To everyone starting to read this article: congratulations on your expansion into new markets! Whether you’re planning to start a service in another country, region, or part of the world, do it with linguistic, economic, and cultural differences in mind. Obviously, you shouldn’t translate your product literally from the source to the target language; instead, carry out product localization.
In the following few paragraphs, we’ll explain this term and its many features.
Product Localization Defined
Product localization refers to translating and adapting a product from the source language and culture to one or more target markets, relevant languages and cultures included.
This process encompasses different features, from the product’s language interface to software solutions to marketing materials.
The Purpose of Localization
Every customer likes and needs to be treated with equal respect, regardless of their background. Localization is here to weave a story around the product so that it looks like it was originally created for the market in question.
Leaving the content, technical documentation or other product-related items in the original language or poorly adapted is bad for your brand and lead generation.
The Localize-First Approach
While much of the Web is written in the English language, it doesn’t reflect the actual situation on the global language scale. According to WorldData, about 410.4 million people worldwide speak English as their native language. The total number of people able to communicate in this lingua franca of the modern age is around 1 billion.
Many businesses that aim at the international audience often choose the English language for their website, content, and product descriptions.
However, if you’re thinking about expanding to specific markets even before the launch in English, rethink the entire concept. In this case, embrace the localize-first approach. In other words, localize everything beforehand so you don’t have to translate the content afterward.
This product launch and localization method significantly reduces the potential number of mistakes and product misplacements.
The Benefits of Product Localization
Localizing your products and services brings certain benefits that will give your business operations an edge in the given market, as follows.
For starters, you’ll save some precious time. The first-come-first-served rule is one of the key business principles for efficient management. Product localization enables exactly that: faster time to market. Localized products are more likely to resonate with the target customers and trigger sales from day one.
Remember that having localization-friendly infrastructure is extremely important to ensure proper time-to-market. In practical terms, it means applying the localize-first approach and/or preparing everything in advance for potential localizations.
Wider Appeal, Higher Earnings
From a business owner’s point of view, the more people see a product and get a chance to buy it, the better.
A product localized in several languages and adapted to the finesses of the target culture will have a much wider appeal than its non-adapted counterpart. This exposure to many curious eyes ready to spend increases the chances of higher earnings and, eventually, profits. It doesn’t only refer to the assets generated through direct sales or subscriptions but to the overall customer lifecycle and retention.
The assumption here (proven in practice) is that going the extra mile in localization will earn you more loyal customers in the long run. As customer acquisition costs companies more than customer retention – five to seven times more, says Forbes – observe product localization as part of the customer retention strategy.
Fine Tuned Brand Communication
Properly localizing products to different markets means establishing deeper cultural and branding connections with various audiences. In addition to the enhanced presence in different markets and potential earnings, translating and adapting your products and services fuels long-term branding.
Let’s look at this example from a customer’s shoes: you want to buy an apartment in Italy, but your knowledge of Italian is poor. You’ll see that most domestic real estate websites translate their content and ads into English. Only a few websites cover other languages, as well, mostly using a Google Translate plugin. The website that actually translates its content to your mother tongue or the language you speak well is more likely to get your attention, right? They’ll be your first pick. The same principle works for all businesses and their positioning in foreign markets.
What to Localize?
When localizing products for different markets and languages, figure out what features to translate in the first place and which ones to keep intact.
Here’s what to localize and how to do it:
Your business website is your online shop window. If potential customers don’t understand what they see in the window, they won’t stay there for too long. Hence, translate the homepage and all other website pages to all the target languages. Some entrepreneurs localize only landing pages, leaving the rest of the content in the original language or in English. It is a cheaper, but also riskier option. Try both approaches and see which brings more conversions. Mind the measurement units, currencies, and other relevant data. Use the website plugins that redirect website visitors to the right version of the website, based on their location.
Software engineers working on digital products or solutions that sell them need to get clear instructions to enable localization. For instance, translators, editors, and copywriters need to be able to get into code and make necessary linguistic changes. Software developers should work closely with them to know how to let them do their job.
A form of marketing localization, transcreation is a more advanced process, somewhere between translation and copywriting. It must powerfully convey the original product marketing messages in all the target languages. For this purpose, some companies hire copywriters to turn translations into copy that sells.
The entire documentation that comes with the localized product should be translated at least to English and ideally to all the languages in question. From explainer videos and user manuals to FAQ sections and promotional materials, do your best to clarify everything in all the relevant languages.
The Final Word
Technological improvements will draw the world together even more in the time ahead. The ability to convey business messages in a plentitude of languages will be even more respected in the future. Even though we’ll probably have many new tools at our disposal, we still need to know how to carry out effective product localization. The tips above will help you understand how to retain your old markets and enter the new ones with fully localized products and services.