How to customise your website to sell more overseas

Nearly two thirds of non-English speaking customers never buy from an English-only website. Alan White shares how to increase sales to international customers

The benefit of a highly functional website that’s easy to navigate and is accessible from anywhere in the world is that it’s never been easier to sell overseas. But for those that want to enter overseas markets as part of their wider strategy, a website needs to do more than simply load quickly, be secure and look smart.

Figures from 2018 show that the UK exports £656.5bn of goods and services, making international business a lucrative area for many. But if you’re welcoming people from around the world to buy from or use your website, they must be able to relate to the content, understand it, and also find the website when they’re searching online for your product or service. As such, your digital platforms need to be relevant for your target audience and the territory they’re in.

How to use your website to sell overseas

Achieving this effectively requires more than a simple, literal translation of your website’s content. Making your online business truly international requires an analysis of your messaging, content, understanding of SEO, and a willingness to apply your learnings to other digital forums to continue growing your presence overseas.

Here, we share the four ways to approach your digital shop window if you want your website to sell more overseas.

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#1 – Assess your messaging

Before you translate a single word on your website, it’s important to consider whether the campaigns and messaging you have on your UK site are culturally relevant and appropriate for the countries you want to target.

You should place just as much time and effort into planning for overseas content as you did for your native site. A service called transcreation offers the solution to this. Falling somewhere between translation and foreign language copywriting, transcreation is a highly creative service designed to help international marketers craft sales messaging that is culturally and factually relevant to overseas audiences.

A transcreator analyses a company’s English-language marketing content, then looks at the international audience the brand is trying to reach, the tone of voice it wants to strike, how it wants the audience to engage and the action they want them to take. They then take the brief and create relevant content, which is sensitive to cultural nuances and connotations.

Using transcreators who are relevant to the markets you want to enter to undertake this process will mean that when the multilingual versions of your existing website are launched, users from around the world will find their respective landing pages to be culturally sensitive, in tune with their needs and will subtly make them more encouraged to purchase.

#2 – Translate your website

Once you’re confident the messaging and content you want to apply to your international sites will appeal to users, you’re ready to start translating existing content which has been deemed universally relevant.

Our own data shows that over the last five years, some of the fastest growing languages for business translations from English include Chinese, Latin American Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Hebrew and Afrikaans. These markets that are becoming more active, providing lucrative opportunities for business wanting to establish a presence overseas.

60% of non-English speaking customers never buy from an English-only website

On top of this, a recent survey of more than 3,000 global consumers in 10 non-Anglophone countries showed 75 per cent prefer to buy products from websites in their native language. Additionally, 60 per cent said they never buy from English-only websites. Providing active and potential customers with the option to use a site in their native language means a user is likely to stay and interact with products for longer and, in turn, are more likely to buy.

When translating any content, there is usually an element of technology used: principally translation memory, which helps the translator streamline their work and leverage previously translated content and repetitions. You may even consider a blend of machine translation with human post-editing to convert high-volume technical documents or manuals. However, when it comes to website translation, much more of a human touch is required.

There’s a lot more to language than simply swapping one word for another; depending on the languages we’re working with, there are so many different subtleties which can get lost without human expertise. As such, it’s important to work with a team of linguists who offer expertise and specialisms across a variety of fields and sectors, meaning that whether your website is highly technical, or more colloquial and within a mainstream industry, the translation you receive is accurate and optimised for the target readership.

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#3 – Think Search Engine Optimisation

When it comes to using your website to sell more overseas, there’s more to think about than just the website copy translation; you should also consider local search engine optimisation (SEO).

First, think about which search engines your overseas audiences tend to use the most, and the terms they’re likely to search for in relation to your products. Often, people don’t search for the literal phrase of the product, service or piece of information they’re looking for, and they won’t always search for the direct translation of the terms used by your English customers.

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As part of this, you need to bear in mind that search engines try to work out the user’s intent. For example, if someone searches “pizza”, the search engine will analyse your past search history and patterns to try and guess whether you’re looking for a pizza recipe or pizza takeaway.

Understanding how international search engines serve results to end users and applying this knowledge to ensure your copy is optimised for key search terms about your products will help you reach new customers and ensure you rank more positively than your competitors.

#4 – Do the same thing for social media

Once the bulk of your website translation is complete, it’s time to look at your other digital channels and online offerings to ensure all your content is relevant to international audiences.

For example, do you need individual social media accounts for each territory you now operate in? Do you have a YouTube channel which would benefit from foreign subtitles or voiceovers being added?

Businesses that want to make websites and social content accessible to international audiences can use foreign language voiceover and subtitles on pre-recorded videos. This will help build an engaged, online audience in your target markets, which might lead to new, revenue-generating relationships in the future. And if you monetise access to these features – for example, to an online training portal – you’ll reap immediate benefits.

The importance of translation

Any business aiming to succeed in an overseas market will have spent considerable time planning its strategy, detailing its approach and hiring teams with the relevant skillset to achieve the objectives. But not prioritising translation in this process can be a costly mistake; taking the above steps will see your venture into foreign territory be much more successful, with your digital audience engaged from their very first visit to your site.

Alan White is business development director of The Translation People

Further reading

Registering a company name – a Small Business guide