market is now an essential. To truly stay ahead of the curve in 2015 organisations need to look at combining localisation with an added layer of personalisation.

Can you afford not to localise?

Many organisations are already operating with some success in multiple geographical locations using their main single language promotions and website. For those businesses it may be tempting to believe that there is no need to expend time and effort, not to mention budget, on localisation. However, recent research by the Common Sense Advisory reveals just how valuable localisation can be. Their survey of 3,002 consumers in 10 countries revealed that 55% of respondents will only purchase through websites where information is presented in their native language, and for those with limited English skills this rises to a staggering 80%. The question for those in control of the budget shouldn’t be ‘can we afford to localise our sites?’ but ‘can we afford not to?’

Localisation through transcreation

Successful localisation of a website or marketing campaign relies on more than simply translating into new languages. Consideration needs to be given to cultural sensitivities, the characteristics and desires of the local audience and the ways in which key messages will need to be refined to work in the local market. Images and phrases that are acceptable in one culture may be considered strange or even offensive in another. All of these factors need to be taken into account when translating a website. A direct translation of online text can easily obscure intended messages about your products and can discourage potential users from engaging with your site in the way you would like them to. Transcreation takes the essence of a message and recreates it into a new language or dialect. This ensures that the impression and information a customer takes from their contact with your organisation has the same meaning and evokes the same emotions as it did in the original source language.

Local feel, global reach

Consumers are naturally more open to dealing with organisations that present them with information in a way that works for them. Give your international website customers the choice to individually specify their country and their language, presenting them with the relevant information for their area in their preferred language to make the transaction as smooth and simple as possible. Display dates and times in the preferred local format, this avoids any confusion which could occur if, for example, a UK-based numerical date of Day/Month/Year is displayed to a US customer where it would be understood as Month/Day/Year. For transactional websites it is important that all prices are displayed in the local currency and that the shipping information is clear and includes all local taxes and charges. This may seem like a daunting list of specifications that need to be met, however, third party tools are available that can help to automate all of these processes allowing international companies to quickly and simply give their websites a local feel.

Start small, think big

The size of your organisation should not be a barrier to localisation. Start with localising a few key campaigns, products and pages in the markets that you feel would have the greatest impact and test the effectiveness. Many smaller businesses are successfully gaining international sales through localised websites. Research by OC&C revealed that small and mid-sized retailers such as Isabella Oliver and Farfetch, currently receive nearly half (47%) of their online searches from overseas and tend to ship to more countries and offer multi-lingual sites. By offering localised sites with local customer service in key markets these brands are gaining traction over their larger competitors that have been slower to take up the challenge of becoming a local international brand.


Once a site has been adapted to a local market, organisations should consider also adding in a layer of personalisation to make for a truly unique browsing experience. Automated tools are readily available to help companies utilise the data that is collected to create a unique, tailored experience for both new and existing customers by adapting the content shown based on browsing history and preferences. Creating a website that speaks your customer’s language (both literally and figuratively) and shows them engaging and relevant content helps to build a trusted relationship between company and customer.

Organisations that adapt their marketing and online content to the relevant audience will ultimately succeed in creating a global brand. In this way global campaigns and initiatives can be tailored to the needs of each market and a relevant and engaging experience created for the local audience and specific individuals. Ultimately, the time and care spent by companies on combining localisation and personalisation will take your website to the next level – getting you closer to your customers.


By Emma Acton, Senior Director of Marketing, EMEA & APAC at Acquia. 

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