6 Localization Problems and How to Solve Them (2022)

Contents
 6 Localization Problems by Ivana Trpevska

If only localization was as similar to direct translation as many people think it is. Localizing content can be a painstaking process with unexpected challenges that sometimes set projects back by weeks or months.

But hey, forewarned is forearmed, right? Upon closer look, most localization problems are easy to solve if you use the right approach.

Let’s walk through the 6 major localization problems and the best ways to overcome them.

Overview

  1. Not knowing how to target market awareness
  2. Handling cultural barriers & miscommunication
  3. Preserving the design & layout of your assets
  4. Wasting too much time on manual processes
  5. Avoiding hidden & unexpected costs
  6. Satisfying SEO specifics of the local market

Localization Problem 1: Not knowing how to target market awareness

Localization Problem 1: Not knowing how to target market awareness

Given that 40% of consumers won’t buy from a website that doesn’t provide content in their native language, localization is key to conquering a new market.

If you want to ace localization, you need to know what your international target market is like. And here’s where problems can arise.

If you are not aware of the local market specifics, you risk failing the launch of your localized product or service. And there are SO many factors to keep in mind here. You might want to know:

  • Who are your competitors in the given market?
  • Is your product or service in demand there?
  • What is the best content marketing strategy for the given market?
  • What are your prospective customers’ expectations and pain points?
  • Is your product or service culturally appropriate and does it align with the existing cultural norms and conventions? Does your localization strategy reflect them?
  • What is the customer profile of your international buyer?
  • What changes should you apply to your product or service in the process of localization to make sure it is accepted well?

You need to be solid with the answers to these questions to have a clear understanding of how your target market will receive and react to your brand. Otherwise, the ambitious feat of entering a new market can quickly turn into panic

How to approach this localization problem:

Allocate your resources to conducting target market research. Never underestimate the value it provides for your localization project and its success.

You can hire marketing specialists to carry out the research and deliver the information that’s relevant to your localization efforts.

Local market research will affect the appearance of crucial elements in your localization project, such as your homepages and landing pages. For example, when you know the product preferences of a specific locality, you will know exactly what to display on your website. Consider the Adidas home page for the US and the Turkish market that reflect local product demands and trends:

example of adidas market localization in english
Above: Adidas homepage for its US site, featuring a Pride collaboration.
example of adidas market localization in turkish
Above: Adidas homepage for its Turkish site.

Localization Problem 2: Handling cultural barriers and miscommunication

Localization Problem 2: Handling cultural barriers and miscommunication

Sure, getting your grammar right is essential when it comes to localizing your content. But there’s so much more to localization than the correctness of your language in comparison to the source.

Localization is about conveying subtle meanings and being culturally relevant through the use of slangs, references, and allusions. In localization, nothing is “untranslatable” because everything is adapted to the target language to bridge possible cultural gaps.

A very famous example of why you need localization backed by the knowledge of cultural context is the name of the Japanese car Mitsubishi Pajero. In Spanish-speaking countries, the word “Pajero” is a slang unit that can have a very strong, pejorative meaning (google at your own risk). If it hadn’t been localized as Mitsubishi Montero, chances are not many people in Spain and Latin America would ever want to drive the car.

And it’s not only about language-related gaps. A myriad of cultural differences and the lack of common context between the source and the target language can also lead to miscommunication between project managers, translators, and content creators. It can manifest in:

  • Communication style;
  • Work and management style;
  • Work expectations, etc.

How to approach this localization problem:

  • Reach out to native and bilingual speakers. While it’s okay to use machine translation to speed up your translations, it takes profound native knowledge to handle complex terms and nuanced ideas. Hence, you should work with native or bilingual speakers to proofread your translations and spot possible inconsistencies that stem from the cultural differences. They can also correct technical terminology.
  • Keep your team communication transparent and open. Encourage discussion, feedback, make sure that your team members are free to ask questions and challenge translation choices. Collaborative work facilitates the high quality of the localization process. Besides, open communication is the perfect way to establish a comfortable work environment for employees from different cultural backgrounds.

Localization Problem 3: Preserving the design & layout of your assets

Localization Problem 3: Preserving the design & layout of your assets

One thing that can go awry in the localization process is the overall appearance of your assets, including their layouts and design features. Whether it is a web page, an application, or subtitles for a catalog, unexpected design shifts resulting from translation can become a real localization problem.

For example, some fonts for the Latin alphabet but cannot be used for Cyrillic languages. This disparity will inevitably affect the final view of the text. It gets even trickier with such languages as Arabic — the right-to-left reading and writing pattern can become a big headache while localizing content.

Another possible issue is that the number of characters in the original text almost always differ from that of the target language. And even one extra line or paragraph can result in a layout change.

33% of localization professionals say that these intricacies can force you to put extra effort, time, and other internal resources into the localization project, which will adversely affect your ROI.

How to approach this localization problem:

First and foremost, involve designers in the localization process early in the game. They will be applying the necessary design adjustments right away and offer adaptation tactics to every case.

This way, you will ensure visual consistency across different versions of your product/service design.

Duolingo website is a great example of such uniformity:

example of duolingo market design uniformity
example of duolingo market design uniformity after localization
Above: The English and Hindi web pages use the same design and layout.

But keep in mind that in order to attain such uniformity, some thought must be put into your asset creation and translation process.

If you are short on resources to keep your designers constantly engaged in the process, there is a way to make layout preservation easier. You can also opt for localization software solutions that help you retain original document styles and formatting in the translated version of the file.

This is a common feature in translation management systems (TMS) like Redokun, where you can handle the design elements of your assets more intuitively.

