The Linguist

The Linguist 51,6

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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Page 9 of 35

INTERNET FOR BUSINESS Something new in store Miranda Moore goes inside Debenhams HQ to find out how it became the first UK department store to launch a foreign language website British viewers can���t get enough of department store drama at the moment. Rival primetime period dramas The Paradise and Mr Selfridge are offering their fictionalised accounts of how these retail emporia came to dominate our major shopping streets. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, these glamorous new shops impressed all who passed by; today, new developments are less visible, with marketing wars fought ��� and lost ��� online. Few customers outside Germany will have noticed when Debenhams launched in September, becoming the first UK department store to establish a foreign language website. Yet the move caused ripples among the competition, with other retailers equally eager to expand globally. ������International��� is key on everyone���s agenda,��� says Lindsay Clifford-Smith, Debenhams��� International E-Commerce Senior Marketing Manager. ���It���s nice for us to be right up there at the forefront.��� At the same time, Debenhams expanded sales from its UK-based website to 40 countries, and opened stores in Bulgaria and Georgia for the first time, putting a 2.6 percent rise in sales down to its international expansion and multi-channel strategies. Having launched for the Irish market in 2010, there were compelling reasons to look to Germany next, not least because ���it���s nice to pick something close to home,��� says CliffordSmith when we meet at company HQ, behind the flagship store on London���s Oxford Street. After the UK, Germany is the largest e-commerce market in Europe, with 41 million German customers spending ���6.34 billion online in the first quarter of 2012. ���Once we had the business case it was about putting it to the systems team, to decide how we were 10 The Linguist going to optimise and localise our UK business for German customers,��� adds Clifford-Smith. The process took about a year, from green-light to online launch. If that seems short, considering the logistics involved in selling more than 2,000 brands in a foreign language and territory, bear in mind that Debenhams was already distributing to seven overseas markets, including Germany, and had an order management system dealing with nearly three million orders every month. ���It���s not possible for us to suddenly launch a bunch of international websites globally,��� says Clifford-Smith. ���But we���ve got a lot in place, so we can leverage our systems and everything we���ve already got in the UK.��� Debenhams Direct, the retailer���s online division, has been in operation since 1998. In 2010, it launched its first app allowing customers to shop at Debenhams from their mobile phones. So when a new international team was created to support the German, Irish and future international websites, they had a lot of in-house experience to draw on. Aside from the issue of localising the web content, there were other challenges, such as the implications of trading in euros and the company���s approach to reconciliation; differing rates and reporting systems for VAT; registering the online store for trade in Germany; making sure they complied DECEMBER/JANUARY with German retail laws and obligations; and determining the logistics of everything from press campaigns to deliveries and returns. The website itself looks very similar to the .com site, although the large homepage image often differs. It is designed as a ���wire shell���, ready to be filled with text and images, which helps to minimise the pitfalls involved in web translation. They have encountered standard problems, such as templates that didn���t work with German grammar rules and long compound words that didn���t fit the allotted space, but Clifford-Smith is confident that the web design suits their needs: ���Having image-led pages, where we can fill that with a German message, makes it really customisable, really dynamic and really fast-paced.��� On Tuesday, they might be selling evening dresses; on Thursday, pushing scarves and gloves. Speed is key, and this is one of the few frustrations they have with the German-language website. Although there is a German-speaking team in-house, they use an agency to translate the product details and buying guides for tens of thousands of goods. This includes information such as the product name, composition and description, as well as style and care advice. ���Another challenge is the time, because there is that extra step,��� admits Clifford-Smith. ���It���s about educating the business and building that into

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