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When Google Translate isn’t enough: The power of tech for brand localisation


In a recent blog post, I discussed our research into retailers’ ambitions for overseas expansion, the threats and opportunities, and how Laybuy has successfully expanded outside of New Zealand. The research showed that 79 per cent of retailers recognise the significant growth opportunities that come from international expansion, but many still find the complexities and bureaucracy hard to overcome.

I recently came across an example of a retailer that is truly embracing international opportunities. This article on Retail Gazette about British premium retailer, Harvey Nichols, and its online reinvention stood out to me. The reason for this is that I truly believe in the power of technology to help brands build international success, and this article is a clear demonstration of Harvey Nichols ingeniously leveraging that power.

How, you might ask, is the brand using the superpower that is tech to transform its overseas operations? The answer is a lot simpler, and perhaps a lot less exciting on the surface of it than you might have expected. The brand is using technology to localise its ecommerce website. The business has invested in a new online checkout, which is able to localise languages, delivery options, tax calculations and currency conversion for shoppers across the world. The result? Harvey Nichols is able to reach 170 markets across the globe, unlocking multiple new revenue streams as a result. I bet it sounds a whole lot more exciting now!

So what makes this strategy so clever? In short, it’s the localisation that is key. Basic site translation isn’t enough to build loyalty with global customers. There’s nothing worse than finding that ‘must have’ item on a site outside of your home country, getting all the way to the checkout, only to find out the final price (inclusive of taxes and shipping) is eye-watering compared to the value of the item, or worse, the retailer doesn’t even ship to your country.

Best practice localisation is when retailers use data to understand what overseas customers want and how they interact with the site, and then use those insights to develop an offering fit for each local market. That might mean, for example, bespoke delivery, or currency and payment options for that market – not a half-hearted Google Translate job.

Retail giants Amazon and eBay are both guiding lights on balancing global scale with local flavour. If you find something on, but you are in the UK for instance, the website knows from your IP address where you are located and flags a message that says, “we ship to the UK”, and in the delivery section, on a vast number of products, there is the option for reasonably quick delivery. eBay offers its Global Shipping Programme to sellers, giving them the option for the marketplace to handle worldwide shipping to many countries on their behalf. The seller simply posts to a sorting office, and eBay forwards it on from there.

Using tech to improve localisation is another great way to reduce friction for shoppers and make the whole shopping experience more appealing, in a similar way to what we offer at Laybuy in the form of global flexible payments. In fact, if used together, flexible location plus flexible global payments could be a truly powerful combination.

It might seem like a dated sentiment, but the internet is truly amazing. I can search for and find products from across the globe in seconds. Yet, even today, it isn’t always possible to purchase across markets with such ease. Harvey Nichols is setting a brilliant example in terms of the possibilities offered by ‘borderless selling’. Why not have a think about what a little bit of tech and flexibility could do for your brand.

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Gary Rohloff