  1. Upload your source document in its original format to the TMS. For example, if you’re catalog was created in InDesign, upload the InDesign file.
  2. Translate the content on the platform, which has automatically extracted the textual content from your upload.
  3. Download the translated document in the same styles and formatting as the original, which has also been automatically generated on the platform.

By using a TMS like Redokun, your designers can expend less effort on reproducing documents from scratch. They can mainly focus on correcting minor design disparities in the auto-generated document. 

Localization Problem 4: Wasting too much time on manual processes

Localization Problem 4: Wasting too much time on manual processes

Repetitiv manual work tasks are exhausting — and sadly, localization can involve many of those. 34% of companies that are localizing their products underline that the process of localization is often too manual and, thus, slow.

Take, for instance, the process of extracting translatable content from an application code. Developers can spend hours on this task, only to have to insert the translated text back into the code later, repeating the same mundane process.

Marketers are no different — manually copy-pasting text chunks, social media posts, and manually organizing content bulks into something coherent is simply a waste of time.

In these scenarios, localization turns into a complete mess of endless spreadsheets, links, email threads, lost files — you name it.

Reliance on manual processes is not just old-fashioned — it is simply inefficient. It can lead to more errors, missed deadlines, and lower localization quality overall.

How to approach this localization problem:

You already know the answer — automating your localization effort is essential. It is relevant to every aspect of your workflow, including translation, editing, and communication. In fact, the vast majority of translators claim that the use of CAT tools boosts their productivity by at least 30%.

As you start to rely on high-quality automation tools, you’ll see how the margin of error significantly lowers while the deliverability of your workflow increases almost instantly.

At Redokun, you can have a well-balanced automated localization system that saves time and keeps all the necessary files and people in a centralized digital location. Its intuitive interface makes it easy to use for all the team members and vendors involved.

Localization Problem 5: Avoiding hidden and unexpected costs

Localization Problem 5: Avoiding hidden and unexpected costs

The last thing you want whene launching your product or service internationally is to go beyond the budget. Yet, hidden costs are something that can become an unpleasant surprise at any stage of localization.

These hidden localization costs may include:

  • The cost of lost productivity. Suppose your team cohesion is weak or your localization strategy is not solid. In that case, you’ll have to spend more time managing workers and vendors and coordinating localization operations than doing something more productive.
  • The cost of late launches. This hidden cost is the direct consequence of lost productivity. Being late on translation and final design delivery leads to delays in local market launches. In fact, missed deadlines are a problem for 29% of localization professionals. Delaying launches will also inevitably slow down your time-to-revenue and potentially lower your ROI.
  • The cost of slow time-to-market. TTM is tricky when you enter a new international market with your localized product or service — 37% of businesses claim that it is a major challenge associated with localization. Even with relevant target market research and a localization strategy at hand, slow time-to-market is a risk, especially if your competitors are already dominating the local niche. This metric is directly related to the profitability of your product.
  • The cost of low translation quality. More than 30% of businesses report that poor or inconsistent translation quality is a notable issue that can result in unexpected costs. If you work with many translators and don’t always pay sufficient attention to their expertise and integrity, the quality of translation is likely to suffer. Besides, outsourcing translation to multiple agents may weaken the consistency of your brand voice and tone.

How to approach this localization problem:

Once again, overcoming this localization challenge is about being pragmatic and organizing your workflow in an efficient way.

One way to achieve it is to use a centralized localization platform instead of spreading your activity across various spaces.

Also, be ready to allocate appropriate resources and staff to your marketing efforts.

And of course, make sure you’re only hiring experienced, certified translators with a sufficient level of expertise in working with your business niche. Localization statistics show that more than 50% of translators do not have formal certifications in their native language, and sometimes it can be a red flag.

It is especially important when you need to localize technical content, where the cost of translation error can simply be too high. Terminology can be translated in multiple ways and very often, only a seasoned translator can choose the right option that will reflect the original term.

Localization Problem 6: Satisfiying SEO specifics of the local market

Localization Problem 6: Satisfiying SEO specifics of the local market

Last but not least, best SEO practices differ from market to market.It can become a true challenge because you may face difficulties in generating sufficient organic traffic to your localized web pages if website content is blindly translated and published.

Why does it happen?

  • People have different search habits in different countries;
  • It is also the case with trending search keywords and key phrases — these are formed based on the local market demands and practices;
  • Different types of CMS may be more effective depending on the country;
  • Some domain types (e.g. separate domains, subfolders, or URL extensions) can be more valuedin a given country than others;
  • Google is not the most dominant search engine in every country. For example, Russian users tend to rely on Yandex, while Chinese users are all over Baidu.

Failing to address these local SEO specifics will lower your visibility in the new market and make it difficult to produce unique content that’s relevant tolocal users.

How to approach this localization problem:

Research! It’s an inevitable part of localization. Get a good understanding of what SEO practices are trending in the specific country and adjust your content accordingly.

To get even more organic traffic, you can:

  • link back to local content wherever relevant;
  • make sure your content can be found on the popular search engines;
  • optimize your meta titles and keywords to rank higher among search results;
  • implement marketing translation to customize your marketing content for local audiences. An AdParlor study revealed that localized copy can increase the click-through rate of ads by anything from 22% to 87%.

Conclusion

Localization problems can disrupt your workflow, bring unexpected costs, and even result in an unsuccessful launch. But with the right approach, they’re not unsolvable or fatal for your business.

Always turn to the expertise of bilingual translators and native speakers, do proper research of the local market across key aspects, and automate your work where possible. Most of these can be addressed by using localization technology designed to streamline and consolidate your localization efforts.

The Redokun team has created a localization tool to help you create a seamless, well-structured localization process to boost the deliverability and accuracy of your output.

Till next time,

Ivana

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