25 July 2022

Translation is not enough.
Adapting the UX for Japan and France.

Translation is not enough.<br/> <strong>Adapting the UX for Japan and France.</strong>

Fintech companies are acutely aware of the importance of UX in driving user engagement. Studies have even shown that every dollar invested in UX will see returns of between $2 and $100. Yet when it comes to releasing their services across new international markets, many companies will choose to reuse their current UX, only translating the text.

If fintech companies want global users to engage with their payment and financial management solutions, they will need to invest in full localization, adapting the complete UX to the expectations of each new market.

It has been proven that users will abandon an application if the UX does not match their expectations, which can vary massively in each new territory. This can include the way that companies introduce themselves to potential users, to the way fields are organized on registration pages. In terms of design, there are massive differences in the ways different markets respond to the use of colour and the type of images they are used to seeing.

Fintech companies looking to expand globally will need to partner with an expert fintech localization company if they want to fully engage their international user base and see strong returns on their investments.

In order to understand how to adapt the customer journey and the UX for different locales, here is an example of how one fintech successfully localized its offerings for the French and Japanese markets. For the purposes of this case study, Alpha CRC has prepared fictitious examples closely based on how a real fintech company localized its content.


Phase One: Customer Awareness

Web pages will need to present different kinds of information depending on the target locale.

The need for trust is perhaps one of the biggest differentiators between fintech companies and other multinational technology industries. Users need to feel they can trust a service before they share their financial information, which leads many people to look for more background information online. As each market differs culturally, so too does the information they search for. This means that, in addition to the application itself, any web material will need to be expertly adapted for each locale. This can mean a number of adjustments to a service’s home page, promoting different types of content, using different colours, changing the customer journey, and so on. Below is an example of how one fintech has adapted its website for its Japanese and French locales.

When comparing the two variants of the brand website, it is clear that while the content has been adapted, the general aesthetics and brand style have remained consistent across both markets. It uses a simple, clean design in both variants, with a limited amount of text presented on the home page. This is a sign that the company planned for localization during the early stages of designing their website: the less text, the easier it is to adapt between locales.

However, there are differences in how the company presents information to facilitate the customer’s journey through the home page. While both pages use a hero image with a ‘sign up’ button at the top of the page, the actual vocabulary they use here is not a direct translation. The Japanese website uses the term 申し込む (apply), whereas the French version uses the verb démarrer (begin). This is a small difference, but one that shows how vocabulary will need to be changed to match the expectations of each market, and that simple word-for-word translation does not always provide the best results.

Scrolling, down, the Japanese site provides a reassuring message about how the fintech’s offering interacts with the customer’s business. The site reassures potential customers that they won’t have any contractual paperwork (契約手続きなし) or monthly payments (月額なし) to deal with, only the transaction fee from each sale (決済手数料のみ). Immediately following this information are a series of case studies and examples of customers using the product. Only after the potential customer has been provided with all of this background information does the site present the option to purchase the product (Octopusポッド購入). The company has understood the needs of the traditionally risk-averse Japanese market, and tailored its customer journey to match this need for reassurance.

In comparison, the French site presents the product and the option to purchase it much earlier on the page. The French version regularly emphasizes speed – the customer can buy the product immediately, and the company highlights the phrase plus rapide (faster) as one of its key benefits. While Japanese audiences might require a lot of background information before committing to a product, French users prefer a website to cut straight to the point. Even as the product and overall website design remains similar between markets, the content needs to be adapted to ensure the company leaves the best possible first impression on potential users.

Phase Two: Service Usage

App design varies between locales. Adaptation is key to ensuring user engagement.

At this point, the user has all the information they need about an app or service, and they will make the decision to download or sign up if they wish to. For apps, it’s important that the UX is carefully curated for each locale. A cursory look over the top financial apps in the French and Japanese app stores offers an interesting insight into how the two cultures see colour differently. Apps with blue icons dominate the French top ten, whereas green is the most dominant single colour in the Japanese charts (with reds and pinks coming second). In France, blue is seen to provide a sense of security and confidence, which is why so many financial services favour it. Green has a similar image in Japan, where it is a colour of safety and security. Understanding the colour theory of the target locale can make a big difference to a service’s success.

A poorly localized registration system is an easy way to alienate potential customers. Making sure this stage flows as smoothly as possible will help to facilitate customers’ engagement with a service. The picture above shows sign up sheets for both Japanese and French locales. Some of the differences include:

  • The user enters their names in a different order. In Japanese, they input family name, then first name. In French, the opposite is true.
  • The postcode field is different in each locale. Japanese postcode fields will typically use two boxes, whereas the French will use one.
  • Similarly, the address entry fields have been flipped. The French version asks for house number and road first, and the city second. In this example, the Japanese form asks for city first, and area and block second. Japanese addresses can also be written on just one line, so there will sometimes only be one field here.
  • The French application uses a simple continuer button, whereas the Japanese one additionally features a small mascot encouraging the user to continue. This would seem out of place in French financial apps, but is common on Japanese sites.

In the application itself, there will be numerous differences between the two versions. Japanese financial services will often promote a rewards system to encourage users to engage with them. These services are also available in the West, but they are not as much of a draw as in Japan.

Similarly, the ways in which users can get help or gather more information may differ. A French user might click on a link titled en savoir plus (learn more), allowing the user to gather more information for themselves. The Japanese version however, might say みんなの選ぶプランはどれ? (which plan does everyone else choose?) To give reassurance, the question references the user community rather than the individual.

Phase Three: Supplementary Materials

Expertly targeted supplementary materials can show users in different locales unique ways to use a product or service.

In order to create a fully engaged and knowledgeable user base, fintech companies should look beyond their own websites and applications to consider what other media they can use to promote themselves. Online videos are a common way to educate users and raise brand awareness. The fintech company examined in this case study has both Japanese and French local accounts.

The French account started by posting two-to-three-minute videos showing users how to perform certain actions. Recently, it has uploaded much shorter content (between six and thirty seconds) showing people using the technology in their businesses. The videos act as invitations to learn more about the product elsewhere, and again, emphasize the speed that the brand highlights on its homepage.

The Japanese videos begin with an equally instructional tone, but are much longer than the French version. Even recently, with the channel adopting a similar ‘use case’ approach to its French counterpart, the videos are still significantly longer (approximately two minutes each) and provide a lot more background to the business instead of foregrounding the product from the beginning.

Even with supplementary material, fintechs cannot rely solely on reusing their content for each new territory. A more thoroughly localized approach will guarantee a stronger return on investment.

In order to complete this process properly and identify any deeper UX localization challenges, fintech companies should partner with a fintech localization expert able to provide the full range of linguistic services. Complete fintech localization includes linguistic knowledge, in-country expertise, and deep insights on the target audience’s preferences, as well as translation, review, and linguistic testing services. The best fintech localization partners will also have deep technology integration in order to automate processes, facilitate updates and improvements, and reduce human error.

Alpha CRC understands the struggles that fintech companies face when expanding into new markets, and our expert localization can help solve the problems therein. Contact us to learn more about Alpha Financial’s services and brand solutions.