Translate Website or Re-write? 7 tips that work in China

Booming imports and e-commerce China markets have made the localizing or recreating of corporate websites using Chinese and Chinese culture impossible to avoid. The growing wealth of China’s middle class and their increasing curiosity of foreign products and services have made the Chinese market incredibly active, luring more and more foreign companies to China.

Even though B2C and B2B websites play by different rules, there is a common ground when it comes to website copywriting for the China market. We have listed a few tips to consider when you dive into China’s economy and what to think about when translating your website or creating one for the China market.

Website Localisation Process Scheduling

Here you shall fix up your actual agenda. What will be the requirements of the new website, what are the new payment systems accepted in the new location, how will you process the local data-processing agreements, what are the differences in a client specific processes, order delivery, customer service, email processes and how long time will it take you to figure it out? Setting your schedule will save you some time, cost and extra brainwork requited for website translation and website localisation.

Translating or Copywriting?

Probably the very first question to you will ask yourself: should I translate my main website or create a new one that will take into account the local audience and cultural differences?

In fact, you should do both.

Obviously there will be common information that will carry across both your main corporate website and the localized site, but we recommend having China-specific information on your Chinese website. On the localized website, companies will generally describe their local operations such as the number of offices, employees, local achievements and local clients; there is no need to include this information on their main corporate website.

In terms of translating your main website, we caution against relying solely on a literal translation when it comes to the product description and marketing collateral.  There are many nuances that a literal translation will fail to capture, and many of the consumer strategies in China are not the same as in the West.  For this reason it is critical to partner with an experienced localization resource to guide you, and prevent any cultural missteps or mistranslations.

User experience: write for your reader, not yourself

We recommend doing a localized marketing study before creating your content, to familiarize yourself with your (new) audience.  If you are not in China yet, doing a benchmarking of your competitors will also be very useful.  This way, you will have an angle or a story that resonates with the local market in the most effective way.  Looking to attract mothers? Young enterprisers? Imported car owners in their 40s living in second tier cities? Know who you are talking to, to make the best impression and achieve faster customer acquisition. There are a number of companies who do full market research; you will probably need some local help on that one.

Another point worth mentioning: even if you get your audience targeting right and the text is catchy, your (prospective) customer will leave the website if your navigation or functionality is not up to scratch.

It may be hard to believe but User Experience or UX has developed into a science; it is an actual profession for people to learn about the preferences of your consumers and adapt your website to fit their preferences and expectations. While this is more of a web design topic, we suggest thinking about your consumer’s behaviors on your website when it comes to wording and calls to action at each step of their experience: interest – consideration – purchasing – after sales: support and feedback. Do you use the right words to intrigue your Chinese consumer? Do you convert him or her into a customer easily? How easy is your website architecture to navigate around? Is he able to leave a review on your website or your social media page?

Local Colours

Adapting your colour to a local culture may also be a good idea. Proper choices of colours may unconsiously push your consumers closer to your brand. The favourite colour of Chinese audience are red and gold, green is somewhat negative, especially when it comes to men. In north America and Europe Blue represents peace, trust and security. Yellow is a positive colour in most countries except Germany, where it represents envy. Purple is often associated with royalty, however, in Brazil and Thailand purple is the color of mourning, similar to White in China, Korea, and some other Asian countries.

Navigation and Social Media

Translating a website may reset the spacing of your template. Chinese characters in general will take half the space compared to English words and three times less compared to Russian.

Coming to China you probably already know (especially in a B2C environment) that it is all about social media. Social Media Marketing in China went mainstream in 2016; everyone has to do it to stay on top of the consumption wave. It has come to a point now that if you don’t have a WeChat or Weibo account you won’t be taken seriously as a B2C business; at least in China, you won’t ‘exist’. It is actually coming to a point that people will come to a store to try out the cloth, and then order it online at the official account of the same brand. Another interesting note about the convenience of the online business – most people will try to avoid waiting in line to pay for goods, unless it is absolutely necessary (for example, to take advantage of a big sale). So take into account the necessity of having an online retail presence.

About information distribution and website blog localisation in China: If your website features a blog or article repository, you still can feed your social media channels through your main Chinese blog, or your international blog if the topics are relevant. Make sure that you have your social media links on a main page, and place a “share” button on all relevant pages. Keep in mind, however that most of the Western social media platforms are banned in China.  Instead of Twitter, you would create and maintain a Weibo account; instead of Facebook, you would create and maintain a WeChat account.  We recommend using a local web developer that is experienced in ensuring the localised website is compatible with what is permitted by local search engines, e.g. ensuring integrated map functions do not use Google maps if you are in China.

