Thursday, 29 October 2015

Stronger Global Brands Have Websites in More Languages Than Their Less-profitable Competitors*

Spain. Spanish is the country's official national language, and spoken throughout the entire country. Nearly everyone in Spain can speak Spanish as either a first or a second language. In 2005, 89% of Spaniards spoke Spanish as their mother tongue, followed by Catalan / Valencian with 9%. Galician is spoken by 5%, and Basque by 0.9%.

Picture: Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. Photo: Baltic Media 

For eight years, independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research)** has studied the world’s most prominent websites to identify the MVPs of the global web. These business and consumer websites represent the biggest companies, most popular websites, and most valuable brands, based on the Forbes Global 2000 list, the Alexa Top 500 Global Websites, and the Interbrand 100 Best Brands. 
The combined lists contain brands from 25 countries, representing 24 industrial sectors and 59 vertical sub-industries. Of the 2,407 websites studied, 1,506 were multilingual sites averaging 9.2 languages each. 10% of the visited sites did not include English.

Manufactured products, from toothpaste to software programs, rely on global markets to leverage the maximum investment in research, design, production, and branding. And while the majority of the world’s largest brands have multilingual websites, 37% of the world’s most prominent websites are monolingual, making them unreachable to a large part of the internet population.

Data collected by CSA Research finds a strong correlation between a brand’s financial strength and the number of languages it makes its website available in. Adds lead analyst on the report, Ben Sargent, “Regardless of if we study broad measures of corporate success or narrow calculations of financial health, such as Earned Equity Growth, our research found striking correlations between performance and multilinguality. Whether translated from a source language or locally produced, content enables revenue and boosts profit. Companies that provide content in more languages generally do better than those that skimp on or avoid content localization.”

The findings are detailed in the firm’s report, “Global Website Assessment Index 2015,” which features dozens of tables and figures, including:
Five consumer-oriented sectors averaging more than 10 languages per website. Prominent companies in Household Goods, Computers, Pharmaceutical, Automotive, and Software maintain a web presence in the most languages, on average.

The cost of innovation drives globalization. Sub-sectors deploying the most languages include research and development (R&D) heavy Auto & Truck Manufacturers, Precision Healthcare Equipment, Computer Hardware, Software Products, and Pharmaceuticals.
Number of languages based on brand strength. The average brand value for Interbrand-ranked companies with 12-19 online languages was US$12 billion in 2014. Therefore, a company seeking to push its brand value over US$10 billion by 2018 should expect to manage 12 or more languages on its websites, while aggressive growth-stage companies should target 20 or more, including regional dialects for Spanish and English.

When looking across sectors, CSA Research’s GWAI study found that company size, website popularity, and brand value all show positive correlation to the number of languages found.

Companies ranked in the bottom 1,000 of the Forbes list averaged only 4.1 languages per website, while those in the top 50 fielded more than 17 on average. Larger corporations such as IBM, Santander, and Toyota as a group tend to be older and more established in global markets, compared to smaller companies, which are more likely to be younger.

Alexa’s top 100 sites offer a much higher count than those lower on the list. From Alibaba to Amazon, from Yahoo to Youm7, the more languages offered by a website, the more likely it is to appear at the top of the list. Many companies like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn specifically used globalization strategies to become the dominant player in their space, breaking the rule that only older companies have lots of languages and rapidly taking market share away from previous leaders.
Although Interbrand lists only 100 brands, analysis shows a steep set of language-to-success ratios. Stronger brands like McDonald's and H&M (with 35 and 17 languages, respectively) posted more languages than weaker competitors such as Pizza Hut (19) and Gap (7).

*Source: CSA Research Global Website Assessment Index 2015 is available as a part of CSA Research membership.
**Common Sense Advisory is an independent market research company helping companies profitably grow their international businesses and gain access to new markets. It specializes in best practices for translation, localization, interpreting, globalization, and internationalization.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The issue of language is a challenge. Localization.*

Brand localizing markets and languages
Brussels, the capital city of Belgium. Belgium has three official languages, which are (in order of size of the native speaking population of Belgium) Dutch, French and German.
A number of non-official minority languages are spoken as well Straddling the cultural boundary between Germanic and Latin Europe, Belgium is home to two main linguistic groups: the Dutch-speaking, mostly Flemish community, which constitutes about 59% of the population, and the French-speaking, mostly Walloon population, which comprises 41% of all Belgians. Additionally, there is a small group of German-speakers who are officially recognized. Photo: Baltic Media.

