International Franchising: Translating Your Website
International franchising is not just for large companies with great brand awareness, like the McDonald’s and Domino’s of the world. In some cases, companies new to franchising are going beyond their home country’s borders even before they expand across their home country.
At the recent IFE conference, it was discussed during one of the international sessions that some large franchisors have reduced their locations within the United States and expanded their locations internationally. The top 200 franchisors currently have 40% of their locations in markets outside of the U.S.
Growth in global markets is often viewed as low hanging fruit with less competition. This presents attractive opportunities for international franchises.
When evaluating countries that have a growing international franchise market, you must determine if it is the right locale for your business by understanding if the market is open to your concept.
In Australia, franchising is quite popular, but only for Australian brands. 96% of franchises are domestic franchisor companies. International franchisors have had a tough time entering this market from a consumer acceptance standpoint, in addition to the legal and IP concerns.
Franchisors aim to keep costs for going global down and use their in-country franchisees, area franchisors and master franchisees to be responsible for their international marketing, including translation or localization of their company’s website.
Some of the large franchisors will support the cost for localization of the website, as they want to control the content that is on the corporate website for brand consistency and perhaps to safeguard for legal reasons. Also, to simply support promoting the brand. If their franchisees do well, they do well.
In many cases, I have found that franchisors and franchisees do not have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to localizing their websites. The franchisor wants the franchisee to support the cost of growing their business in their own market and the franchisee may have thin margins and looks at localization of the website as a cost they cannot support. Often, this results in the site remaining in English only.
Reaching Global Audiences
Many consumers want to engage with a brand online. Perhaps via social media, a website, google for location and hours, etc. Local promotions are affected if they are not in a local language. Consider how your purchasing decision would be affected if here in the United States you wanted to find a cleaning service, but some of your choices had websites that were only available in Japanese. If you did not speak Japanese, you would likely immediately disregard the Japanese-only websites in favor of companies with websites available in English.
Some options for establishing a local presence without incurring much cost is to localize a landing page or microsite to include local promotions, keyword localization and search engine ad translation. Having a social media presence in international markets is a “must to succeed” as was mentioned during the IFE international session I attended.
Even a limited localized online presence will allow your local customers to access your business online while not incurring heavy costs for translation. Then as your international franchise business grows, more content can be localized as the franchisor and/or franchisee feels appropriate.
As many global franchisees and franchisors do not localize their website currently, this should present an opportunity for those that do. Franchise businesses that do not translate their content may be losing business to competitors that do have a localized online presence. If a franchise has made the investment to open new global markets it is unfortunate if they do not feel a localized website or overall online presence is a benefit for their business and customers.