We speak your language! Azimo’s 4 essential rules for testing multilingual products

FACT: product experimentation is a tried-and-tested method of finding the best way to speak to your users.

FACT: it can get hugely complicated when you have nine languages to support, as we do here at Azimo. So why do we bother? Because we believe that all our customers should be treated as individuals in their own language.

When I first started at Azimo six months ago, I assumed that this multilingual challenge would be a straightforward process: experiment in English, wait for the results, then deploy across all languages. But I soon learned that this linear approach didn’t work and adapted Azimo’s product experimentation to succeed in a highly multilingual environment – here are a few crucial lessons I’ve picked up along the way.

Rule 1: Treat each language as if it was your main one

Rolling out successful English experiments across other languages using basic translation techniques simply isn’t good enough. There are so many idiosyncrasies to keep in mind – gender, adverbs, formal vs informal, etc – that a basic translation won’t do the trick, even between relatively similar languages such as French, Spanish and Italian.

A great example highlighted in the screenshots above is formal vs informal tone of voice (ToV). When we launched, most of our German users were well-educated professionals. But we were keen to expand that customer base, so we experimented with a more informal ToV. As a result, we were able to evolve our audience spread and improve conversion rates.

We were then able to roll out this more informal ToV to other languages, such as Spanish and French, where we could apply the lessons we’d learned – but not before we’d made sure that each corridor was ready by studying the competition, local media and demographic analytics.

Rule 2: Think local

Even tougher than linguistic differences, though, are behavioural differences. As a pan-European citizen, I knew this was going to be a tough one to crack. Germans tend to focus on speed and efficiency; French people tend to focus on price; and Spanish people tend to focus on transparency.

Clichés, perhaps, but with good reason – customer analysis confirmed most to be spot on. So we went ahead and pushed particular USPs in line with country-specific behavioural trends. And again, results validated the decision and the in-depth analysis behind it. The absolute key here is knowing your customers, and for that you have to go granular with analytics and plan ahead – that way you’ll be able to think and act local.

Of course, managing so many variations on a nine-language website that supports sending money to more than 190 countries is a logistical headache. Not only are there huge technical issues, it also requires teamwork to make sure the plan is adopted cross-platform throughout the company.

Rule 3: The devil is in the details

When you’re dealing with a product as complicated as digital money transfer, where users can be much more demanding than standard e-commerce platforms, you have to check and re-check every single element of your content – a couple of stray words can literally change everything!

For example, we decided to support all our main languages from launch for our latest product update, which allows users to send AND request money. Here was one of the first Spanish translations we had back:

  • Requested by – Solicitado a
  • Requested to – Solicitado por

For any non-Spanish speakers out there, it should be the other way round! Imagine the potential confusion for users if they read this: instead of seeing “requesting to”, they would see “requested by”! This example illustrates just how crucial it is not to overlook any details, as it could change the entire meaning of your product and seriously compromise its success.

Rule 4: Integrate translations into your product process

This is probably the most important lesson I’ve learned during my time at Azimo. As a Product Manager, you need to integrate translation from the very beginning of a project rather than seeing it as an add-on. Even simple issues such as text length can be addressed as you build – there are so many great tools that allow you to preview these things on the fly.

Your product is built on content – don’t neglect it! I’ve seen countless examples of translation teams having to translate entire flows or products without any context and just a few screenshots, and of course once the whole product has been designed and signed off in English!

Finally, use your internal resources to the max. Here at Azimo, we’re lucky enough to have employees from all across the globe and sometimes the easiest way to make sure you’ve got a translation right, not just grammatically but tonally too, is to go through it face-to-face with a native speaker. That way, you can speak everybody’s language.

Richard Giannetti, Azimo Product Manager

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