The decision of how localized a brand should go when expanding abroad has always been a challenge and our research this year shows it’s not getting any easier.

Retailers have to decide on the balance of localization needed. At Big Red Group O’Connor says that using marketplaces to soft launch and test a country initially starts with a level of localisation such as relevant banners on marketplaces, as well as potential translation of key lines before rolling out with a full localized launch with dedicated website and full translation if sufficient traction is gained.

“In terms of translations, our approach is to work with brands and suppliers to share the risk of entering a new market, which obviously benefits both parties, and the cost of human translation would be part of this,” says O’Connor.

The issue of language is a challenge. A first step can be machine translation services but many retailers say these can do more harm than good if not supplemented with other measures. “We believe using machine translation, while cost effective, can seriously affect overall customer experience,” says O’Connor, whose company employs a multi-lingual customer service team.

The same has proved true at Office. “For our German website, at the start of the process, we decided to use a translation agency rather than go down one of the more automated translation routes,” says Robin Worthington, multi-channel director at Office. “It’s very important for Office as a business to talk to its customers in a way they identify with, so a machine translation approach wouldn’t work. Now we are live, we have German speakers in our head office, who are responsible for daily site updates, plus the marketing and promotional calendar. They produce a fair amount of the content, but still work with the agency to produce bulk translations, and have been working on brand and tone of voice guidelines to ensure we get the language right,” he says.

Koch says retailers have to do more than just translate when it comes to international expansion. “If you have any marketing activities you need to transcreate rather than just translate since for instance a given catchphrase won’t come across in the same way,” he says.

For some retailers, such as fashion, the simple challenge of different garment names in different countries – such as trainers in the UK but sneakers in the US – can be challenge enough but other retailers face greater translation challenges. At FreestyleXtreme Loughlin says the very nature of the industry he serves can produce its own problems around localisation. “In a niche market like action sports the tone, the obscurity of the words and the slang used present huge challenges to the translation team,” he says.

“You need local people to have a sense check so that there is no misunderstanding or anything that could come across as an insult or irritate a customer rather than attract them,” agrees Koch. So whilst localisation of language and payment methods is important retailers also have to determine how much to localize content too.

Mirador Digital’s McClelland, says retailers shouldn’t overlook the value of their existing content for building the brand in new markets even without having to localize too much. “If you have a lot of rich content you can tell a very good story and generate that awareness fairly quickly and generate a core asset base that you can use to talk to both groups with very little fine-tuning in between them ,” he says.
At Big Red Group the company currently only has an Australian site so can largely reuse its existing content but CEO Richard O’Connor says it will introduce location specific content for different regions as its international roll out continues as well as merchandising according to the country it is entering as it continues with its localized roll out plan.

Similarly at Office although it has some location specific content for different regions Worthington says that economies of scale dictate that generally the company tries to syndicate as much of the same content as possible across markets. “Luckily for us, the products and brands we sell are fairly universal, however, we will of course take into account local differences in trading, for example recognizing local holidays, calendar events and product selection,” says Worthington.

At JD Williams the company’s head of international Jackie Hill says some shared content happens but across social media in particular content is tailored to individual markets. “Both websites are country specific, whilst using shared assets wherever appropriate for efficiency purposes. We do produce specific content for the different territories, particularly for social media purposes,” she says.

Others choose to use the same social media content – or at least share their domestic version, something that Animal’s international sales director David Abramson does. “We offer all our social media content out to our international partners so they can put it on their own websites. We also have our own riders that we sponsored and we encourage partners to do the same thing,” he says.

And others, like Ao, localize content completely with Monk explaining that the business has a team that writes all of its on-line content in order to ensure that it is suitable for the German market.

Of course localisation extends to product and merchandising too. “One of our challenges is the SMU special make up market,” says Animal’s Abramson. “For example in the Middle East maxi dresses need to be longer to cover the ankle. In Asia customers like to have pocket on t-shirts or shirts and then in markets like China you have to do smaller sizes – all of these are a risk because if it doesn’t work you have nowhere to put the product,” he says.

And issues can be as basic as size and color preferences. “In France we were always missing size 6 and 8,” says Koch. “You need to factor in differences in sizes. It’s the same with colors, for example black for Parisian customers is the norm and they won’t buy into fancy colorful looks. It’s about adapting to styles and expectations,” he says.

