With ever increasing globalisation of markets and the U.K.’s upcoming exit from the European Union, more businesses are now expanding their borders and focusing on export and international trade.Julio Taylor, Digital Director of leading UK web agency Big Spring, offers expert knowledge on the key cultural considerations businesses should take when developing web for an international audience.
You need an experienced international digital agency
A key part of that is your digital marketing strategy is at the core of your website development. This is your starting point. Ensure you have an experienced digital agency alongside you, with experience working in international markets. Make sure that they are capable of leading the way with a solid strategy by checking for examples of well executed international strategies within their portfolio.
Localisation, not translation
Your website content is the benchmark of representation of your brands values. Your site will be serving and connecting thousands of people. Therefore, it should be communicating value, and converting visitors into customers.
If web content doesn’t feel personalised to the user, sales and usability can be easily lost.
Even if you plan to create content for countries that speak the same language, you should still enlist the help of a local service to help translate the content. For example, Spanish is the native language of 22 countries across the world, but their dialect and expressions vary greatly. Lack of attention to varied cultural differences can put you at risk of alienating your customer base.
Or worse, it can lead to a farcical misunderstanding that can be embarrassing, putting your company’s integrity into questioning. These factors have an especially major impact on potential influence and conversions in new territories.
Cultural Factors: Local Knowledge is Key
There are also more generalised cultural factors to consider when engaging with a new international audience. Depending on your chosen industry, the corporate structures and their key influencers and decision makers may be different to those you’re used to.
You may be used to primarily engaging with senior management or sales directors in the UK. But if doing business in the Middle East, you will most likely be engaging with smaller SMEs and independent distributors, who act as agents to larger businesses.
Some of your personal cultural traditions may not resonate with certain international audiences. In fact, observing local knowledge culture can even come down to the colour translations you choose to communicate to your audience with.
For example, in Western society, green indicates a “up” or “go” and red indicated “down” or “stop”. But in the Chinese stock market, these colours mean exactly the opposite.
Having a good understanding of these cultural contrasts will maximise the impact of your strategy within your chosen international territory.
The mistake of generalising or assuming what you know about a new client base can cost you valuable time and money, which could be better spent on engaging and developing.
Again, relying on a good deal of local knowledge, perhaps from a regional agent or subsidiary will help to further grasp cultural understanding. Phone interviews and questionnaires with these key stakeholders could make the difference, and help you ensure your messaging is suitable to your local audience.
This extends to your customer base. Create a call to action and find out what they respond best too. You should also enquire as to what the best methods of communication might be from region to region.
Your digital agency and translation company should work together to create a compelling user journey that takes these factors into account, engaging with your industry experts and local contacts to ensure your new marketing is properly executed.
The design of your website should consider that the length of words and sentences can vary widely in different languages. A sentence or product name in Russian can easily be twice the length of its English counterpart. In similar cases, it’s best to avoid tight design devices and allow plenty of room for expansion in all areas that contain text.
The choice of fonts also needs to be carefully considered. Many languages use different characters that are not supported by all fonts. Therefore, thorough research and planning is needed before choosing a corporate web font.
Finally, image choice. Photography is a powerful component of a good user experience. Just like your content and core promises, the choice of images on your international sites should match the needs and expectations of your international audiences. Your users and potential customers should identify with the images on the page. So, make sure they support your localised, core message. This will help to create an engaging user experience.
With such a range of complex factors to weigh up in this transitional period, you’ll need a capable digital agency to help lead the way. Have them help your business bring all the capable stakeholders and factors together to create a unified cultural project.