Website localization meaning

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An aspect of customer-centricity for website design is the decision whether to include specific content for particular countries. This is referred to as localization. A site may need to support customers from a range of countries with:

  • Different product needs
  • Language differences
  • Cultural differences – the approach is also referred to as a ‘cultural adaptation’

Localisation will address all these issues. It may be that product will be similar in different countries and localisation will simply involve converting the website to suit another country. However, in order to be effective this often needs more than translation, since different promotion concepts may be needed for different countries. Each company prioritises different countries according to the size of the market, and this priority then governs the amount of work it puts into localisation.

Sigh and Pereira (2005) provide an evaluation framework for the level of localisation:

Standardised websites (not localised)

A single site serves all customer segments (domestic and international).

Semi-localised websites

A single site serves all customers; however, contact information about foreign subsidiaries is available to international customers. Many sites fall into this category.

Localised websites

Country-specific websites with language transition for international customers, whether relevant. 3M has adapted the websites for many countries to local language versions. It initially focused on major websites.

Highly-localised websites

Country-specific websites with language translation; they also include other localisation efforts in terms of time, date, zip code, currency formats etc. Dell provides highly localised websites.

Culturally customised websites

Websites reflecting complete ‘immersion’ in the culture of target customer segments; as such, targeting a particular country may mean providing multiple websites for that country depending on the dominant cultures present. Durex is a good example of a culture customized websites.

Deciding on degree of localisation is a difficult challenge for managers since while it has been established that local preferences are significant, it is often difficult to balance localisation cost against the likely increase or conversion rate through localisation.

A further aspect of localisation to be considered is search engine optimisation (SEO), since sites which have local language versions will be listed more prominently within the search engine results pages for local versions of the search engines. Many specialist companies have been created to help manage these content localisation issues for companies.

Chaffey, D. and Ellis-Chadwick, F., 2012. Digital marketing: strategy, implementation and practice (Vol. 5). Harlow: Pearson.

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