Can the way British retailers are trying to sell to German consumers teach the rest of us any lessons on localization? London-based e-commerce consulting firm Practicology thinks so. The company ran a study of 25 UK-based retailers and their e-commerce website localization for German audiences.
Joanna Perry, Head of Marketing at Practicology, said retailers typically begin to test demand in other geographies by offering overseas shipping and payment in other currencies on a single website. They then invest in localization when they see strong demand. “Certain overseas markets will require a localized e-commerce site – in addition to localized marketing and other demand-generation activity – if the retailer is to compete effectively with domestic brands,” Perry said.
Practicology compiled the results of their study in a report that ranked the 25 brands based on good and bad localized experiences, basing a 60-point score on the following criteria:
- payment options
- address fields
- size guides
- customer service information
The study focused on the localization of all the elements of e-commerce websites, not just translations of static text. It also looked at how site localization affected user experience, which in turn influenced how likely it was that German audiences would buy.
After assessing the websites of 25 retailers, British clothing retailer Boden came out on top, followed closely by sporting wear company Wiggle. At the lower end of the ranking are companies like luxury brand Burberry, beauty and cosmetics retailer Feelunique, and online goods store All Saints. The report also reviewed brands like Marks and Spencer’s, Bodyshop, and Net-a-Porter.
How Boden Trumped the Competition
Boden took localization seriously: it performed localized translation on static texts and other elements such as navigation labels and help functions. Boden also made sure to leverage market product preferences and understood how localized site search made for a better user experience for their customers.
The retailer also provided a German blog and social links that went to German-dedicated social profiles, extending the localized experience outside the ecommerce site.
Meanwhile, a look at the laggards in the study revealed telling localization missteps. Warehouse, for instance, displayed an English-language help query form that asked German users what they needed help with. Smythson did not even completely translate homepage content, switching from English to German and back again in one blurb. Lowest scorer All Saints blew it on site search. The report showed an All Saints sample query on “Kleid,” the German term for dress, resulting in a suggestion asking “Did you mean ‘Klein?’,” which is the German word for small.
All Saints also blundered in terms of German welcome emails. Wiggle, the second placer in the ranking, sent out fully localized, German welcome emails. In contrast, All Saints not only included English calls to action in their welcome emails, it even mentioned UK orders in emails supposedly sent to German audiences.