SaaS marketing pages are optimized to a fault. Headers, copy, buttons, colors — all A/B tested to draw as many people into the funnel as possible.
 
As many English-speaking American people, that is. The web is optimized for the English language. But most of the web isn’t English. It is still the leading language, but with billions of non-English language users out there, sticking to just the English-speaking world means that SaaS companies are missing out on a potentially massive market.
 
But some companies are starting to rethink this strategy. They are localizing their marketing sites to make sure they can appeal to the entire world, and increasing conversions, revenue, and value at the same time.

Localize language to fill your funnel

If you are in the U.S., you can head over to communications platform intercom.com and see this:

Intercom US page

So far, so Intercom. Look for it in France however and you should notice some subtle differences:

Intercom FR page

Go a bit further east into Germany and you’ll get this:

Intercom DE page

This is Intercom’s first foray into localization. After finding they had significant traffic from non-English speaking countries that wasn’t converting, they tested whether localized pages would help convert more customers.
 
It did. They now have localized pages for the French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese languages. Depending on your language skills, you should notice that to increase conversions dramatically in these regions required a fairly small fix.
 
These pages still each say the same thing. “Communiquer avec les clients ne devrait pas etre aussi difficile” and “Die Kundenkommunikation solite nicht so schwer sein” both mean “Communicating with customers shouldn’t be this hard.” All they have done is translated their value prop and copy. The cartoons have also changed a little, but that’s it.
 
The value of Intercom translates into these languages. This simple change allows them to capture traffic and conversions from previously unresponsive markets. This is because they can now explain themselves to entirely new markets:

None of our test results are really that surprising when you think about it. For every potential English speaking customer your business has, there are likely many more who speak German, Portuguese or Japanese. It’s not that they aren’t interested in your product, it’s that they don’t know what your product is or does.

If you can’t explain what your product does, you aren’t going to get that conversion. If you can, and in a manner that is natural to the customer and immediately decreases friction, then the odds of conversion are increased.

Localize price to ease the friction

Aircall allows you to set up a virtual call center. Do so in the U.S. and you’ll get this pricing page:

Aircall US page

If you’re in Europe, you can choose to get the pricing in euros:

Aircall FR page

The numbers don’t change, only the symbol from $ to €. This might seem like an inconsequential change. But to a visitor from a eurozone country this tiny change can make the difference between converting and not.
 
SaaS analytics tool ProfitWell ran a study of 50 global SaaS companies to look at how they each localized pricing and the effect it had on growth. They found that localization = growth:

Companies that localize have higher growth rates

Companies that localized were growing more than those that were either not localizing at all or only doing cosmetic localization. This makes sense:

  • These companies are providing more value to the potential customers in those regions, so they receive higher conversions.
  • They can take advantage of price, value, and willingness to pay differentials in those regions.
  • They have opened themselves up to wider markets so have more opportunities for growth.

When email tool Litmus added euro charging to their pricing, they saw a 5X increase in conversion. Even if you just change the currency symbol, your prospective customers have one less calculation to do in their heads before making the decision to sign up. They know what they are getting in the currency they are familiar with, reducing a potential friction point.

Localize culture to achieve true local value

If you are in the U.S., you can head over to salesforce.com and see this:

Salesforce US page

A fairly regular landing page for a SaaS marketing site. The value prop and hero image are loud and clear, then the page links out to more about the products and services Salesforce offers. Let’s look at the same page from France:

Salesforce FR page

At first glance, it looks like Salesforce is doing what Intercom did. Localizing language to fit with the customer in that country. But Salesforce is taking the localization one step further. This is clearer if we look at the page that gets served to UK customers:

Salesforce UK page

Beside a few errant “U”s, there is no language difference between the U.S. and the UK. So Salesforce could show exactly the same page to their prospective British customers that they do to their prospective American customers.
 
But they don’t. UK visitors get their own landing page. As do French visitors (and a bunch of other countries. Here’s the Chinese one). These pages aren’t just translated, they are truly localized. The first sign is the images:

  • The U.S. couple trek between giant redwoods
  • The FR couple trek through vineyards
  • The UK couple trek through English countryside (to Hogwarts, it seems)

Then we can look at the social proof in the UK and FR versions. They are different for the two countries, showing different localized companies that are succeeding with Salesforce. The French site emphasizes bakery La Duree and national train operator SNCF. The British site uses UK brands FT and O2 as social proof.
 
