Nearly one half of marketers at companies bringing in $50 million or more in annual revenue have translated content on their companies' Web sites into other languages geared toward international markets, but less than one quarter has adapted the site's content to a specific language or culture. So says a study published Monday by JupiterResearch.
Successfully reaching consumers internationally takes more than translating content from one language into another, says JupiterResearch Vice President Zia Daniell Wigder. "The meaning gets lost in the translation," she says. "You need to take into account terminology and consumer preferences."
Wigder says marketers should develop information on Web sites geared toward local consumer behavior, which most don't do. They also need to pay more attention to research-relevant search terms, optimizing Web sites to allow search engines to recognize and pick up content.
There are a handful of large tech companies doing a good job. Both Microsoft and IBM translate content into more than 30 languages, updating the site with information unique to each market. The companies rely on a template, so all markets receive the same information, but the content varies depending on the market.
U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers have been slow to localize Web site content. Amazon and eBay, which emerged as online retailers, have figured out the formula and already gain a hefty percent of annual revenue from sales outside the United States.
Best Buy in November launched a Web site in Spanish. Aside from an e-commerce site that markets more than 12,000 products in Spanish, bestbuy.com/espanol connects bilingual consumers with customer service representatives who can assist with questions and Web site navigation. Consorte Media works with Best Buy to drive high-quality, targeted traffic to the bilingual Best Buy site by serving ads across its advertising network.
A few words of advice for marketers who want to venture online internationally. "Companies thinking about expanding internationally might want to tap into the multicultural U.S market first," Wigder says. "This way you don't need to worry about the logistical piece, and at the same time get experience translating and optimizing the site for a non-English-speaking audience."
European companies have been forced to adapt more quickly to diversity because of the smaller markets they sell into. If a retailer in France launches a Web site, for example, marketers will quickly learn how to adapt the content and develop search terms for German-speaking consumers if they wish to reach out to new customers.
The JupiterResearch report states that agencies such as iProspect indicate European clients have tackled issues such as localizing by country, rather than solely by language, well in advance of their U.S. counterparts.
Other agencies, such as iCrossing, say only a few clients have localized on a country level, with many clients believing the incremental gain from country-level localization, especially in the relatively smaller European markets, does not merit the required investment.