Localization Lessons from Global Leaders

Localization Lessons from Global Leaders

localization lessonsWhat can we learn about localization from tech giants like Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft? Each of them is known for offering users a huge number of language choices and carefully localized products. In today’s blog post, we summarize the practices of these leaders in the hope that it might inspire you in your marketing and localization work.



Localization is a Business Process

Truly global companies evolve to the extent that localization becomes part of their DNA, their business process. This is mainly because of two reasons: the outlook of these companies is global and inclusive. They treat the whole world as their market and why not? The wider you cast your net, the more fish you’ll catch. Secondly, these companies have enough localization maturity to realize that not localizing websites or apps as part of their internationalization strategy can lead to costly mistakes they would rather avoid. If your company is on the smaller side, you may not and need not target the whole world – but you can still optimize your international performance and become an advocate for internalizing localization within your organization.

ROI Concerns Don’t Bog down Global Leaders

It was Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, who recently and famously said that when it came to making their products accessible to the blind, he didn’t “consider the bloody ROI.” The localization philosophy of global companies follows in much the same vein. Today, questions about the ROI of website localization are quickly becoming redundant in the same way that no one bothers to ask about the ROI of having a website to begin with. This doesn’t mean that ROI metrics do not have a place. Quite the contrary. Just don’t let the ROI debate stall your website localization effort.

Attention to Detail Gets Customer Love

The level of localization detail that Apple goes into, for instance, tells the user that the company cares enough to not only translate, but also take care of little things like date and time formatting or local cultural references. These may seem like trivial details, but there’s a reason why Apple’s customer base is so loyal. When it comes to customer experience, do not overlook the little things.

Market Research Helps in Determining Exact Needs of Users

Companies serious about localization recognize that language has to be a given in their international expansion strategy. But they’re also aware that sometimes localization needs to go beyond language. For instance, what users may really be craving for may be a customized feature, or a payment gateway suited to local requirements. These types of needs are often best determined by conducting user surveys and market studies – again a step that many companies with experience in localization take up regularly.

Get Users Involved – At Your Own Risk

Facebook crowdsourced all of its translation into 65 languages or so. This worked beautifully for Facebook and it could work for you, if you have a similar business model along with a huge pool of users to tap into. But for most companies, professional translation is the ideal choice. In such cases, find other ways to get users involved in your localization process.

We recognize that each company is different and their customers, in turn, have varied needs. There’s nothing in the book that prevents you from adopting a localization mantra of your own. But the one important takeaway from global companies is their passion for localization: to deliver a product that doesn’t feel or sound foreign, and to understand that markets are local, while companies are global.

Image source: IVY PHOTOS / Shutterstock.com

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About Vijayalaxmi Hegde

Vijayalaxmi is a member of the marketing team at Smartling. Prior to joining Smartling, she led the language services market sizing project at industry research firm, Common Sense Advisory. She is also a trained journalist and has written for publications in India (where she lives) as well as abroad. She is a plain language and tech enthusiast and speaks Kannada, English, Hindi, and Bengali – listed in the order she learned them.


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