DON’TS

You would be surprised, but some companies – like Nivea China – are still using their Western social media channels, even though they all are now blocked in China.  However, they do have a “share” button and a “contact us” service.

DO’S

Adidas China has two clear links to their China social media sites – Weibo and WeChat, as well as their 24h online support hotline and email contact details.

They have the “follow me” icon when you scroll through the products, and various types of online payments when it comes to payment.

Creating brand awareness and trust is the main goal of your presence in any market, and Social Media marketing is now the best way to do that. This also means however that any misstep or questionable situation can quickly get blown out of proportion, and bad news spreads – goes viral – at the click of a button. It is widely known in China that you can actually make a living from going from store to store looking for products that do not comply with China regulations and reposting them on social media – back to the brand – in demand for compensation. So anything that does not comply with regulations in terms of China’s marketing laws or by advertised product specification will come back to haunt you in the form of a soft blackmail, that is why it is important to make sure your product suite and marketing collateral all strictly adheres to Chinese regulations.

If you don’t know much about Chinese social media, do not fear; there are many service providers who can handle your publications and even include a few local KOL (Key Opinion Leaders, or Internet celebrities) to help you to take a place in China’s competitive online marketplace.  For more insights into the world of KOL’s, check out our recent article on the biggest KOL’s in China in 2017.

Call to action

Talking about customer acquisition, it is important to make your customer’s life as easy as possible and provide the chance of buying/emailing/joining in one to two clicks. The attention span of the average Chinese customer shopping online is much shorter than that of a Western customer.  This is due to the rapid pace and ‘everything-in-one-click’ lifestyle of China, where people are accustomed to being served or purchases completed in milliseconds; the 24/7 online support of 99% of e-commerce platforms is no-exception, payment is done in one scan plus one click, and most things are done automatically. Almost no-one is using online-banking as they used to – everything is linked to mobile payment. The new Chinese Consumer is therefore very time sensitive: do not waste their time. Long convincing texts – NO. Page after page of explanations – NO. Your copy should be easy to read, brighten the mood, make a point quickly and make purchasing an easy click of a button or scan of a QR code.

Search Engine friendly content

Now, Search Engine Optimization is a topic for a whole different article, but let’s talk about your content optimization for the China market. As you probably already know, Google is blocked in China, and it is all in hands of BAIDU. Nevertheless, there are still title tags, meta tags, page titles, and images to think about.

And here is where the localization of your website is absolutely necessary. It is not OK to just translate your tag and titles, since that will not guarantee that your local consumers are actually using those words. Using a well-known example, “pants” and “trousers” might be used interchangeably in one country, while the whole UK market will assume that the former product is underwear.

Key word optimization and localization is a must for every market; you can’t just assume what terms will work and not being a native speaker will not help either.  By purchasing the right SEO tools that will show you which keywords are searched how many times in a particular region will save you a great amount of time and money. Doing the localization in-house is not something we recommend, but if you want to give it a shot, here is a tool that can be useful. Of course, there are more professional tools available on the market, as well as researchers, comparison campaigns and so on.

Forbidden terms in China

Coming to content marketing in China, there is an update in the law: there is a fairly extensive list of words and phrase you cannot use, most of which refer to being the best, strongest, fastest, original, 100% or even “real leather”, and violating this law will lead to a fine up to 300 000 RMB or even 300 days in jail! Now, if you want to protect your marketing director from this fate, check the full list of forbidden terms on our dedicated article here.

Brand name translation & new company naming – is it necessary?

Since the writing system in China is dramatically different, your brand name/company name will be translated whether you want it or not, so you better have the time and resources to have it done. To see examples of some brand naming failures in China and some useful information on how to avoid similar fates, please see one of our previous articles.

You can go to a few different directions here: a phonetic way – sounding it out, making your new brand name sound like the old one – but using local characters. Be careful here, because two characters may have a positive meaning separately, but put together they might change the whole picture.

Second way would be to actually translate the meaning of the brand – that obviously would work for companies and brands that actually mean something (like Apple).

 

Don’t forget that double checking the final list of the possible name translations will save some time and money, as well as prevent you from some embarrassing situations.

 

Kate CHERNAVINATranslate Website or Re-write? 7 tips that work in China

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