Website localization in the supply chain industry: The most international sites, best practices and things to avoid.

by Florian Auckenthaler
07th Apr, 2017

For this article, we reviewed 850 Promat exhibitors web sites & 780 Global Logistics companies web sites to figure out how companies internationalize and localize their web presence. 

Out of the 1633 reviewed company websites from this study, 571 companies (35%) include a language (22%) or country (13%) selection option. This is a surprising statistic in an industry which is global by nature. Only 3% of websites include both a country AND language selection. 

The PromatShow alone features exhibitors from 26 different countries. The visitors to the trade show are from many more countries which makes it even more important for companies to present their marketing and sales materials in different languages. 

Here is a list of the 26 represented countries from the 2017 PromatShow exhibitors: 

  • Argentina
  • Austria
  • Australia
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • China
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Republic of Korea
  • Spain
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Turkey
  • UK
  • USA

Language Selection

We differentiate between language selection and country selection. In this section, we discuss how companies facilitate the selection or switching of different languages. 

22% or 360 companies offer a language option on their website. 

Only about half of the 360 international websites include more than 2 languages. 

Websites with the most number of language options:

Company Website # of languages
Tente Casters www.tente.com 23
ShieldMark mightylinetape.com 15
MAERSK www.maerskline.com 12
Agility www.agility.com 12
MSC www.msc.com 11
Vimar cnvimar.com 11
Ewals Cargo Care www.ewals.com 11
HPRT www.hprt.com 11
International Paper www.internationalpaper.com 10

Language Selection Location

78% of websites place the language selection option at the TOP RIGHT of the website. 9% place the selection at the TOP LEFT, and only 4% of sites include the language switcher in the FOOTER

example of website placing language selector at the top right (most popular option at 78%):

http://www.llamasoft.com/

example of website placing the selector in the footer:

http://www.tennantco.com/

Type of language selection

The most popular type of trigger for language selection is to display the language choices in their original language. For example if you are browsing an english website you would see options for other languages written like this: Español, Français, Deutsch, Italiano ect. This type is used by 35% of all sites with language selection.

 

http://messersi.com/en/

Country Selection

13% or 212 out of 1633 websites include a country selection. 65% of them have for the selection more than 5 countries.

As with language selection, the most popular location for the country selector is TOP RIGHT of the website. 60% of websites use this location for the country selection.

The most popular display method for the trigger of country selection is through the use of some icon such as a  globe, map or country flag. Often these icons are used in combination with country text names or country codes.

Websites that offer the most country options:

Company Website # of languages
Manitou NA www.manitou.com 225
TNT tnt.com 218
Fedex www.fedex.com 216
Karcher NA www.kaercher.com 192
TVH www.tvh.com 166
MSC www.msc.com 157
Hellmann www.hellmann.net 154
MAERSK www.maerskline.com 149
Schneider Electric www.schneider-electric.us 139
Turck turck.com 113
Arcese www.arcese.com 107
Mettler Toledo www.mt.com 101

What to avoid when implementing language and country selection

  • Don't use machine translation such as Goole Translate for your main marketing pages. Google Translate or other machine translation is ok to be used selectively for things such as social media, user generated content, reviews etc. Your key pages however, such as Product Description, Service offerings need to be professionally translated. 
  • Be careful when using Flags for country or language selection. In most cases, we would advise against using flags altogether. Examples of this would be to use German flag to indicate 'German language'. German is spoken in Switzerland, Austria, part of Italy etc. Why use the German flag for this? Using Russian flag to indicate 'Russian language' would be same issue. Russian is spoken in Ukraine, Russia, and other countries.
  • Don't mix up country code and language code. Good example of these codes can be found here.
  • Don't show the available country or language options in the same language as your original country, but instead translate the language options into their native version. If you are on a Chinese website, the switcher to English should be called 'English' and not '英语'. It's ok to show both versions if needed, but only showing it in 'chinese' would not help any visitor who does NOT speak chinese.  Here are some example of this issues in action:

issue example 1: language options are presented in spanish instead of native way

http://www.tgw-group.com/es/

issue example 2: language options are in french. This is only helpful if you speak french already.

http://www.longbowadvantage.com/fr/

issue example 3: language opotion presented in same versino as website, in italian. 

http://www.gtslogistic.com/it/ 

Samples of well implemented international sites

the following 4 websites show us how language and country selection can be facilitated in a user friendly way. 

1] Nord

https://www.nord.com

2] TVH

http://www.tvh.com/glob/en

3] Modula

http://www.modula.us/

4] Expeditors

https://www.expeditors.com/

Lastly, we did a deeper review fo the following websites. On our sister website 'International Digital Marketing Spot' we review international websites daily to highlight how they are facilitating country and language selection: 

Conclusion

Only 1/3 of all reviewed websites offer some form of localization or language option. This means there is an opportunity to differentiate from your competition and add language or country option to your website. 

Beyond the mechanism of allowing users to select a different language or country, there are many other things to consider when building a multilingual website. Questions such as culture, translation, design, differences in technology, usage in social media, marketing channels are only a few such considerations. Building a successful website is difficult by itself, doing this with multiple languages, in multiple countries requires a solid plan, experience and knowledge. 

Questions such as when to localize, in what countries, or in what languages, how to market in different countries, how to design and host your website and what technology to use, are common. Hopefully the research here provides you with some valuable information. Check out the resource center with our sister website IDM Spot for additional information on digital globalization, and let us know what questions you have by filling out the form below. 

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