The other important change is contact information. The UK and U.S. landing pages present different toll-free/freephone numbers. The French page doesn’t have a contact number, but, along with the other two, it does have a language-specific “Nous contacter” pop-up so French customers can feel confident they are going to speak to a French-speaking sales rep.
 
Even the “Events” are different. The U.S. headline event is Dreamforce. Not supposing Francophone Salesforce customers can make it to San Francisco each year, the “Evenements” dropdown tells you about Salesforce events coming up in France.
 
This total localization shows a true understanding of the customer. Salesforce knows that what is important for an American sales team isn’t necessarily so important for a French sales rep. They have different needs, challenges, and values. This is incorporated into the marketing site at the most fundamental level.

Making the switch to local content

This switch is far easier than people think. It’s effectively just a 3-step process:

1. Decide whether you have the traffic to warrant localized landing pages

This is where Intercom started. They looked at their analytics and saw that only one-third of their traffic was from the US:

Intercom’s international traffic

The UK, India, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the Philippines all have English as an official language. But that still leaves 16.5% of visitors who come to the site and either don’t understand it or have to push through in their second language. 
 
This is almost one-fifth of visitors for whom the site can be further optimized. When A/B tests quibble over percentage point conversions, this is a massive amount. Intercom experimented with serving localized content and campaigns to some of these regions and found:

  1. Localized campaigns and landing pages reduced the costs of acquiring customers in these regions
  2. Localized content increased conversion from these regions to English-speaking region levels

Cheaper to acquire and just as high-quality. In other words, ideal customers. To mimic Intercom:

  1. Look at your traffic and determine whether you have a sizable proportion of visitors from outside English-speaking regions. The 16.5% of traffic here is way above needed to run the threshold.
  2. Run a small experiment with one or two of these regions. Use a localized ad campaign to drive traffic to A) a localized landing page and B) your regular page. See which performs better in terms of cost of acquisition and conversions.

If the experiment is a success, you can start to roll out full localized sites across the new regions.

2. Develop local versions of landing pages

As we saw above, there are a few different ways to think about this:

  • You can do a straight language swap. Translate copy on your English page into the new languages, but the fundamental layout and content stays the same.
  • Take localization a step further and integrate currency differences. This itself can come in two versions: change out the $ for €/£ but keep the price number the same (as aircall has done), or go all out and change the price to better reflect the exchange rate, as would be needed for prices in ¥, for instance.
  • Go all out local, with translations, different page layouts, local contact information, and customer testimonials that fit the country.

The first option is the simplest, and where anyone should start. Translation services such as localizejs or Translated.net will translate your copy into the local language. You then need to develop alternate versions of your pages with this copy and host them in sub-folders (such as /fr/). Ideally, you should host on a service in the local region as well. A /de/ page hosted in AWS eu-central-1 in Frankfurt is going to provide a better experience for users than AWS us-west-1 in Oregon.

3. Decide to whether to automate the localization

Not all the examples above auto-detect your location. As you can see from the Aircall page, changing currencies requires you to toggle between USD and EUR. Other localizations might localize if you visit from search, but not from a direct visit.
 
But implementing locality detection to switch from your main landing page to a localized variant is easy. This snippet uses JQuery and the response from the IPinfo API to redirect to the localized page:

$.get("https://ipinfo.io", function(response) {
    if(response.country == "FR") {
        window.location = "http://www.yoururl.com/fr/";
    }
    else if(response.country == "DE") {
        window.location = "http://www.yoururl.com/de/";
    }
    else {
        window.location = "http://www.yoururl.com/";
    }
}, "jsonp");

The benefits of this is that there is zero friction in these regions. They can continue to use your main landing page url and the redirect to the best page for them will happen by (ipinfo) magic.

Opening up to a global market

Once you have localized marketing, you can move further down the chain. If you have local numbers for leads to call, you should have local people on the other end to help them through the decision. You should then have a product that is easy to use in their language so they can get the highest possible value and succeed with your product.
 
Starting with marketing means that the first sight they have of you is a positive one that shows you understand not everyone lives in the Bay area. By localizing your marketing site you can open yourself up to the global market of billions, and help an entirely new cohort of customers succeed.

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