Translating and localizing websites makes smart sense for many companies, particularly financial institutions. As we’ve covered in the past, groups such as U.S. Hispanics and Chinese Canadians are a valuable, and largely untapped, demographic inside developed North American banking, insurance, and other financial services markets.
Beyond simply increasing their ability to connect to greater numbers of customers, financial institutions can also better serve these customers by offering products and services that are tailored to their wants and needs.
Here are five emerging trends we’ve noticed while operating localized websites for our financial services clients.
It’s clear that these groups—and others in markets around the world—are both looking for, and taking advantage of, preferred language options when they are available.
For instance, one large major bank (a MotionPoint client) translated its Canadian site to Canadian French, to serve its thriving French-speaking market. Since then, the localized site has seen 60+% growth each year since its launch.
Targeting Chinese-speaking Canadians has paid off well for another MotionPoint client, a major North American bank. This company localized its site in Chinese to cater to Canada’s growing Chinese population. The site is showing a nearly 40% increase in sessions for its second year.
These two examples clearly illustrate that, when given the choice, these millions of Canadian consumers opt to transact in their preferred language.
Users of localized sites are heavily engaged while on-site—perhaps even more so than users are of primary-market English sites. Our research indicates that for most sites targeting U.S. Hispanics or Chinese Canadians, more than 30% of total site visits hail from returning visitors. These visits are generally brief, suggesting consumers are accessing their online banking through the translated websites.
Based on this and other analytics, we believe this illustrates that localized websites increase comfort among these customers, and encourage them to adopt online banking services. This often leads to greater engagement and brand trust.
We believe the remaining 70% who use localized sites beyond online banking are investigating a variety of different products and services. These products range from information on applying for a mortgage to learning about different auto and educational loans available to customers.
Connecting with these users who are “shopping around” is something savvy companies can cater to, which leads us to…
For several of our financial services clients, offering tailored, highly-relevant content to these consumers has paid off well.
For instance, clients have prominently highlighted cross-border banking services, or have offered informational content targeting new residents who want to build their credit history. Clearly displaying the requirements to qualify for different savings, checking or credit accounts goes a long way in connecting with residents looking for their first local bank.
This sort of content has resonated with users. For one client, the sessions to these tailored sections accounted for as much as 50% of website traffic (depending on the language). Offering this information allows banks to stand out even more in search results—especially among “fact finding” prospective customers. If they find the right resonant messaging on-site, they’re far more likely to become loyal returning customers.
A word of caution, however: This doesn’t mean that a completely separate micro-site should be set up for these consumers, or that drastic customizations to a full-featured localized site are necessary (or even preferable!) to capture the interest and business of these consumers.
As we’ve previously reported, skeptical users often “toggle” between their translated site, and a company’s primary-market English experience, comparing on-page content. Our user experience research revealed that if these consumers determine that the localized and English pages are meaningfully different, they often feel alienated. They believe they’re being presented a fractional, less-than-full experience in their language.
This perceived lack of parity often results in site abandonment. Our recommendation is to limit customization to around 10% to 20% of the primary market site’s, content and to use smart A/B testing to see what content resonates best with these users.
It’s been widely reported that U.S. Hispanics have adopted mobile devices more enthusiastically than the general population. While we have continuously recommended that all of our client’s websites offer a responsive design—especially among e-commerce sites—this best practice should apply to financial institutions, too. For the Spanish-language financial services sites we operate (often targeting U.S. Hispanics), we’ve seen an average of 64% of sessions hailing from a mobile device. Interestingly, most of these devices used the Android operating system.
In contrast, based on our analytics, there were more nuances between the different sites catering to Chinese-speaking consumers in Canada.
In the case of Simplified Chinese (common among mainland China immigrants), a clear preference for desktop browsing is evident: 62% of all sessions hail from desktop PCs and laptops. Most of these visitors use Windows-powered computers; they accounted for 50% of all the traffic to the localized site.
Interestingly, for consumers fluent in Traditional Chinese (who typically hail from Hong Kong and Taiwan), we observed an opposite trend. Here, over 70% of the sessions hailed from a mobile device. Apple’s iOS-powered mobile phones and tablets were far and away the most popular platform, amounting more than 50% of all website sessions.
(This data may represent the relative financial security within the Chinese Canadian community. Longtime residents from Taiwan are generally more financially secure and have more disposable income—which could account for the pricier Apple iPhone and iPad use. In contrast, mainland Chinese immigrants may have lived in Canada for less time, and haven’t yet acquired a comparable level of disposable income.)
The takeaway: Invest the appropriate resources to create a responsive version of your localized websites, or provide a localized mobile app.
Interestingly, the MotionPoint-powered Spanish-language financial services sites we examined also offered a mobile app offered in Spanish. So why is there such a large volume of mobile traffic to these sites, even when a mobile app is available?
We suspect it’s because these apps are focused on mobile banking exclusively. Customers who were looking for financial products such as mortgages (across the board, the most popular content) had to go to the localized website for more information.
While a website may be the optimal channel to handle the in-depth research associated with the topic, the fact that a large number of users were still visiting the website to learn more signifies potential room for improvement. Financial institutions could do more to localize content to reach out to these customers, and let them know about the availability of the mobile app and the option to use it in Spanish (if applicable).
Translating and localizing their websites can make smart sense for financial institutions. While this may pose some new challenges and nuances to financial institutions these are easily overcome with smart approaches. Learning about the target demographics’ wants and needs is a start—which, when followed by smart testing of localization campaigns, can reap big rewards.
Eric Watson holds a Master's Degree in Finance from Yonsei University (Seoul, South Korea). Prior to joining MotionPoint, he worked throughout Asia as a consultant. He completed his bachelor’s degree with honors at Arizona State University in 2010 with a degree in Political Science. His non-marketing related research interests include the development of new manufacturing technologies, and the new national policies necessary to encourage their efficient and egalitarian adoption. He covers these topics on his website, The Policy Wire.
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