Omni-Channel Localization 101
What is Omni-channel localization?
It's localizing every step of the customer experience, from initial contact through post-purchase engagement.
Every interaction with your customer should reflect your brand and your values, but also be readily understood and appealing in local markets. And while you may need to adjust your language, your tone, and your advertising channels from market to market, within each market you need to have consistency from first touchpoint to last.
Start by charting the customer engagement process step-by-step for each market and then do your research. For every step, you need to discover how best to interact with the customers in that market. Customers in Germany engage with companies differently than those in Japan, so discover for each local market which mix of channels your customers prefer, whether it be phone surfing, word-of mouth, social media, etc. What tone do they expect when they receive email communications and how much are they willing to read? How much hand-holding do customers need in each market? Do they want to visit a physical store first to play with the product or are they willing to order directly online?
Don't forget to think about live touch points as well. Call centers should be adequately staffed with people who speak the local language, phone prompts need to be localized, website chat options need native speakers, and social media channels should be chosen for their importance to that community and staffed, again, with native speakers.
Every time your customer reaches out to you or you reach out to her, the experience should be consistent and personalized, from the basics, like only showing products on the localized websites that are actually offered in that market, to ensuring that the translated language has consistent terminology, to true two-way engagement that demonstrates that you understand your customer as well or better than your local competitors.
More than 60% of people prefer to buy from websites in their own language. And Common Sense Advisory also reports that the majority of people will spend more money on a product if the information about that product is in their own language. So it's clearly beneficial to localize your website for each of your markets, but how can you reduce the time and cost involved?
1. Anoint a guru of localization. As with all large corporate-wide initiatives, you need have someone lead the charge--someone who owns localization across the company. Among other things, she should be keeping track of: the different markets for which you'll be creating localized content, the content streams that will need to be translated, the array of social media feeds, and the various product line offerings. In essence, anything that will go on any website needs to be tracked and given a priority ranking.
2. Put a process in place. Planning for localization begins when you start planning for a new product or a new line extension. By building localization into the process from the very beginning you will reduce time and effort later. This does not mean that you should start translating your early draft documents into 15 languages, but that you should be looking at your different markets and determining what sort of customization will need to occur in order to launch in each of those markets.
3. Optimize User Experience For Each Market. When you begin thinking about the websites themselves, you'll need to look at overall user experience, page layout, common usage patterns for the individual markets, local color preferences, and local image preferences. Be aware of how your design will be affected by languages that read right to left, and how languages that have longer words may need more space for navigation. If you're marketing to countries with slower internet speeds, you may need to have fewer images. And, your images should reflect local aesthetics. Also, if you don't plan to offer your entire product line in a particular country, cull your pictures accordingly.
4. Adjust Your Writing Style. Once you've determined the content you will localize, don't translate it word for word, but adjust it for the local market. For example, some markets are more formal than others, some customers expect highly detailed, fact-based product descriptions, while in other markets, you'd be better off with descriptions that are aspirational in nature.
5. Create a standard glossary. This will save a lot of time in the end, especially when it comes to translating technical terms and industry jargon. Each language should have a list of common terms and phrases to ensure consistency throughout all your product and consumer marketing, ensuring that customers see the same term on your website as appears on your tv ads, your brochures, and your product manuals.
6. Localize your SEO. Make sure your titles are translated and accurate, your headers are clear, and your ALT attributes are descriptive. Over time, look at your data through Google's country filter and tweak each site to improve your retention and conversion rates.
These tips should be looked at as a starting point. Localization is an ongoing process. Every new piece of content your marketing department generates needs to be examined for relevancy to each market and with an eye to adjusting it to provide the most value to those customers.
Dramatic Increase in International Visits to Washington D.C. Provides Huge Opportunity. Are You Ready?
RABI partners and our local D.C. team were pleased to attend the Destination D.C. marketing outlook 2015 event. Destination D.C. hosted more than 500 tourism, trade, and local business members for a look at how the tourism and convention business is set to grow in D. C. over the next few years.
