Guest Post: “Fifth season” helps expand international sales

This is a guest post from InterCultural Elements about an international cultural event you might not know about but which offers an ecommerce opportunity.

Does the term “fifth season” ring a bell? If so, you probably have a connection to Germany. This year’s fifth season begins today, at 11 minutes past 11 on the 11th of the 11th month, and reaches a crescendo on Mardi Gras. As you’ve likely guessed, we’re talking about Carnival and at three months, it’s longer than many outside Germany realize!

Carnival has many faces throughout the world. In Brazil it’s glittery and extravagant, in Venice more theatrical and dramatic and in Germany quite kitsch. The US also celebrates Mardi Gras using various names including Shrove Tuesday, Shrouded Tuesday and Pancake Day. Delicious!

Seizing a great business opportunity can be just as sweet – so don’t miss this one!

Previously, we blogged about cultural differences and how they influence our business as e-commerce retailers – Carnival is a perfect example. But don’t be afraid, although ghastly creatures and a healthy dose of bad taste tend to be involved, here are some recommendations for making selling abroad less frightening…

When it comes to costumes, sellers in North America and the UK may mostly think of Halloween, themed parties or school projects, but selling abroad can greatly extend their sales seasons. In Germany for example, fancy dress is a vital part of this fun-filled 3 month season, with a whole host of parties and events.

An important factor to consider is when to sell. As the festivities vary considerably in different countries, it’s a good idea to check the right time to launch your latest fancy dress line for each market. Selling Frankenstein costumes for adults in September simply doesn’t make as much sense in Germany, where Halloween pales in comparison to Carnival, as much as it would in the USA.

Most of you will be well aware of this rule, but for any newcomers: the perfect selling time is about six weeks ahead of the main events. Try to be neither too early nor late.

Picture yourself eight weeks before the parties kick off. You put a lot of effort into your products and selling strategies and feel well prepared. So when selling internationally, don’t let big opportunities pass you by due to automated translation. In particular, culturally specific products necessitate professional translations, ideally done by native speakers. Even if your product is perfect, it’s up to the translator to make it culturally appropriate for your target markets.

For example, we recently received a translation order from a costume retailer. One great men’s costume was called “German man” and reflected the stereotypical German image showing a Bavarian wearing the typical hat with a feather and the obligatory “lederhosen”. The original title was perfect for their domestic market, but completely inappropriate for Germany. Try to sell it as “Deutscher Mann” and you’ll end up with your profile full of abuse and indignant complaints. Not a great way to start the fifth season. We adapted the listing to “Bayer” (Bavarian man) and made the product instantly more attractive, culturally accurate and most importantly, more likely to be found when searched by German-speaking customers.

This is a perfect example of how native-speaking translators can prevent unforeseen faux-pas and ease your path to the target market.

Have you had any experiences with cultural differences yourself? Please share your stories; we’d love to hear them!