When you enter a new international market as a business, you’re undoubtedly going to have to translate your website materials so that your message is understood within that unique region. However, many companies make the mistake of merely translating content from English to the local language, when, in fact, the changes often required are significantly subtler and nuanced to meet cultural preferences.
Alterations to website design, localised messages, and tailored content are key to unlocking better engagement from local audiences. With that in mind, we’ve trawled through the websites of leading international companies and picked out six of the best examples of multilingual websites.
The biggest sporting brand in the world has a presence in over 100 countries. Part of that success comes from understanding local audiences and adapting their marketing (including websites) accordingly.
In the British version of the website, the focus is on a new shoe launch. As you scroll down the home page, it’s littered with further shoe products. But if you look at the Japanese version, the first difference you notice is the use of Japanese models, rather than focusing on the products themselves.
What’s more, just beneath the large feature photo, there is a continually moving slideshow of Nike products on yet more Japanese models —emphasising that products have been tailored to the Japanese market and delivering it in a way that Japanese consumers are used to thanks to the proliferation of dynamic billboards in Asia. Even though the menu labels remain in English, all of the subsequent drop-down menus are in Japanese, making navigation easy for Japanese website visitors.
The Swedish furniture behemoth has been a staple for much of the Western world ever since the chain’s first foray into foreign territories during the 1960s. But despite many commonalities, Swedish values differ considerably from the rest of their overseas markets.
Fortunately for them, they have been one of the best at recognising those differences and have adapted their website accordingly. If we look at the Swedish original website, it is very minimalistic in design with neutral tones, reflecting the preferences of native Swedish audiences. Apart from the menu, there is just one photo of a product displayed initially on the homepage with a price attached; this is then followed by several lines of other products with the prices of each piece. This is a reflection of the Swedish preferences no-nonsense and to-the-point marketing.
Here is the product, this is what it looks like, and this is how much it costs, is an incredibly simple tactic that works well in Sweden, but not so in the UK. Look at the UK version of the website. The focus is on the much-fabled experience of a shopping trip at an IKEA within the UK, with a homepage that would be considered cluttered by Swedish counterparts.
Note the bright, attention-grabbing colours, and the focus on the food offering (food isn’t even mentioned in the Swedish version). Prices take on a much less prominent role in the British version, with just two mentions on the homepage, driving customers to the store to investigate further.
Second behind only McDonald’s in the global fast-food market, KFC has 23,000 locations in more than 140 countries. But dining preferences differ significantly from country to country, and KFC has designed each local version of their website to reflect that fact.
For instance, just a cursory glance and the British version of the website unveils a big drive to get customers to order online or via the app. There’s even an image of a phone in the secondary banner to force home the message that KFC can be delivered to your home quickly and conveniently, reflecting the widespread British use of food-delivery apps. There isn’t even the mention of a specific menu item or price, nor is there a clear option on the homepage to find the nearest restaurant (it’s buried in the footer), forcing customers toward the app or online order page.
But looking at the French version of the website, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a different southern-fried chicken restaurant. Almost everything is different. The header has far fewer options, relocates the logo to the centre and prominently displays a search bar to find the nearest restaurant; reflecting the French preference for restaurant dining.
Furthermore, there is a focal point provided by a rotating slider, promoting in-store offers in the local currency (euros) to drive customer visits to local restaurants. Pictures of menu items are displayed throughout the homepage, helping to whet the appetite of would-be customers.
Long-hailed as one of the most design-conscious companies on the planet (thanks to their futuristic retail stores), Apple has applied extreme brand consistency across the localised version of its website.
On the original website, the design is immaculate and minimalist (as you’d expect) and the focus is on one of the latest releases (iPhone 11) with the prices clearly displayed. As you scroll down the page, each product feature is accompanied by a small animation linked to a concurrent promotion with local partners. In the instance of the latest MacBook Pro, it’s the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, and he appears on screen by driving over the laptop, keeping the attention of Western customers who often get distracted.
When you compare with the original with the Bahraini version, there have been subtle changes made to reflect this market better. First of all, the product feature is the iPhone 11 pro which is currently Apple’s most expensive phone. This choice reflects the demand for luxurious foreign brands in this particular region since they are often used as status symbols — the more expensive, the better. No prices are listed on the homepage in this market, adding to that overall feeling of prestige.
The gimmicky animations have been done away with, and the homepage is much more formal, reflecting the more conservative and business-focused approach of local inhabitants. Lastly, the footer has been completely rearranged to reflect better the way that Arabic reads from left to right, even though a lot of the footer menu items are in English.
Visa is one of the biggest payments companies in the world. As well as being the largest card issuer on the planet, they also offer a whole host of payment services and solutions to businesses across the globe.
When it comes to their website, the overall design is the same across the board, but there are significant changes made to reflect local market preferences. On the original English version of the website, the focus is on services with sponsorship, events, travel, and FinTech solutions. There isn’t a focus on cards because the technology is so widely accepted in this country. As such, there isn’t a single picture that involves a Visa card on the homepage.
However, if you look at the German website, there are subtle but noticeable differences. For instance, look at the focus on products rather than services. There’s a clear drive to advertise the use of contactless and app-based paying which isn’t yet as ubiquitous as it is in the UK. There are at least six images of individuals using visa products (such as an app, card, or smartwatch) to buy an item, compared to zero on the English version.
There’s also the inclusion of location-specific stories, with German celebrities taking up a Visa-sponsored challenge taking centre-stage.
One of the so-called “Big Four” accounting firms, this business-to-business (B2B) corporate giant has also adapted their website to better perform in local markets. As is the case with Visa, the site remains identical in structure in every market. However, the changes made to reflect each location in some instances go further than other consumer-facing brands.
In the original English version, the headline is focused on UK-specific stories such as making our country a fairer place to work and the effect the creation of a 5G network will have on businesses.
Whereas if you look at the Chinese version of the website, the structure and layout are the same, but the content is entirely different. The main attention-grabbing story revolves around the effect Covid-19 is going to have on business which is incredibly pertinent given China is the source and epicentre of the outbreak.
What’s more, they have gone a step further than many other companies by listing every menu item in Chinese characters rather than keeping them in English. In fact, on the homepage, there isn’t a single English word, which demonstrates extra dedication considering it’s widely accepted as the international language for business. There are also links to Chinese-specific social media sites such as Weibo and WeChat.
Website Translation Services You Can Trust
Translating a website is so much more than just literally translating text from one version of a website to another. The whole online experience needs to be localised to your customer. Cultural values, behaviours, and preferences all need to be accommodated in the quest to provide an excellent website experience.
Here at K-International, we can translate your website into 250 languages, taking into account the cultural differences of each country during the process. Our systems link with all leading content management systems to ensure a seamless transition, and we can even help your business gain traction online with our international SEO services.
Whether you have an e-commerce store that’s about to enter a new market, or you need a company website presence in multiple countries, our international website development team can provide you with the answer.
Contact us today to discuss your website requirements and receive a free, no-obligation quote.