Linguistic Alchemy: Great Translations Deliver 'Brand-Perfect' Experiences for Global Consumers

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By Charles Whiteman, SVP Client Relations, MotionPoint

The art of translation is a lot like a magic trick: When it’s at its best, consumers believe they’re consuming content crafted by a fellow native. They never suspect the content was originally crafted in another language.

This convincing linguistic sleight-of-hand requires absolute fluency and boundless creativity—and this commitment to copywriting and brand voice is critical when companies expand into new international markets, particularly online.

English is no longer the lingua franca of the Internet. Today’s global consumers demand translated materials that are just as confident, artful and alluring as those found in flagship English-speaking markets.

For expanding companies, this requires finding translation partners who have a deep understanding of languages, cultures and consumer preferences—and an unparalleled respect for a brand’s products and verve.

This magical combination leads to more than just accurate, engaging translations. It generates more website traffic, conversions and revenue.

More Than Words: The Importance of Tone

For more than 15 years, my company has translated online and offline content for hundreds of brand-sensitive companies in dozens of global markets. Time and again, we’ve observed that authentic translations make a measurable, profitable difference for brands.

While plenty of a company’s content doesn’t require “brand-perfect” translations—such as practical nuts-and-bolts product descriptions on e-commerce sites—more emotionally-driven content often does. Material designed to delight and persuade, such as sales and marketing copy, requires a meticulous brand-centric approach.

Take our recent experience with a quick service restaurant chain. The company, which serves the U.S. market with websites in English and Spanish, approved our recommendation to shift its Spanish website’s tone from “formal” to “informal.” Our linguists insisted that the company’s playful, family-centric voice seen on its English site should be emulated on the Spanish site.

This pivot would create brand and voice consistency between the two U.S. audiences, resonate more powerfully with Spanish-speaking consumers, and boost the performance of the translated site, we knew.

Three months after the consumer-friendly translations debuted, the performance improvements were clear:

  • Bounce rate dropped by 2%
  • Customer time on site grew by 8%
  • Page views increased by 11%
  • Conversion rate for ordering meals increase by 6%
  • Monthly revenue increased significantly

The takeaway: Companies must strive to understand their audiences in new markets. Before the restaurant chain’s Spanish content received its tonal shift, Spanish-speaking consumers were experiencing a linguistic disconnect. The stuffy, formal voice defied expectations—and in fact alienated some customers completely.

The Irresistible Influence of Authenticity

Shifting industries, we also witnessed a spike in engagement and conversion rates when our teams zeroed in on another linguistic disconnect on a localized airline’s site serving South Korea.

The site was underperforming, and some high-profile marketing and promotional content on Korean site’s homepage was to blame. The translated content—which trumpeted ticket deals, frequent flyer perks and more—was technically accurate. However, it lacked the verve Koreans expect from such content. The translations felt like, well, translations. They didn’t feel brand-perfect, like they’d been crafted by a native.

Indeed, Koreans tend to expect more verbiage in promotional messaging than Western audiences usually do. Longer descriptions of products, services and benefits are expected in this market.

The promos’ translations were modified to accommodate this cultural nuance. This authenticity dramatically improved the site’s performance. Promotion click-throughs grew an average of 15%. Checkouts increased by an average of 44%. This resulted in a powerful spike in the Korean site’s incremental revenue.

In this and many other instances, our team has seen that crafting translations that embody a brand’s voice—while providing culturally-resonant experiences to consumers—really moves the needle.

Such authentic content delivers that powerful linguistic sleight of hand, and a memorable, brand-perfect experience for global consumers.

About the Author

Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation, the world's #1 enterprise localization platform. He may be reached at cwhiteman@motionpoint.com.