Our websites are our shop windows to the world. And in these days of a truly global marketplace, the customers browsing those windows can be located all over the planet.
Just because you run your own small business doesn’t mean you have to think small – in fact, the more niche your enterprise, the more you are likely to find strong audiences regardless of physical geography. Every start-up should think globally when it comes to the digital side of their enterprise, whether they can fulfill demand now or are simply looking to up their profile pre-launch into a specific market. And it doesn’t have to be difficult or too expensive. These handy hints will get you thinking a touch more expansively and – who knows – may act as a springboard for taking your enterprise international.
Keep branding consistent, but adapt your strategy
Building up a successful brand is all about taking the vision and values you have for your company and communicating that to customers in order to establish a relationship. And every blue-chip brand, from Starbucks to Nike has shown us that consistency really is key when it comes to making a name for yourself. While you shouldn’t be seeking to change the DNA of what your business is, you do need to have an awareness of the different environments you may be operating in internationally. Make an effort to localise – whether it’s securing really good translation services to avoid any auto-translate blunders, or carrying out research with a user testing tool in different markets, it’s a good idea to refine your formula to suit local tastes. Even simple things like symbols and colour schemes can take on a very different context abroad, so it’s always a good idea to seek help from a source in the country itself.
Know your customer base
Your website analytics are key to understanding what changes you need to make digitally. They should inform you of the geographical locations you’re getting traffic from and provide a ranking of what languages your visitors speak, so you can see where you need to prioritise. Offering versions of your website for different regions, for example, a US and UK site can let Google know that you have ‘canonical content’, and this means you won’t get penalised for duplicate content in the search rankings.
Ask for customer feedback
The best way to know if you’re meeting the needs of your audiences? Ask them! Regular customer feedback solicitation should already be part of your process, but make sure you aren’t just collecting feedback from your home country. Creating a multilingual website is about more than just translating the text. For example, text variations can often result in changes within the layout due to increase text volume, or for RTL (right-to-left) displayed languages, such as Arabic, your layout will appear upside down! Alignment, line breaks, formatting inconsistencies, button positioning and such are only things which can be addressed if you integrate international customers into your design process