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The centralisation conundrum: finding the balance

30th Nov 2016
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In the UK, the response to the Brexit vote this summer has, for many retailers, reiterated the view that foreign customers and foreign markets are essential for future growth and success. When expanding internationally, retailers should strive to project a unified brand across all markets and platforms, whilst adapting their strategies to mesh with local variations in culture, infrastructure and taste. However, working out how to scale ecommerce content across numerous countries and project your brand consistently is a major challenge for retailers.

The brand – a retailer’s best asset

Without the people, platforms, and strategies in place to properly localise content, a business runs the danger of diminishing the power of its brand and devaluing its strongest asset. Each local site should be treated as its own separate channel, whilst ensuring a consistent look and feel across all outlets. High quality content should be distributed across all devices and also to different locations. Yet this is one of the great conundrums that retailers face: achieving the balance between a centralised or localised approach.

Centralisation

According to L2 and Amplience’s recent Intelligence Report into localisation, many brands are choosing to centralise content production from a single location, which is then circulated across its international sites. Often these retailers have chosen to provide a few sites for everyone that are compatible with only a handful of languages and currencies.

This strategy is intended to provide retailers with a faster route to more markets, as it is easier to control and cater content towards fewer languages and currencies. However, inevitably it compromises on the customer experience. A customer in Japan may not be able to read English, French or Mandarin, for example, and they be further inconvenienced by having to convert dollars or yuan into yen. Forcing potential customers to shop on a site that doesn’t speak their language or acknowledge their needs creates a subpar customer experience that may result in them turning their back on your brand and bouncing from the site. In most cases, a customer alienated is a customer lost.

Localisation

Many retailers are choosing instead to roll out dedicated content hubs for each location, and offer translation into every language and conversion for every currency. This usually demands a team of translators and perhaps even a local website team in every market the retailer sells to.

Truly localising a content strategy can mean handing over part of the content production to local teams, which runs the risk of creating an inconsistent experience across sites. This can be fine when it comes to a specific editorial, but central site content should be kept fairly standard.

Beyond a considerable cost, producing content that is suitable for every site can be a struggle for many retailers, particularly when different sites operate using differing and incompatible legacy systems and technologies. Without an adaptable, agile system many retailers are forced to scale back on the consistency of content, or the frequency of publication.

Hybridisation

However, balance is not unachievable. With a good translation team in place, knowledge of the local market and the right technological solutions, retailers can keep their content both central and consistent. More visually-driven content, and minimising the amount of text used can make this process easier. There may not be the need to translate every piece of editorial content into every language for every target market, but content that uses a greater ratio of pictures to text is easier, faster and cheaper to translate.

Above all, however, retailers must make the most of the latest technologies. With the correct solutions, content can be created, adapted and published rapidly, and by bringing widely dispersed translation teams onto a single collaborative platform they can further streamline this process. More and more retailers are turning to technology that enables headless content, which allows content to easily be adapted for different contexts. Adapting content for international audiences can easily become part of the process, as translated text can be layered on top of the same image, creating content that is both consistent and culturally appropriate.

Ultimately, retailers need flexible systems designed to cope with producing high frequency, tailored content for a variety of customers, devices and channels. This helps to improve customer engagement, strengthens brand power and boosts sales in international markets.

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