There’s no doubt that the changing digital landscape has impacted the way businesses communicate with their customers, from direct social media engagement to targeted advertising. The introduction of new communication technologies has enabled organisations to communicate with global audiences quickly and more cost effectively than ever before.
However, advances in communication technology have impacted consumer expectations. Collectively we have become a generation of information junkies, expecting to obtain up-to-date, relevant, localised content in real time—whenever we please.
Ten years ago, the web was static and centrally managed, with a one-way flow of information. Marketing spend was focused on traditional media, with websites managed centrally by IT departments. Today’s dynamic web offers unprecedented reach for marketers, providing access to consumers anywhere, anytime. It has become an interactive, collaborative dialogue where brands are publishers, and consumers are in control.
This change in consumer behaviour has meant that organisations need to focus on more than simply translating websites word-for-word. During the website localization process, culture and context need to be taken into consideration. With this in mind, it’s imperative marketing teams choose the right approach for translating their websites and localising content.
Choosing your approach
An organisation’s global position and readiness to enter new markets will help to determine the most effective localisation strategy. For larger organisations, with feet on the ground in more than two or three markets, the centralised hub-and-spoke model is a viable approach. This would help organisations manage global brand messaging.
The role of the hub team will not only be to provide translated content but make suggestions on how the content should be used, amplified, and what has worked well in other markets. The team will be responsible for regularly collating feedback from local markets and updating/streamlining the process. This will help to ensure all markets have what they need to deliver personalised content in real time in conjunction with evergreen content such as product, solution, or service pages.
Smaller organisations looking to enter into new markets for the first time will most likely not have the capital or resources to set up an internal hub to deal with translation and localisation. However, by outsourcing website operations, smaller marketing teams can rely on experts to completely manage, host, and localise websites.
When looking at the translation process itself, it’s important to decipher the emotiveness of the content and the amount that needs to be created. For example, webpages, emails, and marketing content need to be personalised, so taking an original copywriting approach is likely to work best. Content such as product specification sheets and support pages are lower down on the emotive scale, therefore straight translation is the most cost-effective option.
Other approaches include localisation, the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local look and feel. Or transcreation which involves adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone, and context.
Deciding which strategy to take is best demonstrated in the graphic below.
So where to start?
Before looking into hub-and-spoke models, outsourcing, and machine translation vs original copywriting, marketers must base their strategy on research. Marketers can begin by researching new markets to understand the brand’s current position and how it’s perceived. Competitor research will also help establish a set of robust keywords to build content around.
It is also important to set goals for the content, create a content plan and editorial calendar, and outline the social elements that will support the overall campaign ensuring that each of these elements is defined and optimised across all target markets.
Originally published in Digital Marketing Magazine.
About the author
Throughout his 15-year tenure at Lionbridge, Ian Brooks has worked as a software localization engineer and digital content expert, as both a project lead and client consultant. For the past 10 years, he has developed and optimized solutions for global marketing clients—to help streamline operations and transition to new markets across multiple digital channels and platforms.
Now a member of the Global Digital Marketing Services SME (subject matter expert) team, Ian strategizes and develops global marketing solutions based on client needs and market dynamics.