Retail Localization: Cross-channel and Language Translation

Category: Translation Services

This article, written by Michael Kriz, was originally published by in March, 2012.

1. How do you see the cross-channel architecture of business functions changing the face of retail today?

As today’s retail customers move between mobile, web and physical store locations, retailers are expected to provide a seamless experience for customer engagement, purchasing and service. Integrating messaging and operations across channels is becoming fundamental, requiring a highly-coordinated strategy. Marketing and back-end IT systems, ecommerce and brick and mortar retail operations all need to work in synch.

I think we’ll see this trend continue – and successful retailers will be those that offer the most coherency across all customer touch points. From the initial sale to customer relationship management and post-sale customer service, a retailer’s value proposition, branding and communication style across channels must be consistent.

2. How does this trend affect retailers looking to expand internationally?

More channels make a coordinated approach to translation even more crucial. Consumers expect to interact with retailers in their own language. And not just via a single marketing campaign or at the point-of-sale. In-store mobility solutions, signage, digital advertising, eCommerce portals, customer-facing applications, search engine marketing, online chat services, mailers, call center customer service and loyalty programs need to be woven together to offer a unified customer experience in each language.

3. How can retailers create a unified customer experience across all channels in their new international markets?

A multi-channel experience presents more upside as well as higher risk of jarring inconsistencies. Since it’s important to build a brand internationally using a consistent voice, retailers will first want to determine how their brand personality will permeate each unique mode of communication—emails, chats, phone calls, packaging, signage, in-store interactions, etc. Retailers should work closely with their international staff and a translation agency to shape their company voice in the languages of their new markets.

Here are a few tips for your readers to that end:

• Make sure to adapt brand style guides and key terms for each language. Distribute these assets to global staff members and use them to develop the translated copy for all marketing, website, training and customer service content. This process will enable you to present a unified experience to your global customers through tighter control of your messaging across languages and channels.

• Aim for consistent language across employee-facing AND customer-facing materials. Remember that it’s not just customers that need messaging in their language. Your local staff will be more successful with clear translations of employee-facing communications, applications and training that adhere to approved style and terminology.

• Don’t assume that a country equals a language. Have a default language preference for a given location or demographic, but allow your customers to easily identify a preference that will follow them across channels – or across the globe. • Hire a single translation agency to work across your departments and be accountable for consistency across channels. If you already have multiple agencies, ask them to collaborate with each other to share translation assets.

• Make sure your agency is storing your translations in a system that can reuse and reference content in real time. For example, the translations from your product information management system can be reused in retail product knowledge cards or training material. This has many advantages for both consistency and cost savings.