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4 essential questions to ask when globalising your website

global website
in Retail and Ecommerce

It used to be the case that for many organisations, being global was something to aspire to. However, it wasn't an imperative. Even as late as the start of 21st century, the backdrop was different to how it was today – you were, as Pia Stanchina, industry manager of Fashion and Retail at Google noted last year, either online or offline.

Now, however, the landscape is radically different and pretty much everyone, every organisation, is hooked up to the web and, thanks to the ever-increasing sophistication of technology, the way we live and work is increasingly defined by "the digital experience". We're always connected.

Accordingly, it is a business must to have a strong presence online. More so, the framework should ideally be "worldwide-friendly", because, as Deloitte observed in its 2014 study From Bricks to Clicks: Generating Global; Growth Through Ecommerce Expansion, the new engine of growth is the international audience.

From a shift in buying habits – shopping online, as opposed to in-store – to a rise in demand for global products from emerging markets, this is an exciting time to open up your enterprise to an international audience.

We look at the four questions you need to ask when globalising your website.

1. Do you have a proper, documented strategy in place?

Without proper planning, any attempt to globalise your website is going to fall flat on its face or at the very least deliver an inconsistent and poor experience across all your channels and regions.

Consequently, dealing with superfluous costs that come with having to address residual issues post localisation; tackling conflicting messages that present no clear concept of brand; and fixing erroneous pages (404 or Not Found) through poor backend code translation can damage your enterprise's reputation massively.

The solution is a detailed, well-considered strategy, one which supports the overall aim of creating a fully optimised and globally positioned website and considers every facet from the infrastructure of your business to new user experience and technology.

A professional language service company is your best bet with this important feature, utilising its expertise to help to deliver a robust document that helps you communicate your business more effectively across multiple languages.

2. Do you have the infrastructure to support a global outlook?

For many organisations, revamping their core website to make it more localised for a new target audience brings with it huge implications for the business as a whole. In addition to having to redirect or earmark finances and time to this endeavour, it also brings with it logistical challenges and new, ongoing commitments.

A dedicated team is essential in ensuring that the implementation process is carried out to plan and on time, as well as organising and maintaining all the responsibilities that come with a globalised website.

For example, are you going to hire in-house or look to recruit new staff to manage the new website(s)? Who is responsible for the project? Who will manage localised versions of your website and liaise with all departments like marketing and IT? Given that this is a major part of your business, investing in a team that supports it going forward is vital.

3. Do you have internationally friendly content?

Translation isn't as simple as taking what you have on your website and repurposing it into another language. There are often many stylistic quirks, unique cultural descriptions and idiomatic references peppered throughout your website that can be lost during the translation process.

Transcreation makes up for this, allowing you to adapt your existing text to your target audience in a more effective and relevant manner. What differentiates it from basic translation is the ability to retain the integrity of your message, but making it, for example, culturally relevant to your new audience.

As a way of simplifying this process, it is worth auditing your existing content ahead of any effort to globalise your website and establish how much of it needs refinement. What we're talking about here is, where possible, making your text "country neutral". In other words: simple, concise and free of any phrases that are effectively native to the source country.

4. Do you have the technology needed for global success?

The key to a successfully globalised website is internationalisation, by which we mean transforming your website into a portal that is able to engage with multiple stakeholders effectively and efficiently. There should, for example, be no difference in the website experience wherever the end user may be.

This is another area that requires specialist treatment from a seasoned language services provider. They have the ability and technological know-how to optimise your website for different markets (multilingual SEO), enhance your coding to make it universally search friendly and overhaul your content management system (CMS) so that everything is centralised.

The last point is an important one, as one of the most common features present in successful and engaging global websites is a multinational CMS. At the heart of it is the ability to manage different content types (campaign material and blogs) in multiple languages, all from a single entry point.

A highly effective multilingual CMS will allow you to do so much, including handling source content in multiple languages, promoting flexible and automated workflows and cope with numerous formatting requirements (countries have different configurations for dates and times, by way of example). Without it, your workload is going to be significant and your reach very limited. It's a must.

Four steps away from global success

By 2018, global retail ecommerce sales will amount to approximately $2.5 trillion, representing an impressive 8.8 per cent of the total retail market worldwide. In 2014, that figure stood at $1.3 trillion. Add to that positive growth experienced by emerging markets and it's not difficult to appreciate the potential of internationalisation.

There has, therefore, never been a better time for embracing this new zeitgeist. The good news is that while there's a lot to take on board, you're ultimately only four questions away from optimising your website – and indeed your entire enterprise – for this new, ever-growing and lucrative arena. From this point onwards, well, the whole world is your oyster. Think global and anything is possible.

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