We met Destination D.C.'s President and CEO, Elliott Ferguson, who stopped by our table at the event. Great speakers and sessions made the event fun and informative. Some of the fascinating facts that we learned include:
The takeaway from the event? Huge growth in international tourism, especially millennials, represents a major opportunity for savvy companies. Successful businesses should provide support at their events for participants for whom English is not their first language, and they should also localize their marketing materials and social media posts to reach potential visitors in their languages via the marketing media that their audience consumes most.
We can help you provide the best experience and outreach to your market. RABI offers a premier events solution to help plan and organize global events and international conferences and ensure seamless communication through advanced services and technologies. Services we offer include:
Visit redblueint.com/events.html for more information about our events solution and to download our case study, Simultaneous Interpretation: a Commercial Property Company.
Research shows that using pictures or videos in your social media posts, on your website, and in your emails dramatically increases your click throughs. In fact, Forrester reports that videos in emails increase click-throughs by an astounding 200-300%!
In order to get the most from your videos, localize them for all your major markets. Rather than relying on YouTube's built in subtitle service, apply a little advance planning and can create videos that captivate your audience all over the world.
For truly professional looking and sounding videos, hire a localization agency that will create a frame-by-frame transcript of your video. This will ensure that the voice-over starts and ends with the video, with no awkward gaps or overruns.
The agency should also have a roster of professional translators that will adapt your transcript so that it reads as if it were written in the local language, with the right terminology, local slang, etc. You should also ensure that you hire voice-over talents that are native speakers in the languages you want to localize into. Your videos need to sound like they were created by native speakers or you will lose credibility in the marketplace.
Finally, when it comes time to record the videos, be sure to have a monitor in the recording studio with you. The monitor should be a native speaker and able to tell if the voice-over talent inadvertently makes a mistake, allowing you to correct it in the moment. This will save you time and money, because you won't need to schedule another session for re-takes.
By hiring the proper professional talent, and taking the time to pace your transcript and adapt it to fit the local customs and marketplace, you'll create a video that will look and sound like it was created locally, and you will dramatically increase your international audience engagement.
For more specifics on how to achieve great video-voice overs, read our multilingual corporate video case study.
So you're gearing up for a business trip overseas. You've activated an international calling plan, located your passport, and lined up your sales calls. Unfortunately, there just isn't time to learn the language. In most countries, the people you meet with will be able to speak English, but knowing some key phrases in their language will go a long way towards cementing an excellent working relationship. Here are some of the most helpful phrases to master before you go:
1. Hello/Goodbye/Please/Thank you. While perhaps these seem obvious, many people do not take the time to learn them before stepping off the plane. Just being able to say hello to the customer service rep at the hotel desk or thank you to the receptionist who takes your name when you arrive at the office for your meeting will go a long way toward creating a pleasant experience.
2. My name is... and What is your name? Being able to introduce yourself starts a conversation off on the right foot.
3. Where is the bathroom? You definitely don't want to be pantomiming this one, so get it mastered before you arrive.
4. May I have..... or I would like...Either of these phrases paired with a few common requests like water, beer, wine, sandwich, or napkin will enable you to navigate a restaurant. You can even start with "may I have" and then point to what you want on the menu if need be. Just by knowing the opening phrase, you'll seem more civilized and more in control at a business lunch or dinner.
5. Excuse me and I don't understand. At times, especially in larger meetings, you may find that the host group subsides into their own language. If you can interject with excuse me in their language, you'll get the conversation back on track politely.
6. Cheers! or another local toast phrase. Undoubtably, the host will want to take you out for dinner some night. Offer a toast to your host in his language. This lets him know that you appreciate his country and customs.
7. I'm looking for... This can be extremely useful for finding an office, a particular person, a souvenir, a place for lunch, your hotel, etc.
8. Numbers to 10 and How much does this cost? These will help you with paying the bill, buying presents for home, and understanding which floor to take the elevator to when you arrive at the office.
