October 14, 2016 Last Updated 4:42 pm

‘Brand-perfect’ translations drive website success in emerging markets

Guest column: Charles Whiteman, SVP Client Services at MotionPoint, discusses why leveraging brand-perfect translations is especially important for companies online

Good translation is a lot like a sleight-of-hand trick. The end result should be so authentic that consumers should never wonder if they’re experiencing content that was originally written in another language.

Good translations require linguistic fluency. But great translations—what my company often calls “brand-perfect” translations—are a different breed. They transcend linguistic fluency by incorporating creativity, attention to detail and cultural knowledge and sensitivity to flawlessly capture a brand’s voice and verve.

Leveraging brand-perfect translations is especially important for companies online, when trying to expand into new global markets.


English-language content may be widely consumed on the Internet, but when international consumers have their choice, they’ll drop it for content in their own language. In fact, 60% of English-fluent global consumers rarely or never make purchases on English-language websites. This naturally increases to about 90% when the consumer can’t read English.

Indeed, consumers in emerging markets are demanding artfully-crafted online content, presented in their languages of choice. Based on my experience, businesses that deliver such brand-perfect translations will see increases in website traffic, conversions and revenue.

Be Mindful of Tone

These brand-perfect translations aren’t as complex as you might expect. My company translates websites and offline content for hundreds of companies in dozens of global markets. One of our clients—a leading family-friendly quick service restaurant chain—was unwittingly creating a disconnect among its Spanish-speaking U.S. customers.

While its English website sported a casual, upbeat brand voice, its Spanish site had been translated with a “formal” tone. This wasn’t just creating a sense of brand dissonance between the two sites—the stuffy tone was driving away business.

Changing the tone of a translated site from formal to informal has its challenges (it impacts verbs conjugation, among other factors), but is a straightforward

process. Three months after the client approved our recommendation to switch the Spanish text to a more casual tone, the site’s performance improved:

  • Bounce rates dropped by 2%
  • Time on site and page views increased by about 10% each
  • Conversions increased 6%

Understanding such tonal disparities, and how they affect consumers in emerging markets, can help companies avoid lost business.

Be Mindful of Consumer Expectations

We also leveraged brand-perfect translations to help a global airline improve its credibility among South Korean consumers.

We realized the company’s homepage promotions weren’t resonating with Korean travelers; conversion rates were lower than we expected. We quickly determined that the Korean promotional text was translated accurately, but it lacked a kind of verve that natives expected.

(The reason: Koreans expect more information provided in sales call-outs than consumers in other countries. This is in contrast to many Western markets, which prefer a “less is more” approach to sales messaging.)

We quickly revised the homepage promos to deliver on Koreans’ expectations. Site performance improved immediately. Click-throughs from homepage promotions grew an average of 15%. Checkouts rose more than 40%. One especially effective promo generated a 70% surge in checkouts.

Finding Brand-Perfect Translators

As your business expands into new online markets, keep in mind the importance of brand-perfect translations. This breed of translation demands a versatile vendor with deep knowledge of linguistic and cultural fluency—and plenty of respect for your company’s voice and products.

Charles-Whiteman-240As you chat with localization providers, ask them tough questions about their hiring processes. Do they hire native speakers? Do they screen their translators for fluency and creativity during the hiring process? Do they audit work, post-hire, to ensure quality and accountability? Make sure to speak with some of the vendors’ most brand-sensitive clients, too, to confirm their claims.

Be rigorous in your standards. Your brand deserves a partner worthy of its business, and can preserve the integrity of your brand in international online markets.

Charles Whiteman is senior vice president of client services at MotionPoint Corporation, the world’s #1 enterprise localization platform.

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