What makes the difference between a company that merely does business in other countries and a company that has successful and long-lasting growth? It all boils down to your localization strategy.
Here are 10 must-have tips for localization that you can apply to your business:
1. Hire Locals
Who knows a given culture better than a local? Tap into local experts, whether in the form of staff, agencies, or in-country partners, from each of your target markets. This way your team can ensure the most accurate, localized experience for users. This is perhapst the single most important element of any localization strategy. Don’t forget about the “local” in localization. Take in-country feedback very seriously. In fact, do a bit of preparation work up front, to truly make sure that you understand the local market dynamics, preferences, competitors, channels, promotion strategies, and so on. Often, the content and marketing tactics you use in one country simply won’t work in another.
2. Be Memorable
When people hear your brand name in each market, what attributes do they associate with it? Do they think of reliability, ease of use, and quality? Perhaps you have built a great brand in your home market, but how does that brand identity carry over into other markets? You need to do a great job of creating a strong image from the start. If you clearly define and communicate what your brand is — its style, personality, colors, etc. — potential customers will think of your business first when it comes time to decide between you and your competitors. However, remember that each market is different, and even the name of your company could have an unintended meaning in another language that you never knew about before. Do a quick study in each market to find out what customers think of when they see your logo, hear and see your brand name, and whether they have any concept of your identity. You may find that your brand identity has a different “flavor” in each market. So, you may need to work harder to create a new and memorable story for your brand in some markets than others.
3. Focus on Localization, Not Just Translation
To truly be an expert at localization, your company must work to adapt its business to the culture of each of its individual target markets. Consider this quote from Uber founder Travis Kalanick, who states, “each city is unique in its transportation pain points, its density, its transportation alternatives, regulation, even its transportation culture.” Obviously, knowledge of the local market is critical for a company like Uber, but the same lesson applies for other businesses too. What are the pain points your customers experience? What are the alternatives to your product or service in each market? And, what is the local sub-culture that your business falls within? Having this knowledge is critical to incorporate it into your localization strategy.
4. As Your Business Becomes More Global, So Should Your Marketing Language
A frequently overlooked advantage of localization is that it can inform your overall market positioning strategy and enrich your core brand, even in your target market. As you execute against your localization strategy, make sure that you keep track of your successes and roll them back into your brand marketing strategy too. Nearly every business begins as a company that serves a local market, but as you move into international markets, you’ll need to modify your marketing language to make it clear that you’re international. However, you can still keep your local roots while being seen as a global company.
5. Stand Out From the Competition
Though local markets may be saturated with competitors, that shouldn’t hinder your progress. In fact, a large amount of competition can be a sign of a healthy market. Consider ways that you can one-up your competitors by adding features they don’t have, including extra, value-added services that can set you apart and make customers gravitate toward you. Do some simple market research to test concepts ahead of time to make sure they are locally relevant and culturally appropriate. Make sure, also, to roll this information into your website localization process, to create sites that resonate with each target market.
6. Cater Your Offerings to Each Location
Many companies make a mistake when moving into a new market by assuming that their pricing should be the same as the pricing for their home market. Such companies always struggle initially because local competitors may offer more attractive prices. You can adapt by re-packaging your product or by lowering (or raising!) your prices in specific markets where demand and supply warrant it. Consider the differences in each market you enter, and adapt your offerings accordingly.
7. Become Part of the Community
If you enter a new market, make sure that you actually show that you have a presence there. Keep abreast of current events and help communities in times of need; for example, during a natural disaster or a time of need, consider making a corporate donation of your local staff’s time or the services and products that you can uniquely provide to help in a way that is genuine and will be appreciated. Seek out moments of importance where you can connect with customers and give back to the local community.
8. Optimize for a Mobile Audience
Though getting translated content to your desktop website is likely a huge focus of your localization strategy, an equal focus should be given to rolling content out to mobile platforms, including smartphone apps. Creating localized content for apps is of particular importance, because it presents a unique opportunity for growth. Studies have shown that having individually localized apps for each market can increase conversions by double or even triple digits. Omitting app development in your localization strategy can severely hamper growth potential, especially in markets where mobile growth is surging, such as Africa and the Middle East.
9. Consider Social Components of Your Strategy
Even though mobile platforms should make up a large portion of your localization efforts, it’s important to keep social networking trends in individual markets in mind. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are popular on a global scale, but local networks should be used where appropriate, according to Business Insider. For instance, China’s Qzone is the third-largest social network in the world, and businesses that want to succeed in the Chinese market need to have a presence on this network that includes localized content and links to app downloads for that specific region.
10. Factor In the Technical Side of Localization
There is a lot more to localization han just the need to translate website content. There are several technical components that need to be considered as well, including aspects such as font size, website layout, and design. Though consumers will be looking for information when they find your content, it is vital that this information is presented in a way that feels natural and familiar to them. Imagine, for instance, that you are launching a site localized for the Chinese market. Though the content has been thoroughly crafted, your site is using the same layout for a recent Russian site launch. However, because Chinese characters need to be larger than Russian ones for readability purposes, much of the text spills over the menu bar of the layout, making the content impossible to read and turning off potential customers. If your translation technology provides translators with translator tools that include a visual preview of your website as they’re translating, it’s easy to see where your page layout and/or copy needs to be changed to accommodate for different languages.
Once you incorporate these techniques into your localization strategy, you’ll be on the fast track to international expansion. The key to your company’s continuing success is localization — understanding and adapting to the culture of each target market and going beyond merely translating words. And of course, don’t forget that translation software can take care of a great part of the localization heavy lifting for you, to help transform your business into a more successful global company.