The benefits to having a global team can be huge. You get different perspectives, you tap into expertise that might not be available near you, you can lower your costs, and work gets done while you're asleep. But along with the benefits, come the headaches. You need the team to meet but the Chinese office is closed, or you've requested your San Francisco office be on a 5 am call four times this week and they're starting to rebel. How do you keep your global team engaged, focused, on task, and keep the communication lines open while coping with everyone's schedules?
First. Establish a universal time zone for your team. This may seem simplistic, but it can save you a lot of aggravation. Be clear that when you say the meeting is at 4 pm, that means 4 pm Central Standard Time, and everyone can calculate what that means for their office. Without a standardized time zone, you're in danger of scheduling a meeting one day for 3 pm Pacific Time and the next day 10 am Eastern Time and pretty soon confusion will reign and people will miss meetings. It really doesn't matter what time you choose for universal time, as long as everyone knows what it is.
Second. Make sure everyone on the team knows what time it is for everyone else. One easy way to do this is to enable Google calendar's world clock (under settings, labs). Or as we suggested in an earlier blog, use Time and Date's world clock that shows normal working, sleeping, and away from office times in an easy color coded chart. The point is to have an easy way to find out whether your team is available for the meeting you're trying to schedule.
Third. Schedule a meeting a least once a week for the extended team. This ensures that everyone is really connected to the team, knows what's going on, and is clear about priorities. Encourage questions in these meetings, and try to use a video conference if at all possible so that everyone can get to know faces and see expressions.
Fourth. When on a call, be aware of what time it is for everyone else. You may be taking the call at 9 am and be bright and fresh, but that means your Chinese colleague is on the phone at 9 pm and is probably tired and may not be up for brainstorming. Or your colleague in Seattle may have just woken up. You may want to rotate the time of these calls so that the same people are not always staying late or getting up early. If you do, be sure to rotate on a schedule to minimize confusion.
Fifth. Don't underestimate the importance of in-person meetings. At least twice a year, you should get the whole team together in one place. Nothing beats face-to-face communication. Include activities that are not work related, and ideally change the location so that everyone eventually gets a chance to show off their town, their cuisine, and their work space. Also consider holding a meeting where you have no offices. Then everyone is on neutral territory and the whole team gets to explore together. These face-to-face meetings help create bonds, and give people a chance to learn each other's personality and create shared experiences. Such experiences go a long way toward creating better, more cohesive teams. The payoff will come from your team working better together in the intervening months.
Sixth. Watch your tone and remember there is no such thing as over-communicating. Tone can be hard to read in an email, so assume the best of the sender. Maybe she's having a bad day and is coming across a little brusque. Shake it off and move on. And try to stay away from humor. Jokes often don't come across well in email even if both people speak the same language. If you're communicating with someone who is not a native speaker, the joke is even less likely to be a hit. Do however, try hard to be positive and friendly to overcome the often flat and negative affect that email can have.
If the email you receive is at all ambiguous, respond with a clarifying question. Since you can't just walk down the hall or run into someone at the elevator, you have to be sure that whatever you're working on is crystal clear.
Seventh. Take Time Before Responding. We all get crazed about trying to keep from being buried in email and often we respond too quickly. If someone sends you an email that gets you irked, sure, go ahead a draft a response. Then delete it and start over. In a distributed team, the time zone may work in your favor. If your colleague will not be back in the office for hours, you have plenty of time to calm down and respond with a reasoned reply which hopefully also has some positive suggestions that will steer the matter more in the direction you'd like it to go. It's hard enough to clear up office spats and miscommunications in person, in a global team, these things can fester and cause major problems down the road.
These are just a few of the tips we've learned when working across time zones with large and small groups. It can take more work to get a distributed team running smoothly, but if you're tapping into a wider pool of talent and getting work done 24/7, it's worth the extra effort.
In a recent article in Brand Quarterly, Dr. Nitish Singh discusses how companies have historically centralized their marketing functions, standardized their identity across markets, concentrated on a few brands, and limited their packaging sizes and styles. However, as Dr. Singh explains, these companies should be moving away from standardization and toward localization. If they don’t, they risk missing many great opportunities and could even be offending or alienating potential customers.
