So, you think your business is ready for international growth. The product looks great, the website is up and running. Beautiful visuals and witty copy in English that will grab everyone’s attention no matter which corner of the world they reside in.
And what else would you need, since English is the lingua franca of the business world, spoken by 1.5 billion, or 20% of the Earth’s population, right?
According to a 2014 report, 75% of consumers have said they’re likely to purchase goods and services if the product information is in their native language. What’s more, 87% of consumers who don’t speak and can’t read English won’t even consider buying from an English website.
Look at it this way. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, you’re more likely to blend in and build a lasting relationship with the locals if you:
- speak their language
- know their culture and customs
That’s basically what localization does for your product. But before we look into how localization could benefit your business, let’s start with the basics:
What is localization
The term “localization” stands for adapting a product or content to fit a specific market or country and adjusting its functional properties to accommodate the linguistic, cultural, political and legal differences.
Localization is often confused with translation, the process of converting text from one language to another. While these terms might be somewhat similar, translation is actually just one aspect of localization with the latter being the more extensive of the two processes.
So, in addition to translation, localization involves other elements that will be modified as a part of the process. For example:
- Adapting visuals and graphics to the target market
- Modifying content to fit the tastes and consumption habits of the target market
- Changing the design and layout to properly display translated text
- Converting to local currencies and measure units
- Using proper local formats (dates, punctuation, symbols, phone numbers, addresses)
- Addressing local regulations and legal requirements
By the end of the localization process, your product should look and feel as if it was created in the market or country you’re targeting.
Besides, it’s not just the product or website that you can localize. If you’re really planning on expanding your audience, you should also localize marketing materials (TV, radio, printed ads), product manuals, user interfaces, and product warranty materials.
Still not sure if you should invest in localization? Here’s why it matters for your business:
Go global more rapidly
It’s tempting to think that entering a new market will be as easy as launching a Facebook ad targeted to a specific location or country.
However, it takes more than that. There are several barriers that you will need to overcome, especially if you want to enter a market that’s geographically and culturally distant from your home country. Some of these barriers include:
- The political environment
- The socio-cultural/demographic environment
- The technological environment
Through the process of localization, you’ll overcome these barriers more rapidly, tailor your product or service to fit a specific culture, and allow your future customers to adapt to your product with less effort.
In other words, localization will enable you to succeed in new markets and help your product or service adapt to your target location. As a result, the customers will be more likely to spread the word about your brand and you will create a positive brand image. This in return will ensure better customer engagement with your products as opposed to your competitors who are not taking the localization path.
Imagine you’re road tripping in a foreign country and you’re suddenly not feeling well, forcing you to search for a doctor. Which professional would you rather see – the one with lower prices but whom you’re having trouble communicating with? Or the one who’s a bit more pricey but, as it turns out, speaks your native language?
It’s probably the second option as it’d be easier to explain your health issues. And in the end, you’d be healthy as a horse, and the doctor would earn a few more bucks than the first one.
Research shows that it works the same way with localization. 57% of consumers have said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.
When you communicate with your customers in their native language, you’re bonding with them and building trust. In the end, you’d have a mutual understanding which would make the customers more comfortable when placing purchases.
Here’s some more cold evidence – 74% of multinational enterprises believe that localization is either important or most important if you want to increase revenue from global operations. So, if you want to boost those export sales and set a pace for your competitors, localization is the way to go.
Increase brand relevance
In today’s world where trends change at unimaginable speeds, keeping your brand and product constantly relevant is a process that requires your ongoing attention.
A relevant brand represents more than just a product or service – it creates and brings to the market products that meet important needs in people’s lives. By doing so, these brands become an indispensable part of the consumer’s habits.
Just take a look at companies that perform well, like Apple. There have been many competitors that have tried to offer faster, different versions of iPads and iPhones. Nevertheless, the customers still prefer the forbidden fruit. It simply manages to stay one of most relevant products on the market.
Through the process of localization, your brand will become more relevant to more people in more markets. To quote Li Run, Senior brand director at TCL, the Chinese TV brand that constantly manages to stay at the very top of Amazon’s best-selling charts, “only by understanding consumer needs and providing products and services that meet their local needs and values, can a brand achieve the deepest level of connection – getting beyond acceptance and towards being loved by local consumers.”
Along with the many rewards that can be gained by entering a new market, there comes a fair share of potential risks, too. Aside from aspects out of your control – like shifts in currency value and force majeure, you can undervalue the political climate, misunderstand consumer needs and cultural sensitivities.
Localization acts as a safety measure that mitigates these risks and ensures your business runs smoothly oversees. Remember that in some countries, certain expressions and even colors can bear a negative connotation. Through the process of localization, you can avoid falling into these traps that even some of the big giants have not managed to avert.
For example, Nokia launched its Lumia phone in Spanish-speaking countries but failed miserably. They had missed the fact that the product name is slang for “prostitute” in Spanish, causing them to receive negative publicity.
The power of localization
No matter how good your product or service is, your brand will be able to expand globally only when you resonate with the customers in the target market – and the audience understands your message and offered solutions.
That’s why it’s important to invest in localization right at the start of your internationalization journey, as it will help you reach more prospects, offer a better customer experience, and increase revenue.