Localising Content for Cross-Atlantic Commerce
Localising content for a UK audience means more than just changing a ‘z’ to a ‘s’.
For brands and retailers expanding their digital operations across the Atlantic to the UK (or vice versa), the key to converting customers is delivering a truly localised site experience. Both UK and US consumer cultures share many commonalities, so, other than spelling, what else needs to be changed? Each region reacts differently to design, promotion, and delivery structures, and shopping itself follows different flows depending on your location. Paying close attention to these granular details of localisation will greatly help cross-Atlantic conversion.
Successful localisation strategies are supported by three C’s: content, commerce, and conversion.
1. Localising Content
Research and prepare your brand and product for a new location, culture, and audience. Reaction to your brand and product offerings will differ, and only thorough research ensures you get it right!
Product names need to be tailored accordingly so that a UK consumer can easily find the product they are looking for. A great example of this is UK formal wear brand Hawes & Curtis’s North American expansion. The customer language around shirts is different between the US and UK – ‘dress shirt’ is not a commonly used term in the UK, but is very much so in the US!
Have a local resource review and rewrite content to align with cultural and regional behaviour. In fashion, seasonality differs from the US to the UK (depending on where you are based) and therefore trends are different – a one-size-fits-all blog approach will not always work!
Does your promotional messaging resonate with foreign consumers? A/B testing different messaging is a great way to verify efficacy. Otherwise, comprehensive competitive analyses in addition to market knowledge can provide clues.
The key is clarity. Never assume consumers will understand the promotion: explain clearly how they qualify. Take ‘BOGOF’ for example; do you add two products to your basket and receive the discount at the checkout, or do you add one to your basket and automatically receive a second? Missing these granular details can inflate return rates and overseas logistics costs.
In addition to promotional copy messaging, category pages will need to be adjusted. Do search and filter attributes translate for your new market? Sizing is a completely different system (don’t forget guides!), and pricing will need to be portrayed as either £ or $.
If you’ve altered the name of your products for the new locale, ensure the categories in your navigation menu reflect these changes. Again, the goal is clarity. Avoiding confusion reduces browsing time and gets customers to where they want to be as quickly as possible.
Ensure imagery reflects cultural and seasonal nuances. Take home and kitchen brands for example; any shots of food will need to be carefully considered – any imagery for Thanksgiving won’t resonate in the UK.
Don’t Forget SEO!
SEO elements like page titles, meta descriptions, and image alt tags are often left behind when opening up shop overseas. Ensure your keywords and data reflect what local customers are searching for. Info on search engine results pages should be same as what is on product detail pages.
2. Localising Commerce
US consumers expect longer shipping, and only 3% of US online shoppers consider in-store pickup important to the shopping experience. In the UK; however, 65% of high-street fashion retailers offer collect-in-store 1, whilst 71% of fashion retailers, and 76% of high-street retailers offer next-day delivery.2
Presently, payment methods in the US and UK are fairly similar. Credit/debit cards and PayPal together represent 96% of UK payments. It’s always a great idea to promote these methods on your site or display payment logos as early as possible in your checkout to help build security and trust with customers.
Pricing in the UK is presented a little differently than in the US. In the UK, taxes are included in the total price, which should be displayed on product detail pages, and therefore doesn’t require a breakdown throughout the checkout. Also, consider how your prices benchmark against local competition. What are common discount methods in each region? Knowing this information goes a ways to localising the shopping experience.
Making returns as easy as possible, and communicating how to do it, is crucial. Globally, 88% of consumers rate a simple and reliable returns process as the second most important element when shopping online. Similarly, 78% of UK shoppers deem returns an important factor when deciding where to shop online3.
3. Localizing Conversion
We see many retailers and brands launch cross-Atlantic strategies and utilise the same marketing calendar for both regions. Whilst religious holidays cross over (as do the majority of peak holidays), take into consideration different days of celebration. For example Mothering/Fathering Sunday’s. Additionally, research and test which days of the week are most popular in each locale. They may not be the same, and this knowledge enables strategies to be extra successful.
When it comes to peak holidays, December 26th in the United States is a day of post-Christmas relaxation, but in the UK, it’s a day where shoppers will rise at 6 am in order to hunt down Boxing Day bargains.
Anywhere on Earth, a frictionless, seamless mobile experience is critical to being successful. With 60% of store visits in both the UK and the US coming from mobile devices, you must be prepared to cater to the mobile browser.
The key to successfully expanding a digital business from the US to UK (or vice versa) is all about giving customers a personalised experience: just like you would in your own locale. Do your research, don’t take language and behaviours for granted, and ensure you’re meeting and exceeding shopping experience expectations.
Kerry Meehan is a Sr. Digital Strategy Consultant in LYONSCG’s London office.