7 business localization practices for strategic growth

Business localization can expand your market reach and increase sales. But first, learn how to create a local version of your website—the kind that hits the mark.


Business localization helps you reach new markets and create more intimate connections within different cultures.

The process can seem daunting (imagine translating and pushing content to market for dozens of cultures at the same time), but it doesn't have to be. The good news is that localization is scalable—especially with the right partnership and translation platform.

You can get started today by implementing these seven practices for localization. But first, what is localization?

Defining business localization and its value

Business localization refers to adapting your product and marketing strategies to different cultures, languages, and regulatory requirements to reach a specific target audience.

Creating on-brand versions of your product, website, and customer support materials allows you to reach more audiences with different languages and local cultures. You can connect with customers on their level and grow in new markets using native-speaking communication.

You’ll need business localization in order to reach multilingual audiences and continue scaling and growing your brand worldwide.

3 benefits of business localization

Localization allows businesses to reach more customers, increase sales, and create strong brand connections with global audiences.

Here's how you can benefit:

1. Increase sales

When deciding where to buy, 76% of online customers prefer purchasing on websites in their native language.

The more companies can produce translations of their on-brand content and motivate customers to buy, the more they can increase global sales. But this doesn't happen with word-to-word translations, which can often fall flat and miss cultural nuances.

Think of your marketing team. They spend thousands of hours deciding which words to use to connect with customers and convince them to make a purchase. If your team instead published what first came to mind, your campaigns wouldn't have the highest chance of success.

Now, think of translations. A word-for-word translation might get the point across, but it'll miss key components that would help your team make the sale.

Once you've established a business localization strategy that combines AI translations, aided by large learning models, with human experts, you can effectively communicate with your audience and increase sales.

With localization, your brand can expand to reach multilingual audiences that speak target languages like French, German, Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, and more. This provides endless opportunities to increase sales.

An example of a strong localization strategy is Nivea, a top retailer that offers a different user experience in each country it’s present in. It uses slightly different variations of its product promotions in each locale, and the models in its imagery reflect local buyers.

2. Create more loyalty and less churn

Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Churn rates often reveal a disconnect. Maybe customers don't see the value of your product, or maybe they lose interest. But often, it comes down to communication. New users don't understand your product. They can't get the help they need or reach the “aha” moment every company aims for. Churn also highlights failed experiences. You can close the gap by offering incredible onboarding experiences, customer support, and resources, all in the customer's native language. As you provide better experiences and communicate with multilingual audiences, you will win their trust and loyalty.

Business localization speaks to the heart. Using culturally appropriate images—like covering women's heads on the Arabic version of your site—shows that you respect your audience. Publishing content that respects and understands the target audience’s language, culture, and traditions will create a brand experience that feels local and intimate and will forge a connection deep enough to convince customers to stay.

3. Drive better brand integrity

Miscommunication can be detrimental and may exact a cost that could endanger your business.

In 2017, the Tampa, FL, police department held a press conference about a critical case, during which a volunteer provided an American Sign Language (ASL) translation. After the conference, many realized that she had faked the translation—it was gibberish. Only ASL communicators knew what was happening in real time.

Often, it's the same with brands that run content through an out-of-the-box AI tool or hire a non-native translator to translate for them. A company may think its translated content looks good, and maybe the translation gets the point across, but its message misrepresents the brand. The audience understands something entirely different than the intended meaning, so the company finds itself with two different interpretations—and it probably doesn’t like the other one.

Business localization strategies enable you to ensure brand integrity, check names and slogans for double meanings, and find brand-secure alternatives. It also helps you consider the subliminal messages your marketing sends using colors, numbers, and graphics. What's normal in your country may offend your customer base.

Even something as innocuous as the cartoon character Bob the Builder isn't safe. Bob only has four fingers, so a Japanese audience may mistakenly think he's in the mob.

Localization is key to unlocking saved costs

Paying close attention to your brand perception in international markets increases sales, improves customer experience, and strengthens customer loyalty.

Still, there are other high stakes involved. Think about the potential funds you might waste on a failed market entry if you don’t ensure beforehand that your brand translates into the target market.

Mistakes can erode that local audience’s trust in your brand and create high immediate costs, such as product recalls or promotion withdrawals in a new market.

This is why establishing a business localization solution is vital to your success in new markets.

Unpacking the 7 essential practices of brand localization

A lot goes into creating a business localization strategy. That's why having a partner who can facilitate your needs and provide direction is essential. You can begin this process by developing an internationalization plan.

Internationalization is a precursor for localization that involves creating the infrastructure you need to scale localization for as many languages and cultures as you need.

This could include adjusting how your website is structured (such as for right-to-left languages like Arabic and Hebrew). Internationalization can also involve adopting suitable systems, such as Smartling’s Global Delivery Network (GDN), a translation proxy that streamlines website content for automatic, language-specific customer experiences. You can then partner with a team like Smartling’s Managed Services to bring a localized version of your product to market with process experts.

Once you've adopted the right platform to make business localization possible, you can begin with the following seven essential practices for localization:

The seven essential practices for business localization.
The seven essential practices for business localization.

1. Market research

Localization starts with understanding your target audience. This includes studying your customers’ culture, preferences, local governments, and expectations.

To put it in one word, companies need context. You'll miss the mark if you don't understand the customers you are talking to, how to address their pain points, and what they value.

Companies can add native and local team members from their target markets to help educate their launch teams. Brands can also create partnerships with local companies who will help introduce them to the audience. When it's time to translate content, companies can then work with human experts who are native to the language.

