314-725-3711 | Since 1998

Expanding into the Canadian market has become appealing to many US-based retailers, but this move is not without considerable challenges when it comes to properly handling retail marketing and HR in Canada. While the Canadian market offers proximity, general familiarity with US-based retailers, and the widespread use of English, it is not homogenous with the US market. As large retailers have experienced in the past, it takes quite a bit of time and investment in order to get it right in Canada. In this post, we will discuss the importance of terminology management and brand consistency when taking on the Canadian market.

A Walmart sign in Montréal that is in French and in English

Walmart predominantly displays the French Language in a Montreal store

Language considerations for Retail Marketing and HR in Canada

Retailers in Québec are mandated by the Charter of the French language to communicate with customers in French. There are specific rules that protect the French consumer from having to obtain information on commercial goods and services in a language other than French. Whereas retailers in the US may take a phased approach to introducing Spanish resources based on market research, in the Canadian province of Québec it is required by law that all in-store advertising be in French and markedly predominant over any other language.

Our experience in French translations in retail marketing spans for over a decade, with translation experience in eCommerce, retail management software, in-store marketing and advertising (direct mail and online). You may want to check out our post on typographical differences of French translation for Canada.

Marketing Communications in Canada

A Best Buy Canada ad in French

From print advertising to eCommerce, it is important to manage terminology for consistency.

With so many brand messages and terms, it is important to provide a consistent message to the consumer in your marketing translations. Your message needs to be accurate and understandable to the local market. Furthermore, as described in our Francisation process, there is certain terminology that is standard in Québec that should be used. We highly recommend consulting with a professional linguist who subscribes to and follows the changes of terminology published by the Canadian government and/or by the OQLF (French Language Bureau of Québec) when making terminology decisions.

Brand consistency can be a challenge. There can be many players, including Canada store managers, district managers and marketing managers, each with their own reference for terminology. Therefore, if you are a US-based company and translating your materials, your translator’s choice of terminology may differ from what store employees use internally. It’s important to take control over the most important brand terms and catalog these in a glossary to standardize them throughout the organization.

For instance, think of the name of a customer loyalty program or reward program. The name of this type of program will appear in many different places, including in-store marketing, POS, email marketing and online. Different aspects of the program may be managed by different people and departments. Without a centralized effort towards terminology management, the roll-out of such a program in Canada can be delayed or end up being inconsistent. This may lead to consumer confusion and dissatisfaction.

Employee HR Communications in Canada

When we helped one of our retail clients to enter the Canadian market, all HR employee communication had to be localized for Canada and translated into French. A centralized effort in terminology management was key for employee engagement and effective roll-out of HR policies. We collected a few hundred terms that needed to be agreed upon before we could start translation. Disagreement on terminology after the translation process has started can be costly, as these terms usually appear in many different places and would require manual processes to change them throughout.

Many terms are company-specific and need to be explained. There may be concepts that need to be adjusted to industry-wide terms that are already used in retail marketing and HR in Canada. As US-based companies need to hire from within the retail industry in Canada, their policies and concepts need to be made relevant to local hires.

One challenge is the use of software that has already been localized. The client we mentioned above had a point of sale (POS) manual that needed translation. Their software was already partially localized and we had to make sure that the terms used in the software matched the approved list of terms we had received from our client. Through this review, we identified areas where the POS software had to be updated in order to be relevant to the store’s management policies. Without a conscious effort to manage terminology across the board, there is a high risk for inconsistencies. These can result in ineffective policies and employee confusion. How is an employee supposed to proceed if the POS manual does not correspond to what is actually in on the screen?

What we do at Language Solutions

A screenshot of a terminology database with English, French, and a reference image

Terminology Database with image details

We use Translation Memory software and termbases to capture terminology and automatically apply it to any piece that we translate. Building a catalog of approved brand terms provides a clear direction on French terminology that will be used for retail marketing and HR in Canada, whether it’s in-store, online, in direct mail or by employees, as well as in inventory and POS systems.

Our Project Management team is dedicated to coordinating people and processes to deliver the highest quality, on time, and in the most cost-effective way. It’s often underestimated, but having a dedicated project manager adds tremendous value as a single point of contact keeping everyone and everything on the right track.

Finally, we only work with dedicated teams of translators with specific industry expertise. Too often, we talk with clients whose vendor handed off translations to any translator who is available for the job. Our dedicated teams not only make use of the technology that is available for consistency, but also know about the decisions that have been made in the past and have become familiar with the end client. This familiarity is an added benefit that lends itself to consistency of voice.

We specialize in translation for retail marketing and HR in Canada. If you are a business in the US thinking of expanding north, give us a call to see how we can help you succeed in the Canadian market.