In addition to relaying stories about the trouble companies get into when trying to directly translate their name into other languages, Dr. Singh discusses other aspects of localization and how critical it is to understand regional markets and adapt to them.
An interesting point that Dr. Singh makes is that pricing affects perception in the marketplace. He points out that a low-end U.S. brand may actually be a mid-range brand in another country. If you use the same marketing strategy, it’s unlikely to work, given that your consumer perceives a different level of quality. Think about the difference in an ad campaign between a budget furniture brand and a high-end brand. You would probably be confused if the high-end brand used the bright colors, graphics, and jingles that we expect from the budget-priced product. To be successful, you need to adapt your copy and perhaps your look and feel so that your marketing efforts reflect your product placement.
The article also discusses how standardizing your product packaging may limit your sales. In the U.S., consumers often want to buy products in bulk, but in places like India, customers frequently want to buy in very small packages. How can you manufacture and ship smaller packaging, but still price it so that you make a profit? Again, how does it affect your in-country marketing strategy? You need to plan for less room on the packaging itself, consider how to display smaller packages on shelves, and decide which product attributes should be called out on the packaging to appeal to that region's shopper. Don't forget to think about packaging color too. What looks attractive in one country may not appeal in another.
Social media and purchasing methods also vary greatly from country to country. In some countries, more than 50% of purchases are made from mobile devices. In Japan, customers may make the purchase online, but expect to pick up the product in person. You should familiarize yourself with the popular purchase and delivery options for each region, but also think about any disruptive technologies that may put you ahead. If you're used to selling your product online, how can you push mobile purchasing in a market that hasn't yet adopted that method? What incentives will work for those consumers? Note that if you pursue an online strategy you will need to create a site in that region's language. You cannot expect consumers in other countries to purchase from an English language site. In the case of a market like Japan, is there a local delivery company whose services you can engage so that your customer no longer has to go to the store to pick up your product? Consumers are likely to choose your product over your competitors if you make the purchase easier for them.
Companies that research marketing, packaging, and distribution for each regional market can gain a great advantage by creating manufacturing efficiencies where practical, but also tailoring product and consumer marketing where it will lead to greater sales. Don’t just translate the words on your packaging and websites, but adapt the content to appeal to the consumers in each local market. Learn from your successes from the U.S. market, but combine them with what consumers expect from their local shopping experiences and you're more likely to beat out your competition.
As we recently Tweeted, U.S. metropolitan area exports were up $36 billion dollars in 2014, reaching $1.14 trillion. Houston led the way with exports of $119 billion. The next four largest exporting cities were New York, LA, Seattle, and Detroit.(1) But what does this mean for you?
We think it shows that despite the strong dollar, U.S. goods are in high demand, and if you're not looking for opportunities to diversify globally, then you're missing out on potential revenue streams. If you're just getting started, you may want to download the commerce department's export guide. The book strives to answer any questions you may have about exporting.
Also just released at trade.gov, are the 2015 Top Market reports. These reports provide an assessment of future industry-specific export opportunities and an examination of the competitive landscape. Available free for 19 different industries, the reports include sector snapshots and detailed information for specific countries.
Once you've figured out where your industry is heading and what countries are your best bets, be sure to take the time to create a detailed marketing plan for how to enter foreign markets. Pay close attention to what each market's consumers want and talk up those features. Each market you examine may get excited about different aspects of your product, so it's good to do your homework. You may also want to tweak your offerings. For example, in some markets red is a lucky, and highly desired color, but in other markets it may not be popular at all. Just by doing even a little consumer preferences research, you'll increase your chance of success. Remember, it's better to make a good impression from the start, as it can be much harder and more costly to repair a reputation than to build it from scratch.
And finally, don't forget that part of your marketing plan needs to include localization of your marketing materials: videos, website, sales sheets, case studies, and your social media presence. Your overseas prospects are far more likely to buy from you if you market to them in their own language.