Through key partnerships and audience-specific research, your brand can create a strategy to connect with audiences and increase sales.

2. Website localization and translation

Communication is the most important part of business localization. What's the point of entering a new market if the audience doesn't understand you or takes offense to a bad translation? Communication is the one thing you can't afford to get wrong.

Perfect communication, which feels like a native is talking, creates strong brand loyalty and lands the sale.

Your website is the first thing your customers will see before making a decision. You need a way to scale your translations to many markets while maintaining high-quality pages that keep culture, nuances, and expectations in check.

Smartling offers computer-assisted translation tools and AI-powered human expert services that can quickly translate your materials with native-approved quality. You can then publish on-brand content that communicates effectively.

3. Adaption for products and services

One size doesn't fit all—and that goes for all your positions, products, and services.

For example, a company like McDonald's offers different product variations to satisfy local palates. You can get rice, lentils, and potato-based burgers in India, and in Miami, you can get a Cuban café con leche. This experience makes an international brand feel local.

But your strategy doesn't have to be as dramatic as creating a new product. Most companies don't have to deal with something as subjective as local food preferences.

Most of the time, adapting products depends on your messaging. When you describe and position your product, you must ensure that your message communicates effectively with the audience. Often, this involves analyzing audience-specific paint points.

For example, one target audience—let's say an English-speaking group—might pick one solution to file taxes quickly. But in the same country, another culture or language group may want a more affordable solution. In this case, the product can cater to both preferences, but how it positions itself and what it highlights will vary depending on the audience.

4. Localization for marketing

Adapting your product and message for your audience segues into how you'll market it. Your localized marketing campaigns will mark the difference between success and failure.

For example, look at Tata Motors and how it launched the Tata Nano in India. The company marketed this vehicle as the world's cheapest car because it wanted to promote an affordable solution and create wide customer ownership. But instead, the Nano was known only as "cheap" in quality. It failed to reach its target audience because Tata Motors did not connect emotionally with its audience.

Great localization can bring emotional benefits to the table and motivate customers to buy. But you can't do that on your own. You need intimate knowledge of your audience from research and partners.

In addition to how you market your product, you can nurture relationships within your target communities. You can also build partnerships with local companies and respected community members to convey your message and spread the word.

5. Compliance and regulations

If you enter a market in a different country or city, you'll undoubtedly face different regulations and compliances.

Your team would need to consult experts to find out what you need to do to remain in good standing with local governments and retain consumer trust. While understanding and implementing the law is a large part of business localization, the documents you must produce are as well. Whether it's terms of agreement or a privacy policy, you must ensure that you translate legal documents accurately and adjust them for local governing bodies.

One mistranslated word could convey a different meaning due to cultural differences and legal precedents. Therefore, working with the right legal experts and AI-powered human translators is crucial.

6. Customer support and communication

There's no point in selling a product if you can't support your customers. Imagine that someone purchases an annual subscription for a SaaS solution but can't figure out how to use a feature. When they reach out to the customer support team, they receive either no response or an odd translation. The result? They remain stuck and soon join the churn list.

If you want to increase customer satisfaction and retention and build a positive brand image, you need to offer the help that multilingual audiences expect from you. To do so, you can interact with customers and help them with their needs using translations and efficient communication tools.

You can also translate your blog articles, help resources, and support pages for your native customers. When you put the same care into helping multilingual audiences as you do with your original customer base, you can multiply your brand experience and growth.

7. Evaluation and improvement

Localization doesn't stop after launch. You will inevitably have more content, updates, features, and product launches. The economy moves fast, and so should your solutions, messaging, and customer engagement.

Companies should use localization tools to gather data and analytics to understand customer behavior and constantly improve. Teams should also automate content updates, especially if they want to efficiently scale to dozens of different languages.

Brands can get better results by nurturing relationships, studying cultural trends, and improving metrics.

The real-world impact: A case study

Wilson Sporting Goods Co. has a legacy that dates back to 1913. It knew its local customers, but it also wanted to better connect with global customers in over 100 countries. Wilson would need to make its products more accessible to each local market.

If Wilson could successfully localize its website and brand, it could improve its international presence and continue its business growth.

The problem was that Wilson had to make a translation and localization process from scratch since it only had a two-person business localization team. Wilson also had a complicated business process and wasn't sure how to make it flexible for translation.

That's when Smartling stepped in. Wilson could get the translations it always wanted with Smartling’s strategic direction and cloud-based translation management system.

Wilson used Smartling's translation infrastructure within the GDN to seamlessly provide translated web pages to the right users. The company also reduced project management using Smartling's automation and workflows. Additionally, Smartling's onboarding for translators ensured that Wilson could quickly implement the strategy with minimal changes to its business infrastructure.

The result: Wilson saw a 57% increase in translation speed. Its localized plan is now more scalable, and the brand can reach its audiences with high-quality content and incredible velocity.

Unlock growth with Smartling's expertise

Localization doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, you can start right now.

You can take advantage of localization and reach new audiences with Smartling's professional services, a team of experts that can optimize your implementation. We can help you position your brand for new and multilingual markets so you can intimately connect with audiences.

Additionally, businesses can leverage the full power of Smartling's platform with machine translation, machine learning, its translation management system, and more.

Smartling’s professional services can position your company for multilingual audiences worldwide. Book a free consultation now to learn how your business can localize and increase sales.