Translating your website into a new foreign language can create an exciting opportunity for your brand to attract new audiences. While website translation helps you make a good first impression, it can also subconsciously influence an audience on an emotional level. To be more specific, it shows that you have invested time, money and effort in order to speak to them in their own language, proving a better customer experience. This can only be beneficial for you, because it shows that you would similarly go the extra mile in order to keep them happy and satisfied.
It makes sense to wonder whether you should go all the way with website translation, especially considering that some of your audience would make do with an English version. But try just for a moment to get in the shoes of a customer who wants to make a small purchase that is as simple as a gift in a souvenir shop.
Pretend that you are a tourist from China, walking in the centre of Athens, looking for souvenirs to bring back home to your friends. As you are walking down the narrow streets, you can’t help but notice that there are numerous souvenir shops, all offering pretty much the same products, in the same price-range, thus making it difficult for each shop to stand out and for you to decide where to buy from. As you are exploring your options you enter some of the shops and ask the owners what to buy. In a few shops, the salespeople may not even speak English and may communicate with gestures, unaware of the fact that some of these gestures might be offensive to some of the customers. There may be shops where salespeople are comfortable with English, while other shop owners are more fluent and able to provide details about each product and what it represents.
Yet, there might be one shop where the salesperson happens to speak Mandarin. They are able to explain the history behind each product, express admiration for the long and famed histories of both cultures and even provide rates in yuan. Next to the Greek key chains which are sold to customers and have popular foreign names written on them, they have added a few key chains with nicknames in Mandarin, instead of common names, that mean “close friend” or “cool dude”, because they are aware of the formal significance of first names in Chinese culture, which in itself might be setting an important cultural boundary. Which shop would you be more inclined to buy from?
While the example of the souvenir shops can help one understand why website translation can be beneficial, it also demonstrates why going one step beyond and adapting your offering to your customer’s culture can bring better results and a more positive perception of your brand. The same way the salesperson made the Chinese customer feel special by speaking their language and show appreciation for their culture, the same way you can establish a more personal, approachable and intimate relationship between your brand and target audience by employing website localisation and customizing your website, so that it feels more natural to them.
Although website translation can give a sense that you “speak the same language” with your audience in its literal sense, website localisation allows you to make a strong claim that you understand one another as a result of shared opinions and values that go beyond linguistic comprehension. If website translation is merely about bridging language barriers, localisation is about refining your message and embellishing your brand to meet the cultural expectations of the market you want to explore.