In honor of the traditional summer journalism ritual to recommend books for beach reading, we thought we'd give you a list of last year's best translated books for your shoreline reading pleasure.
Fortunately, the weblog Three Percent presents the Best Translated Book Award each year for fiction, and they publish their short list for the top twenty-five, making our job that much easier.
This year's award winner was Can Xue's The Last Lover, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen.
The top twenty-five book list contained entries from all over the world, including Russia, France, Mexico, Argentina, Angola, Rwanda, Finland, and more. Titles ranged from Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires, to Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.
So, even if you're not planning an overseas vacation this summer, you can still get a taste of a different culture. To get the whole top twenty-five list and for more information on the winning book and the contest, visit Three Percent's website.
Conferences draw more and more of their audiences from overseas, and the number of meetings that rotate among at least three countries is up as well. Add in that in March, The Center for Exhibition Industry Research reported the 18th straight quarter of growth for the industry, and you’ll see that in spite of access to conference calls, Skype, and social media, we all really value the chance to meet others in-person and create the deeper connections such opportunities provide. With that in mind, we have a few tips for how to attract international attendees and make sure they go home raving about your conference.
1. Identify your attendees and target them in their language. This seems obvious, but many people don’t think through this carefully enough. In addition to buyers, are you targeting suppliers, partners, or trade groups? Next, market to those groups in their own languages with the content adjusted to reflect what they value and want to learn about. You will come across with much more credibility, plus it will reassure them that your conference really is set-up for international attendees. Bonus tip: check the holiday calendars of your international markets to avoid scheduling your conference when your target attendees are unavailable.
2. Hire an event manager. This is especially important if the conference you’re planning is outside your own country. Event Managers know the local venues and suppliers and can make sure that you get exactly what you need for your conference. If the site you pick is overseas, it may be difficult or too expensive for you to visit more than once before your conference, so an event manager is an essential go-between. Additionally, if there are language barriers, an event manager can help you negotiate contracts and make sure the little details are properly discussed. Your event manager should be local and speak the local language, which means you may find you need to hire an interpreter to work with you and your event manager to be sure you fully understand each other, but in the long run you will save money and reduce your stress level.
3. Offer translation and interpretation services. Although your international attendees are highly likely to speak English, it is not their first language and they may find it difficult to understand all of your speakers and to follow along in fast paced discussions. Think about how hard it can be for you to understand people with heavy accents, even the difference between U.S. English and Irish English can be difficult. Hire interpreters for all your sessions from keynote to breakout in the major languages that are in attendance. If you have interpreters, your Q&A sessions and discussions will be livelier and more inclusive.
Depending on your budget, you may also want to offer to translate key handouts, especially for your high profile speakers. And you should consider having signage in multiple languages if you anticipate a large number of international attendees. Finally, if you plan to communicate conference information through a mobile app or Twitter, you should hire a translator to make your communications available in all the major languages spoken at the conference. This will ensure that all of your attendees are in the loop.
4. Consider cultural differences. Think about how the customs of your international attendees may be different from your own. For example, in many cultures, people drink hot chocolate in the morning or during coffee breaks. In China, food is usually served during coffee breaks. It’s relatively easy and low cost to have muffins or fruit available, and if it makes your attendees happier, why not accommodate them? For dinners, you should offer vegetarian alternatives, and talk to your caterer to get his advice about the dietary customs of other cultures.
Be prepared for your international attendees to be extremely punctual or perhaps more than fashionably late, based on their own cultural norms. German attendees are likely to be right on time and expect you to be on time too. Japanese are likely to arrive early, while Brazilians may arrive late. If you expect a large contingent from one culture, you should find out ahead of time what to expect and manage speaker expectations accordingly.
Getting attendees from other countries to attend your conference will raise your institution’s profile, improve conference networking opportunities, and create exciting business opportunities for your entire audience. By following these four tips, you will ensure that your international audience will return home planning to attend the following year, and even better, they'll spread the word.