Retailers not only need to look at product specifically but how they merchandise on site too. At FreestyleXtreme the retailer has automated merchandising tools which adjust the order of products and brands based on the sales for each storefront individually, but the company doesn’t have separate creative/banners.

At Office merchandising differences depends on the sales and demands of that local market, including not just product choice, but seasonality, price and promotions, according to Worthington.

Again it’s a balance of ROI. “For Germany yes of course we do local merchandising do but for smaller countries we don’t,” says Boden’s Dreyer. “You have to get the balance right – you get to certain size and you say this is worth merchandising specifically for this country,” he says. The only exception is Australia he points out, where the reverse season of the market means a necessity obviously for local merchandising despite the relative smallness of the market.

* By Liz Morrell, 2015 Opportunities and threats. Source: Internet Retailing, the magazine, portal and events for European ecommerce.

Friday, 16 October 2015

What do the terms 'internationalization' and 'localization' mean, and how are they related?


What do the terms 'internationalization' and 'localization' mean, and how are they related?


Localization refers to the adaptation of a product, application or document content to meet the language, cultural and other requirements of a specific target market (a locale).

Localization is sometimes written as l10n, where 10 is the number of letters between l and n.

Often thought of only as a synonym for translation of the user interface and documentation, localization is often a substantially more complex issue. It can entail customization related to:

  • Numeric, date and time formats
  • Use of currency
  • Keyboard usage
  • Collation and sorting
  • Symbols, icons and colors
  • Text and graphics containing references to objects, actions or ideas which, in a given culture, may be subject to misinterpretation or viewed as insensitive.
  • Varying legal requirements
  • and many more things.

Localization may even necessitate a comprehensive rethinking of logic, visual design, or presentation if the way of doing business (eg., accounting) or the accepted paradigm for learning (eg., focus on individual vs. group) in a given locale differs substantially from the originating culture.


Definitions of internationalization vary. This is a high-level working definition for use with W3C Internationalization Activity material. Some people use other terms, such as globalization to refer to the same concept.

Internationalization is the design and development of a product, application or document content that enables easy localization for target audiences that vary in culture, region, or language.

Internationalization is often written i18n, where 18 is the number of letters between i and n in the English word.

Internationalization typically entails:

  • Designing and developing in a way that removes barriers to localization or international deployment. This includes such things as enabling the use of Unicode, or ensuring the proper handling of legacy character encodings where appropriate, taking care over the concatenation of strings, avoiding dependance in code of user-interface string values, etc.
  • Providing support for features that may not be used until localization occurs. For example, adding markup in your DTD to support bidirectional text, or for identifying language. Or adding to CSS support for vertical text or other non-Latin typographic features.
  • Enabling code to support local, regional, language, or culturally related preferences. Typically this involves incorporating predefined localization data and features derived from existing libraries or user preferences. Examples include date and time formats, local calendars, number formats and numeral systems, sorting and presentation of lists, handling of personal names and forms of address, etc.
  • Separating localizable elements from source code or content, such that localized alternatives can be loaded or selected based on the user's international preferences as needed.
  • Notice that these items do not necessarily include the localization of the content, application, or product into another language; they are design and development practices which allow such a migration to take place easily in the future but which may have significant utility even if no localization ever takes place.

The value of internationalization

Internationalization significantly affects the ease of the product's localization. Retrofitting a linguistically- and culturally-centered deliverable for a global market is obviously much more difficult and time-consuming than designing a deliverable with the intent of presenting it globally. (Think back to the Y2K effort and trying to "undo" two-character year fields that were built on the assumption of "19xx").

So ideally, internationalization occurs as a fundamental step in the design and development process, rather than as an afterthought that can often involve awkward and expensive re-engineering.

Source: The W3C Internationalization (I18n) Activity 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Fourth Source: Meeting Global Customer Demands with Localized Experiences Across Channels*

Kuala Lumpur, Capital of Malaysia. Photo: Baltic Media

Local cultures and preferences are typically accounted for in brick-and-mortar stores, but these intricacies are often not reflected online. However, recent global research from GfK shows why retailers can no longer think of in-store and online shopping as separate entities.

Shoppers across the globe indicated that they are engaging with the online experience while in stores – using mobile devices to compare prices, contact family or friends for advice and take photos of products they might buy.
According to this research, shoppers in South Korea, China and Turkey are the most likely to compare prices in-store on their mobile phones, with 59, 54 and 53 percent respectively saying they regularly do this. Additionally, shoppers in Mexico, Poland and Turkey are the most likely to use their mobile phones to contact a friend or family member for advice while in a store, with 55, 53 and 52 percent respectively claiming they regularly do this.

