The blueprint for a successful localization strategy

Discover the essential elements and best practices for crafting a successful localization strategy that drives global growth and enhances customer experience.


The difference between a company that merely does business in other countries and one that achieves scalable, long-lasting growth is a solid localization strategy.

If you have a proper localization strategy in place, your business can easily enter new markets and reach more customers.

In this post, we’ll explore more about formulating your localization strategy and how to structure it for maximum returns.

What is a localization strategy?

A localization strategy is your company’s market approach to translating content to connect with a new audience in a voice that feels local and takes regional and cultural nuances into account. It’s more than just literal, word-for-word translations—it also includes understanding and integrating linguistic, cultural, and functional elements that resonate with the target market.

Your business model will define your localization strategy and determine both the markets to enter and the overall content goal in those markets.

Why do you need a localization strategy?

Fully localized content resonates with audiences because it incorporates relevant cultural nuance rather than simply replacing English words with translated text.

With a proper localization strategy, your brand can:

  • Expand your reach: Understanding your target markets and customizing your content and products to them will allow you to grow your potential customer base and avoid missing out on profitable opportunities.
  • Promote increased positive engagement: For good reason, many consumers prefer content and products customized to their native language and cultural preferences. By localizing the whole user experience, you will be able to boost engagement among your target audience and forge stronger connections that encourage them to buy from you.
  • Impact your bottom line: Localization has cascading benefits. For example, if your strategy includes international SEO, you can see an increase in traffic. In turn, the combination of more site visitors and localized content or products can increase your conversion rates significantly.
  • Reduce time to market: By integrating localization into your business from the start, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to enter new markets and start generating revenue.

What’s the difference between translation and localization?

People often use localization and translation as synonyms. While they share similarities—most notably that localization requires content translation—they aren't precisely the same thing.

Translation is about converting your content, app, or website into the target language.

Localization, on the other hand, is a broader process. It requires adapting an application or website not only to the target audience’s language but also to their culture, buying habits, and payment methods.

As it specifically applies to translating content for foreign markets, content localization also pays greater attention to:

  • Slang and idioms that may or may not apply to the local culture
  • Slogans, symbols, and icons
  • Text length and direction and subsequent user interface changes—as with converting Hebrew, which reads from right to left
  • Date, time, and currency formats

Global brands looking to provide potential customers with a more personalized experience should be more concerned with localization than translation.

What are the 4 essential elements of a localization strategy?

A successful localization strategy contains these four key components to help your business engage with local audiences and succeed in new international markets:

1. Market analysis

Before entering a new market, you’ll need to do research to identify which areas will yield the best return on investment (ROI). This process includes examining aspects like market size, consumer preferences, local competitors, and regulatory requirements. Additionally, it's also crucial to understand factors such as your target audience’s cultural norms, purchasing preferences, and browsing habits.

2. Strategic choices

After you have identified your target markets and acquired in-depth knowledge about their cultural subtleties and consumer behavior, you must make some strategic choices regarding your localization strategy. This could involve determining a localization budget that complements your overall business objectives and identifying specific aspects of your product or service that you’ll need to localize.

To target the local market, you should also take into account major considerations, such as language translation, cultural references, design preferences, and functionality requirements. For instance, say your target audience browses and makes purchases primarily on mobile devices. In that case, you’d need to focus on localizing your mobile application and making sure that it meets the local users' language, design, and functionality requirements.

3. Execution planning

With your strategic choices in place, it's time to develop a detailed plan for execution. This plan should outline the resources, timelines, and processes you need for content translation and adaptation. Consider leveraging technology, such as AI-powered translation management systems with dynamic workflows, to streamline and automate parts of the localization process. Additionally, assign clear roles and responsibilities to your team members and establish efficient workflows to ensure smooth collaboration and timely delivery.

4. Campaign measurement

Implementing a robust metric framework is crucial to gauge your localization efforts’ success and make data-driven decisions. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your localization goals, such as market penetration, customer engagement, and ROI. You should regularly monitor and analyze these metrics to evaluate your localization strategy’s effectiveness. Based on the insights you gain, be ready to adjust your approach and optimize your efforts to achieve better results.

10 KPIs to measure your strategy’s success

Engaging in localization activities, from adapting website layouts to translating content, is an investment. And as with any business investment, you’ll want to measure your return on that spend.

