Optimising Your Website for International Clients
Attracting new customers can be a challenge, and that’s especially true when you’re trying to expand to international markets. If you want to cast a wide net and entice international customers, you have to ensure that your website is up-to-par.
This goes beyond making a fast translation of your website’s existing content. To really optimise your site for international clients, you’ll have to modify your social media strategy, implement an intuitive design and so much more. It’s definitely a lot of work, but it’s well worth the effort. A website that’s perfectly optimised for your target market goes a long way toward helping attract potential clients and customers.
Here are the most important elements of fine-tuning your website for new markets.
Respect the Culture
There have been some truly incredible high-profile blunders committed by large brands trying to break into new markets. One of the more amusing cases out there comes from an Iranian razor company named Tiz. The word “tiz” means “sharp” in Persian, which is a great name for that market. However, when the company tried to enter the Qatar market, they realised too late that their brand name was slang for “butt” in Arabic.
Such failures could easily have been remedied with some cultural insight before going to the market. However, this is the sort of thing that far too many companies ignore. They spend all their time working on the product and researching market trends, but little time delving into the local culture.
You need to be especially vigilant and culturally sensitive with a website. Poorly translated text reeks of unprofessionalism and is sure to turn off potential customers. Beyond translations, all digital marketing materials need to be scrutinised in order to ensure there’s nothing culturally offensive or confusing.
Even if you’re only dealing with English-speaking markets, another important thing to consider is the spelling you use on your website and in marketing materials. British spelling won’t go over too well in the U.S., and that’s also true with American English in the U.K. or Australia.
If you’re not 100 percent sure of something on your website, you need to get some outside help to avoid any cultural missteps. It might cost a little money, but the potential price is worth avoiding anything that might set your company back in the market you’re trying to break into.
Tailoring Social Media and Digital Advertising
If you’re doing business in the U.K. and Australia, you’ll have to deal with a nine-hour time difference. Dealing with employees in different time zones is a challenge. The same can be said about attracting customers via social media in different time zones. There are optimal times to post in order to reach the largest audience possible, but the time zones make posting at these times a little more difficult.
There are a few ways to get around this. On Facebook, you can target certain posts to specific countries. That’s a good way ensure that the people you want to reach are seeing your posts. On all other social media outlets, you’ll simply have to find the right balance in posting for different time zones.
Different cultures use social media in unique ways. Some outlets that might be big in one country could be relatively unpopular in the market your website is being customised for. That’s one more thing to consider when planning a campaign.
Learning everything you need to know from your audience won’t happen overnight. You won’t really know the best practices to use until you begin experimenting and tracking analytics. Keep a close eye on the ad campaigns and social media posts that seem to resonate in the market. If you’re not having the splash that you hoped for, it might be time to retool your efforts and do a little more research on the web habits of your potential customers. You might be overlooking something important.
Follow International Guidelines
Regardless of what business you’re in, you need to take international laws and guidelines into consideration when working with clients in a different country. If you’re a nonprofit, for example, you might need to follow the guidelines of a country in which you’re either receiving donations or planning to fund projects.
Online retailers face similar guidelines, and because of that, some companies simply find it easier to avoid certain markets altogether than to try to adhere to confusing guidelines they aren’t familiar with (for example, here are some U.K. guidelines for online retailers).
Depending on the scope and nature of your business, it might be a good idea to obtain some professional legal help in order to ensure that you follow all the necessary guidelines. Regardless of your site, utilise proper risk management when entering a new market.
It’s important to do your legal research as early as possible, as it can save a lot of time. It’d be a nightmare spending money to get your website customised for an international audience and coming up with marketing campaigns only to find out there are legal hurdles that make your expansion impossible. Don’t let that happen, and do your homework as soon as you can.
In a best-case scenario, your business won’t be subjected to international laws and you’ll have nothing to worry about. Just double- and triple-check to make sure that’s the case. It never hurts to be overly certain before plunging into a new market.
Implementing the Design
Putting all your plans into action with an international website is the most important step in the process. Impeccably translated pages and a winning social media strategy means little if the website is poorly designed and challenging to use. The design is the culmination of all your hard work and research, so you want to ensure that it’s the best it can possibly be.
One of the most common and intuitive ways to target international clients and customers is a “switch language” option built into the site. Make sure that the language switch is prominently featured. Some companies go through the effort of making a multi-language page, but it ends up rarely used because customers can’t find the switch language option quickly enough before leaving the site.
To get around that issue, many websites use automatic options (like Google and Facebook) to set a person’s language based on their location. This works well in theory, but some sites make it difficult to switch languages to something other than what’s been automatically assigned. This can be quite frustrating for foreign language speakers who happen to be located in another country.
Another annoyance is when a site doesn’t save your language preferences, meaning you have to switch it to the language of your choice each time you visit the site. As well-intended as the language options are, such flaws will only alienate potential clients.
Rethinking Cultural Understanding
During the design stage, you’ll want to think again about how to handle the unique cultural aspects of the market you’re targeting. Stock photos that might play in the U.S. (wooden homes and oversized American SUVs) might not resonate with people in Germany, for example. The differences might be even greater if you’re based in a Western country and you’re trying to reach Asian clients. Symbolism varies from culture to culture, and some countries associate colours with different things.
All this is important to consider, as perfectly written text and a savvy, sensitive marketing campaign could be undone by shortfalls in the design options. Whenever possible, have a local in the country you’re trying to target go over your designs to see if there’s anything egregious.
Keep this in mind when you’re launching your website to a new audience. Some small changes here and there ensure that the site is reaching its full potential.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind when optimising your site for an international audience. It might not seem necessary to go beyond some translations, but the finicky nature of Web users means they’re quick to exit a site when they can’t find what they’re looking for or they lose their interest. You’re not just competing against other firms and organisations — you’re fighting to keep people’s attention when they’re easily distracted. Only a small percentage of a site’s visitors will turn into a lead, so you want to ensure that your site can entice as many clients as possible.
You might think time is of the essence, but it’s important to get things right before making a big push. Experiment with social media and various designs to see what works and what doesn’t, but hold off on a big, splashy launch until everything is in order. It might take longer than you hope, but it’s worth the effort. So many companies get it wrong when trying to break into a new market.
Launching the internationally optimised version of your website is one challenge. Ensuring that your business provides what international clients are looking for is another. By getting the website right, you can focus your attention on what really matters.