With globally dispersed shoppers proactively bringing their online and in-store experiences together, retailers need to ensure they are offering a consistent, localized experience both physically and digitally. Too often, language is an afterthought, but in today’s increasingly global economy, retailers that can replicate the in-store experience and achieve a localized approach to online shopping will have a significant advantage over those who do not.

Contextual online shopping experiences are particularly important when it comes to reaching digitally savvy millennial shoppers. It is projected that this generation will soon reach $2.45 trillion in global spending power, so engaging with them should be a major priority for retailers. In a survey of 1,800 millennials worldwide, SDL found that language plays a critical role in how this important demographic makes purchasing decisions.
The findings reveal that being culturally sensitive goes a long way when looking to engage with these younger and digitally savvy consumers.

However, successfully localizing online customer experiences can be more complex than it appears. To succeed at localization, it is critical for brands to target consumers in their native, not geographic language. Even within the same country, consumers live in multilingual settings.

In the United States, for instance, one in four millennials reported that they speak another language at home. In other English-speaking countries, this ratio climbs to 32 percent. Retailers need to be highly sensitive to this and avoid making assumptions based on geographic location, as reaching consumers in their local language presents an opportunity to successfully connect with many more consumers. If organizations embrace a localization strategy that goes beyond geographic boundaries to connect with customers through culture and conversation, it becomes much easier to establish trust and build brand loyalty.

Link to the full article HERE
*Paige O'Neill
Paige O’Neill is Chief Marketing Officer of SDL.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Workshop at the Best Emerging European Rural Destination of Excellence. Kuldīga. Latvia. Autumn 2015.

September 2015: Baltic Media employees learn to work with CAT tools and train in customer service and communication.Place: Kuldīga. Latvia. Kuldīga is one of the most charming and magical towns in Northern Europe. It is a town which has preserved its medieval appearance and charm.Cultural heritage is an integral part of  Kuldīga town. The historical center of Kuldīga received the European Heritage Label in 2008 and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Latvian Tentative List in 2011. In 2007 Kuldīga Town in the Valley of the River Venta was awarded the title of Best Emerging European Rural Destination of Excellence.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Common Sense Advisory*: What Should You Localize?

Stockholm. Capital of  Sweden. Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken natively by about 9 million people in the Nordics, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland.

Stockholm. Capital of  Sweden. Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken natively by about 9 million people in the Nordics, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland.

International markets represent major revenue opportunities around the world, but most companies support just a fraction of the languages they need to reach prospective customers. CSA Research’s data shows that global marketers need 14 specific languages to reach 90% of the world’s online opportunity. 
Those languages include English, the major European tongues, Chinese, and Arabic. That list represents a sizable investment in translation and localization for companies that have, on average, localized their websites into just six languages. Many businesses struggle to manage even that, thus stunting their growth potential.
Look beyond that list and instead at emerging markets like Indonesia and Vietnam. Because most companies take a short-term view of the opportunity, their support for languages in emerging markets is sparse. Most ignore countries like Indonesia and its online population of 57 million. Few companies support Hindi, a language used by 70 million people online and more than 40% of India’s population in everyday life. Because many countries are joining the digital world on their phones, anyone wanting to reach them must add mobile delivery to their repertoire. Translating their websites into and creating mobile apps for these languages will give companies access to growing middle-class consumer populations around the world.

So why don’t companies simply localize their product information, packaging, owner’s manuals, websites, and mobile apps into all the languages they need to address the developed and developing world? 
Money, resources, and a sound business case conspire to limit the number of countries and languages that companies support. At the same time, volumes keep growing, thus requiring more content and code to be localized into more languages at much faster rates than in the past.
These factors lead localization managers to ask CSA Research’s analysts the following question ever more frequently: “How do we make the decision on which markets to target, which pieces of content to translate, and how deep into a website or product information should we go?”
Our research has demonstrated that many companies waste a lot of time searching for a magic wand to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, there is no “right” or “one- size-fits-all” response to the questions of which and how much content to translate or create for a given market. That’s because organizations creating the business case and dedicating resources to those markets means major discovery and planning. They must identify, categorize, balance, and prioritize their stakeholder expectations when they respond to requests for entering new markets or investing more in existing ones. How can you make the best decisions on where to spend your budget? 
*Guest post by: Don DePalma, Chief Strategist and Founder, CSA Research