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"Think global - act local.” In times of globalisation is that advice still valid?

In this era of globalization it has never been easier for companies to expand abroad in order to become a global player. Many brands are still going global without a plan.


Good or bad?


Many just think “Sure. My site is open to all 24/7 and everybody speaks English, so why bother to translate and adapt my site?”


Well of course it is very tempting to just trust in your customers language abilities and expect them all to shop on one international site. Tempting and very naïve. Because localization is a key consideration for any business which has global ambition.


Tailor your product and content towards specific local audiences


For a company to be successful in regional markets, it needs to think on a local level. It’s important for businesses to understand the differences in language, culture and values of people in different regions and ensure that both its product and marketing content are tailored towards specific local audiences.


Avoid cultural mistakes and embarrassing phrases


The process of website localization is complex, costly and involves the text being translated to clear and understandable information in the target language without any cultural misunderstandings or misleadings. This is a very extensive process of not only adapting a website into a different language but also into linguistic and cultural context involving so much more than the simple translation of text.


Brands are so much more than products, more than slogans or taglines that translate into funny or embarrassing phrases. It’s clear that spending time and money to localize marketing should be a priority for any organization.


However, many companies are still not aware of the importance of localizing their website for their foreign markets. They either fail to take advantage of any translation at all or they enter a market with careless translations showing cultural mistakes which might even be offensive to potential customers. Especially in countries like Austria, who boarder on so many different countries with totally different languages and cultural backgrounds we often see an astonishing number of ill translated and advised website.


This ignorance will be costly, embarrassing and most notably totally unnecessary for your company. But with some research and a good language partner that can help with translation, transcreation and cultural norms, it’s possible to get it right and become a major global player that is also locally strong.


For example, Airbnb was a tiny Chicago based US start-up but they were able to not only craft a global brand image but also create a very local, community-based approach. Today they offer listings in 190 countries and the brand is a household name. Airbnb has its website running in more than 31 languages and a recent press release says they want to double that figure to 62.


Transcreation is key


Instead of translating their websites and hoping for the best, successful brands are focusing on creating the best possible customer experiences for their customers by using transcreation. Instead of simply taking what is written in one language and translating it into another language.

Transcreation involves taking existing branding and messaging and making it relevant to the target audience. This is why transcreation involves modifying symbols, pricing and date formats, and other items that can be variable. Transcreation also recognizes that two locales that speak the same language can be culturally very different from one another. And that is exactly was Airbnb did very successfully.


When customers navigate websites that aren’t just in their language, but are also fully relatable to them, the resulting experience is much more pleasing for the customer and he will be more likely to recommend your products and services to his friends.


So yes, it is still advisable to think global but act local. Every company can go global by just the push of a button, but only the smart ones, who understand the importance of localisation will develop into real global players.


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