Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.
This year, more than ever before, people are turning to eCommerce for their holiday shopping. With Black Friday and the start marketing the holiday sales season approaching, retailers need to improve their localization for holidays if they want to maximize their end-of-2023 sales.
We all know the holiday sales season is important for retailers. For some sectors, the last couple of months of the year bring in a quarter of the year’s revenue. But this year’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and even Christmas won’t look like last year’s. Don’t worry Tiny Tim, people will still buy gifts.
Recently, we’ve seen huge annual leaps in the percentage of shopping being done online for Singles’ Day in China, Novy God in Russia, and Christmas or Hannukah all over the world. And this new year, everyone’s shift to eCommerce will likely dwarf them all. Throughout the global national 404 holiday, people are staying home, or at least avoiding crowds. That means turning to the internet.
Total eCommerce sales are expected to grow to $4.5 trillion by 2023. Customers are realizing that, once they go online, they’re not limited to local options. In fact, 57% of online shoppers have bought from outside their own borders. They can go to Etsy for traditional handicrafts from around the world, or Vitacost if they live in an area without a local health food store.
They’re not even limited to US brand pricing anymore, since things like inexpensive lighting and home goods are available from China at Alibaba’s international site, AliExpress. For you, as a retailer, this is good and bad. It means that you’ll have access to audiences you could never reach before, but you’ll have to compete with sellers from every corner of the world.
So, how do you compete with the boutique around the corner when you’re on the other side of the planet? The key is localization.
Holiday Localization refers to a specialized approach that plays a pivotal role in expanding businesses across different markets during festive periods, seasonal ads and special occasions. Unlike general localization, which involves language translation and cultural adaptation, holiday localization specifically tailors marketing strategy, content, messaging, and imagery to align with the cultural and seasonal nuances of holidays.
This practice goes beyond superficial translation, aiming to create a genuine connection with local users by adjusting navigation, tone, and visuals to suit the holiday spirit. By doing so, businesses can effectively tap into the emotions and family traditions associated with holidays, resonating more deeply with their target audience.
Holiday localization’s impact on site performance is widely recognized. It’s been shown that well-executed holiday marketing campaigns and localization efforts can significantly enhance customer engagement and drive sales during festive seasons. By providing content that is not only in the local language but also deeply tied to the holiday context, businesses can create a more compelling and relevant user experience. This is particularly important as studies indicate that users are more likely to engage with websites that reflect their cultural and seasonal expectations.
Reading in your second language can be exhausting. Even if you’re fluent, using a language that isn’t your own demands more concentration than the language you’re most comfortable in. You don’t want your customers focused on just getting through your site. It needs to be effortless.
Make it easy for your customers to do what you want them to do by translating your website. The holiday season can induce anxiety in the best of times. If the experience adds stress, they’ll go somewhere else.
The perfect holiday gift is something that shows the receiver that the giver knows them and understands their needs. The same is true for holiday campaigns for a business or a website. Your customers are more likely to purchase if they feel that you get them.
One of the most famous examples of this is Marlboro cigarettes. In the early 1970s, the company wanted to reach the African American market. Tom Burrell, known as the father of targeted advertising, convinced them that the existing Marlboro Man character wasn’t culturally relevant. Instead of simply using a Black model for the same mascot, they needed a modern urban persona.
Whether you’re expanding to a new demographic or a new region, the principle is the same. Customers need to see their lifestyle reflected in order to trust that you’re not a careless intruder. If you’re launching in an Asian market, use Asian faces, if you’re selling in Scandinavia, replace photos of desert landscapes, and don’t make references to snow in a Christmas promotion in Argentina. Localizing will also allow you to start collecting the kind of reviews that build trust – local ones. 69% of international customers want more reviews on eCommerce sites, and reviews from people who share their experiences and concerns – in their language – are the ones they’ll trust the most.
During the holiday season, cultural and religious traditions are front and center. If you act as if everyone’s customs and celebrations are the same, you inadvertently dismiss your customers’ experiences, holiday traditions and heritage. That’s not a great basis for a relationship. And that’s why localization needs to go beyond direct translation.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales traditions have expanded globally, but specific holidays still vary. Translating your Christmas content doesn’t make much sense if you’re launching in India. Instead, ramp up your holiday marketing campaigns in time for Diwali. Even in majority-Christian countries, tailor your holiday promotions to local traditions.
