Marketing Strategies

Localizing Smartphone Content for the UK Gets Powerful Results

Localizing English-language sites for British audiences is a key contributor to an e-commerce site’s success. See how a brand’s credibility, and sales, improve in our exclusive analysis.

Reagan Evans's avatar
Reagan Evans

June 24, 2015


Last year was a momentous one for mobile in the U.S. and across the pond. In the States, mobile Internet traffic finally blew past desktop web traffic, with no signs of slowing. The UK saw similar growth: in September, online shopping via mobile devices eclipsed desktop traffic there, too.

According to a recent report from SimilarWeb – a company that provides website traffic & mobile app analytics for international companies – growth in smartphone traffic is especially observable in the UK e-commerce space. SimilarWeb’s report examined the performance of the UK’s top 10 e-commerce sites and determined that mobile traffic is “really starting to gain momentum.”

(Disclosure: MotionPoint operates localized websites for 3 of the listed top 10 companies.)

Sites such as eBay, Amazon, Gumtree, ASOS and others receive an average of 56.5% of visits from mobile browsers, the company reported. There were some outliers among the vanguard that attracted larger-than-average mobile traffic, such as Argos (68%) and Next (64%). All signs point to these numbers increasing in the months and years ahead.

This trend can be seen “across all industries,” SimilarWeb wrote. Indeed, this rise is clear in the travel industry. Recent research by comScore reveals that during a recent three-month period, 10.3 million UK residents visited travel booking sites via their mobile devices, a full 300,000 more than those using conventional computers.

“What does this mean for desktop computers?” SimilarWeb playfully asked in its post. “Will they soon be on the curb collecting dust, next to our CD players and Palm Pilots?”

Of course not. But these shifting usage patterns are undeniable, and they aren’t going away. We’ve written extensively on how U.S. companies can greatly benefit from embracing the mobile opportunity, especially in overseas markets, in local languages.

But what about the opportunity to connect with, and sell to, the constantly-connected UK consumer on their smartphone? It’s a thriving market. According to Google’s 2013 Our Mobile Planet research, smartphone penetration is higher in the UK than the States. 65% of UK smartphone owners access the Internet every day with their devices; 80% never leave home without them.

Smartphone penetration is on the rise in the UK, too: from 30% in 2011 to 62% in 2013, Google reported. One-third of UK smartphone owners believe they’ve spent more time on their smartphone in the last six months than ever before.

U.S.-based e-commerce companies can consider the UK market a strong opportunity for online expansion. But simply launching a mobile (and desktop) site for UK residents isn’t enough, we’ve found … especially if you want to generate trust and achieve success in the market.

The MotionPoint Perspective

U.S. and UK residents may speak the same language, but anyone who’s compared the spelling of words such as color and colour … or signed bank checks or cheques … or discussed fashion slacks or trousers (not to mention sneakers and trainers) … or paid a visit to the drug store or the chemist … know that there are many local differences, both in spelling and vocabulary, between American English and the Queen’s English.

Our research clearly indicates that websites that don’t embrace these local differences fail to generate as much traffic, engagement and conversion as those that do.

English localization is a measurable factor in an e-commerce site’s success. It builds a feeling of high trust among customers. Online shoppers pay attention to spelling and verbiage, and – as the prestigious Nielsen Norman Group reported years ago – can quickly abandon sites when such cues make the site feel “foreign.”

Keen to illustrate the value of localization, we recently examined the top 10 UK e-commerce sites mentioned in the SimilarWeb story. After reviewing the sites for localization characteristics such as spelling & terminology (shopping “cart” vs. “basket”), relevant product offerings, currency, and clothes sizes, we determined that 7 out of the 10 sites were appropriately localized for UK shoppers.

With one exception, these 7 sites ranked higher in traffic than those that were not appropriately localized. The U.S. companies that leveraged localization generally ranked higher than those that did not.

We then conducted an experiment to determine the kind of business results localization can generate for a UK e-commerce site:

  1. We selected four e-commerce sites operating in both the U.S. and UK
  2. One of these sites featured many relevant UK localizations (such as terminology, products, etc.). This is a medium-sized apparel company
  3. The other three sites did not feature many UK localizations. All three sites are much larger e-retailers, based on website traffic

We examined a random selection of each website’s UK mobile traffic, selected from the same time period.

Based on our data, the medium-sized localized site performed twice as well in conversion rates, over two of the larger companies. It performed half as well as the third larger company, but this is still an astonishing showing, considering the larger sites received 10 times more mobile traffic during the same time period!

These findings illustrate the powerful results that resonant U.S.-to-UK localizations can deliver to expanding businesses. It also reveals how smaller companies can hold their own – or outperform – much larger competitors through localization.

There are learnings for large companies, too. A lack of localization can lead to customer alienation and site underperformance. The numbers don’t lie: Localizations dramatically improve conversion rates.

Around the world, e-commerce sites struggle to deal with an ever-changing landscape, from shifting usage patterns to evolving shopping paths. Maximizing the experience of mobile users remains a critical part of this. Localization plays a key role in improving a mobile user’s on-site experience – and consequently, their conversion rates.

Successful companies do this in the UK market, and beyond.

We can help your company’s website speak the Queen’s English for UK-based consumers, whether they’re on the go with their phones or at home. Contact us to learn more about the UK opportunity, and how we can get you there.

Last updated on June 24, 2015
Reagan Evans's avatar

About Reagan Evans

Reagan Evans is MotionPoint’s SVP of Sales. He has a strong background in sales and data management and has nearly 10 years of executive level experience in the field. He uses his expertise in global sales, new business development, sales production, and data organization to drive MotionPoint's market expansion and new client acquisition. Evans leverages MotionPoint’s industry-leading technology to drive sales and ensure higher customer satisfaction.

Reagan Evans's avatar
Reagan Evans

SVP, Head of Sales


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