Six internationalisation tips

  1. Target your seasons appropriately. When it is winter in the Northern hemisphere, it is summer down under. When I get a summer promo in winter, I think you don’t get it or don’t care enough. If you are selling seasonal goods, run your campaigns twice, reversing the order. Otherwise just change the look and copy of the promotional material.
  2. Reduce the confusion with basic data. Write your dates out in full. 3/6/11 is confusing – would that be 3 June or 6 March? Write 3 June 2011 instead. Use an automated script to do this on your website.
  3. Similarly, display your prices using standard notation. I have seen all sorts of variants on $1, the most extreme being in Jordan where 1 dinar (about 1 euro) can be displayed as 1000, 1,00, 1.00 and 1! What Americans and Australians understand to be $11.99 can be seen in France displayed as $11,99
  4. Avoid using time-based greetings like “Ohayou-gozaimasu”, “Good afternoon” or “Guten abend” unless you can be sure to get the customer’s current time correct.
  5. If possible, offer different currencies on your shopping cart. It just makes the purchase decision that much easier. You may not even need to handle actual transactions in those different currencies; as long as you indicate clearly the currency you will be transacting in, and that the others are for reference only.
  6. Consider providing your website and other material in the different native languages of your key customer groups. This is probably the most significant “I care about you” signal you can send. Beware of colloquial and cultural memes that may not translate, or that may have unfavourable unintended interpretations. And no, Google Translate wonderful though it is, is no substitute for professional human translators.

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