thebigword Chief Commercial Officer, Joshua Gould offers his guidance on driving business growth through localisation

Research shows that a consumer is three times more likely to make a purchase if the buying experience is in their mother tongue language. In today’s world, you can setup a business online, launch a website and become an international operation all in a mornings work. This is exactly what my 93 year old neighbour did when he decided that his antiques would sell better in China and Russia than in the U.S.

There was only one issue; his customers wouldn’t understand the descriptions of his products. He told me that buying decisions would be made utilizing the photograph he posted on eBay and other popular auction sites. When he told me of his plan I explained that there would be just one problem with his strategy, who would buy a $10,000 statue from someone in another country if you couldn’t understand the description or make a phone call to the seller?

He realized I had a point. I provided him with some translations and an access code to our telephone interpreting line; where he could have a Chinese or Russian interpreter on the telephone in under 30 seconds. Three months later I asked him how it was going, he replied, I’m closing the business down.

I asked why and he replied, sales are great I’ve sold $600,000 and made over 90% profit but I’ve run out of stock. It turns out that my 93 year old neighbour easily mastered online marketing, localisation and working with an interpreter. However, many large global companies have not done as well.

I often go online to book my travel, I can do so in any language; but if my ticket comes with the wrong name on it and I call their business they can only handle English or Spanish calls. Often, I book rental cars at the remote destinations, my assistant calls and makes the booking, more often than not, when I arrive at the location the contracts, signage and in car navigation are in a language I don’t understand. So if you are looking to become truly global and customer centric organisation, here are three things to consider:

1. Become aware of all your customer, partners and employees touchpoints.
Often companies that invest money into localisation focus only on clients; and neglect those who are servicing their clients such as distribution networks, third party suppliers and most importantly their own colleagues. Even when companies who have large localisation budgets they often neglect many of their stakeholders touchpoints. It’s become common for companies to translate their website but as soon as you call up, request a legal contract or walk in to a location there is often distinct lack of localisation; which inevitably hurts the businesses growth potential.

2. Understand that Localisation isn’t just about translation and interpreting.
It’s about appearing as if your entire management team is based in any country your customer is. If I am buying a BMW in the U.S. I will receive a different experience than making the same purchase in Germany. This is because BMW have embedded themselves into the culture of the United States and while I understand the management team may be very German; my experience will be very much American. Take for example the BMW slogan “The Ultimate Driving Machine”, this is very different to “Freude Am Fahren”, the BMW slogan in Germany which means pleasure in driving. Essentially BMW has trans-created their logo for the American market where culturally we always want to be and have the Best.

3. Use Localisation Breathe life into your Brand.
Companies are living and breathing entities. They can grow, shrink and evoke an emotion. Great Global companies don’t feel like soulless and face-less organizations; instead they maintain their roots while incorporating the cultures of their host countries. An example of a company that does this well is IKEA. I recently went to IKEA in Israel, the signs were in Ivrit, the employees also spoke Ivrit and Arabic and the furniture was displayed in sizes that fit a typically small Israeli home. That being said, I was surrounded by the colours of the Swedish flag and when I went to get something to eat I was offered Swedish meatballs.

Should you not know IKEA is a proud Swedish company, who have perfectly balanced localisation and maintaining their Swedish roots and personality. I even boast when my friends asked me where I got my television stand from, I replied “its Swedish!” This same tactic can be achieved in your own business.

Localisation is no longer a choice; it’s a vital aspect of global business and trade. No longer can a translated website and packaging constitute as a localized business. If your business is not fully localized, I can guarantee you are foregoing revenues and profits. Remember, your clients are 3 times more likely to make a purchase when the buying process is in their mother tongue and if my 93 year old neighbour can do it so can your organization.