Here are some of the most commonly used KPIs to measure a localization strategy’s success:

  1. Website traffic: This metric tells you how many people visit your site from social media and search engines like Google each month. You can track traffic growth from individual localities for a greater understanding of each target market’s engagement levels. If your site traffic from target regions is increasing, you know your localization efforts are effective.
  2. Conversion rate: This KPI determines your localization strategy’s effectiveness for websites and apps. For example, if you’ve recently expanded into Japan, you can compare your conversion rate there against your established rate for the US. Differences in conversion rates also reflect your strategy’s effectiveness, so you can use these rates as a jumping-off point for further investigation.
  3. International market growth rate: Tracking global growth through revenue is helpful, but it is more effective to compare growth rates across different markets. Revenue growth is the most common metric you’ll use, though market share can also help you understand how well the new market is adopting your product or service.
  4. Engagement rates: Measure user engagement metrics, such as page views, time on site, and interaction rates, in your localized sites to understand how well your content resonates with local audiences.
  5. CSAT: The customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is a short survey that you can use to see how happy customers are with your localization efforts. You can easily implement this by setting up a website pop-up box to trigger as a site visitor is about to leave. This pop-up could contain a survey question that reads, “On a scale of 1–10, how would you rate our website’s content in terms of its use of local language, slang, and idioms?”
  6. NPS: The net promoter score (NPS) helps you understand the likelihood that local customers will refer your brand to a friend, colleague, or family member. You can send a brief survey to your customer base asking just that. Improvements in content localization should yield an increased NPS, so track this before and after you make any changes.
  7. Turnaround time: This KPI measures how fast you can translate and produce marketing materials to serve a global audience. This is an important metric for businesses that are looking to expand into new markets. If you can turn localized content around quickly, you can also launch landing pages, app feature releases, and email and social media marketing campaigns more quickly.
  8. Percent first-time quality: Whether you’re using a human-led localization approach or taking advantage of modern systems like machine translation, quality is a critical concern. Percent first-time quality is a metric that measures the percentage of translated and localized content pieces that meet quality standards the first time around—that is, they don’t require any edits.
  9. Translation error rate: The translation error rate is the percentage of issues that appear in translated content. For example, an error rate of 1% would mean that for every 100 pieces of content you translate, one piece has an error. This rate is important for comparing product service providers and holding vendors accountable for producing high-quality localization services.
  10. Localization ROI: You can calculate your strategy’s ROI by comparing localization costs (including translation, tools, and resources) against the revenue you generate from localized markets to determine your efforts’ financial viability.

5 advantages of a well-executed localization strategy

An effective localization strategy also offers businesses numerous benefits, unlocks new opportunities, and helps them gain a competitive edge in the global market. Here are five key advantages of a well-executed localization strategy:

1. Enhanced customer experience

A localization strategy that pays attention to cultural nuances, linguistic preferences, and local tastes can considerably enhance your target audience’s user experience. You can achieve this by offering products, services, and content that resonate with the target customers in different languages, leading to higher user satisfaction and engagement. When customers feel that a company truly understands and caters to their specific needs, they are more likely to develop a strong affinity for the brand and become loyal advocates.

2. Increased market penetration

Customizing your product offer and marketing approaches to meet local standards and expectations in different markets will enable you to win a wider client base and gain deeper market coverage. You can do this by speaking your target audience’s language and showing a solid understanding of their unique cultural context. In turn, this can net you higher sales, market share, and total growth in your target markets.

3. Greater competitive edge

In today's globalized business landscape, companies that invest in comprehensive localization approaches can distinguish themselves from competitors that may not have fine-tuned their offerings to local needs. By offering a more culturally suitable and personalized experience, you can differentiate your company or product in heavily saturated markets and gain a competitive edge.

4. Reduced risk of miscommunication

Effective localization mitigates the risk of cultural misunderstandings, unintended offenses, and miscommunication that can arise when entering new markets. You can safeguard your company's reputation and global brand image by working with local experts and carefully adapting your content and messaging to respect cultural sensitivities and social norms.

5. Higher ROI

Although investing in a complete localization strategy may cost more initially, the long-term advantages are worth the initial expense. Establishing a solid, loyal customer base in your select markets will lead to more revenue streams and higher ROI. Localized offerings tend to have higher adoption rates, lower churn, and more positive word-of-mouth referrals, all of which contribute to a healthier bottom line.

Translation tools to help you execute your localization strategy

When it comes to delivering on localization needs, speed, high translation quality, and accuracy all matter.

Assembling a localization team with language experts from multiple regions might tick the accuracy and quality boxes, but it's certainly not going to help you scale quickly. To achieve all three goals, you need an AI-powered machine translation tool that can help you streamline workflows by delivering high-quality, on-brand translations instantly.

Smartling’s localization software, powered by our proprietary LanguageAI technology, can create compelling and immersive local user experiences by translating your content into target languages and considering your brand identity, voice, style, and terminology. Want to learn a real-world example? Explore how Coinbase used Smartling to drive global expansion.

Partner with Smartling for strategic success

Once you incorporate these techniques into your localization and marketing strategies, you’ll be on the fast track to international expansion.

The key to your company’s continuing success is localization — understanding and adapting your content to each target market’s culture and moving beyond merely translating words.

Check out this ebook to learn strategies for developing a winning localization strategy with Smartling's comprehensive suite of tools and expertise.