How you say things is as important as what you choose to say. This means languages, too! As businesses reach global audiences faster than ever thanks to social media and search engines, they need to consider the role of site localization in their customer engagement strategies.

The Shell and the Kernel

Localization is the adaptation of a site to suit a target locale. For many companies, localization equals translation. If we just translate the content from language A to language B, we’re golden. Or so the thinking goes. However, the original site content itself doesn’t always receive the same treatment. Menus, headers, footers, etc., all remain in the original language. This is an oversight, especially when you consider the following research from the Common Sense Advisory Report:

  • 72.4% of global consumers prefer to use their native language when shopping online
  • 55% of the participants only buy products from websites that provide them with information in their own language
  • 56% of people spend more time on local-language sites than English ones—or never visit English websites at all

Self-service sites are a critical component of a consumer’s purchasing decisions and overall customer experience. Unfortunately, they are often overlooked as part of a broader localization strategy. But self-service sites can help validate products and services and speak to the post-sale support experience. Translating them extends this reach.

Think of it this way: the content you keep on your site—the content that would otherwise be translated in a half-hearted localization attempt—is the kernel. It’s the part you want your customers to consume. Too often, we localize the kernel and ignore the shell: site navigation, URL, look and feel.

But if customers can’t get past the shell, how will they get to the kernel?

Translation Is Worth It

So, that means you need matching shells for localized content. Of course, you can’t just run the same content on a single site, which means more of a lift for your web developer and IT staff. This should be seen as a blessing, not a curse.

Here’s three areas to focus on when localizing your self-service sites:

1. Domains

By parsing out your localized sites into discrete subdomains ( &, for example), you can localize the shell of the site and provide a more localized URL that feels more catered toward the target audience, while retaining the authority of the Compare that to using file names, URL Parameters, or Geographic IP addresses, which hamper web analytics and can send people to the wrong localized site.

2. Search

Even if you’ve translated all of your content, a single site will most likely use a single search bar that follows the grammatical rules of the main site language. Localized sites allow for a search experience tuned to the grammatical structures of the chosen language to provide better results. Searches using conjugated verbs might not surface relevant answers that have different conjugations of the same verb stem. Localizing your site can result in better, more relevant results for a given language choice.

3. User Experience

The “shell” of the site includes all of the navigation. If this isn’t tailored alongside the localized content, the site’s usability for that consumer is limited. While they may have found your site and the content they need through Google Search, there’s little reason for them to explore your site if all of the navigation is in another language. This might seem like a small consideration compared to the lift of localizing the “kernel” content, it can become a noticeable UX issue for buyers and customers.

The Customer Engagement Benefits of Localization

If you localize all of your product and help content, you’ll provide a better user experience across your global audience. As we see with many of our own customers who provide public-facing self-service with MindTouch, making this content available throughout the customer journey has massive benefits for both your customers and SEO efforts.

When you localize your self-service site, you can use webmaster tools to drill down into language-specific analytics to understand how your customers experience your product in different regions. This will also help you understand what your buyers are looking for in different regions. Unless you’ve localized the site through different subdomains, all of this data is lost. But now, it’s parsed out and you can measure the effectiveness of your localization efforts.

With localized content, you’re more likely to keep your customers engaged. If we think back to the research from the Common Sense Advisory Report, the issue there was that the sites were not engaging to the customers. This is partially because of the user experience and partially because of the language. As the report notes, a significant number of customers left the site without making purchases because of these issues.

Localization would help deflect these losses.

Ultimately, if you can keep customers engaged on your self-service site, you’ll see benefits across the board. Prospective customers you don’t even know about yet will be kept engaged and learning about your products and services. Prospects who are seriously considering your products and services are going to make some of their decision based on how they feel. Non-localized sites won’t make customers feel cared for at all. And customers are going to be more willing to use your self-service site as the place to become a product expert at their own pace.

Additional categories: Customer Experience