For example, the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7th, and New Year’s is a big gift-giving day. In a lot of Catholic countries, especially in South America and parts of Europe, the baby Jesus himself brings the presents. In parts of Italy, it’s Saint Lucy. Customers there will understand references to the commercialized American Santa Claus, but you may not be triggering nostalgia in the way you’d hoped.
Whether it’s Diwali, Novy God, Singles’ Day, or Thanksgiving, holiday shoppers aren’t there to browse. They have a list, a budget, and a tight deadline. Make it easy to find the information they need to stick to their schedule.
Make sure to localize the entire technical purchase process. Ensure that digital movies have subtitles or voice-overs in the local dialect and images align right to left if the local language goes that way. Prominently display prices in the local market, currency and international shipping information for their specific location. Make sure payment processing is easy and set up to work smoothly with local banks. Don’t forget to prepare the overall site infrastructure – all translated pages should interlink with translated pages and not pages in the original language, and your site’s dimensions must be optimized for the most popular devices locally.
People search differently in different places. That means that translating keywords directly instead of localizing your SEO will make it harder for customers to find your site, costing you time and money in the long run. It’s particularly important to include local search terms in product titles and descriptions. This generally requires transcreation – creating new content from the content that you already translated.
For example, One Hour Translation recently led a project using AliExpress content translated from Chinese to create brand new titles and descriptions in many other languages for new markets around the world. This is more of a long-term investment, but it will pay off leaps and bounds for future and holiday marketing seasons.
We could go on listing reasons why getting your website multi-market ready will improve revenue this holiday season, but it all boils down to creating a more relevant local experience. Users around the globe have different needs. Localizing your content will allow you to meet those needs, create relevant content, and compete effectively with local sellers.
Leading up to the holiday season, take time consider all the holidays that may be relevant to your target markets. Get familiar with important holidays, their traditions, and they imply for your business, whether it’s Thanksgiving in the U.S. or Singles’ Day in China. Here’s some of the major worldwide holidays to consider for your global holiday promotions:
Thorough planning is important to implementing your localized marketing campaigns on time. When building your strategy, look at how other successful competitors (both local and global) approached key holidays in your target markets. This will give you a good idea of what consumers expect, so you can provide a similar or better shopping experience.
Understanding consumer shopping behaviors in different markets is time consuming, so if time isn’t on your side, consulting with a professional localization partner can be beneficial. This way, you can be sure that your entire holiday shopping experience is professionally translated, localized, and SEO optimized for each of your target markets.
Holiday campaign promotions are beginning earlier and earlier each year. In fact, 61% of consumers starting shopping by early November in 2021. Start marketing with seasonal ads and offers at least six to eight weeks before the holiday, and don’t hesitate to begin even earlier. Price sensitive shoppers want to begin shopping early to better manage budgets and avoid the last minute stress of holiday shopping.
Holidays are a time for nostalgia, traditions, and time with loved ones. Create festive content that resonates with your audience depending on their culture’s traditions. While customers in countries such as Italy, Spain, and Brazil will recognize the “Santa Claus” or “Father Christmas” figure, they also have their own important figures that signify gift-giving. In many Catholic countries, baby Jesus is the one that brings children presents, not Santa. In some regions of Italy, “La Befana” is known as a similar figure to Santa Claus, and in Spain, presents are delivered to children by “Los Reyes Magos.”
An excellent role model for localized ads is Coca-Cola. It sells its product in all but two countries of the world (Cuba and North Korea) and, for nearly every country, there are localized advertising campaigns that reflect different holiday traditions.
Whatever theme your festive advertising strategy takes, make sure it reflects the lifestyle of your customers. You want your audiences to resonate and relate to the people, emotions and settings depicted in your imagery. For example, avoid featuring snow in adverts aimed at the UAE or Argentina, and remember to change desert landscapes for snow-covered scenery when targeting Scandinavia.
Video ads are a great way to capture consumer attention leading up to the holiday season. A reported 72% of customers prefer learning about a product or service through video than text or images. Make the most out of video content you already have planned by localizing it for global audiences. With subtitling and voice-overs, you can create content that is adaptable to different cultures and languages. The best promotional videos are attention grabbing, clear, and accessible. This means having an engaging narrative, being culturally specific, and using subtitles and native-speaking voice-over talent.
This shopping season, your website has more competition and more opportunities than ever. Brand new audiences are out there. Translating and localizing get them to your site and keep them there.