Makeup shoppers browsing the Lancôme website in Russia can scroll through user-generated photos and watch tutorial videos with Russian subtitles. Canadians, however, won’t find any of that content.

Localization presents a persistent challenge for brands seeking to establish a global presence. While most website landing pages are localized (69%), other features such as blogs and user-generated content lag far behind.

Percentage of localized content

The strongest localization efforts typically come from European retailers, which have always had to deal with the challenges of adapting to multiple markets. American companies often focus on China and the U.S., causing them to struggle in Western Europe.

British fashion retailer ASOS exemplifies this forward-thinking mentality. To ensure that localized content resonates with target audiences, the retailer tests each country’s website content with local consumers. Before establishing a website in Russia, ASOS assembled a local task force and showed participants the Russian text and images it planned to use.

ASOS customized its Russian site

The key to a successful global content strategy is finding a balance between a unified (and scalable) brand voice and customization based on regional interest — a difficult feat. Estée Lauder, for example, avoided inconsistencies seen on Lancôme’s site by syndicating content across all of its websites. Estée Lauder shoppers in China can watch the same video tutorials as consumers in Russia or the U.S. However, this means the brand has missed opportunities to offer unique content tailored to specific countries.

An example of a good customization tactic from Estée Lauder is how it capitalizes on the popularity of mobile content in Japan. Japanese customers who enter their mobile email address on the brand website receive free samples. Uniqlo also engages Japanese consumers through mobile, incorporating in-store QR codes into its “treasure hunt” app.

Estee Lauder uses mobile in Japan

As this illustrates, localization isn’t only a matter of translation. It also requires understanding how Japanese consumers approach shopping differently from consumers in the U.S. Four Seasons’ Chinese website redesign is another brand effort that exemplifies this approach. By thinking about how Chinese travelers select rooms and organizing its site accordingly, the hotel brand crafted the ultimate localized experience.

Others might soon follow Four Seasons’ lead. In the past few years, brands have focused on getting country-specific sites out quickly and neglected content quality as a result. For example, Net-a-Porter has 172 local sites but limited localization; some sites don’t even feature prices in the local currency. As global presence becomes the norm, more brands are likely to focus on the next step towards a loyal, global customer base: localized content.


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