Why You Need a Localization Strategy, and How to Build One

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Brands that succeed in global growth speak their customer’s language, and of course, a key part of that is translation. However, expanding your business into new markets isn't just swapping one word with another in a foreign language and calling it a day.

Convincing international audiences about the benefits of your product or service means that you need to communicate in ways that resonate with local culture and ways of thinking. Whether your business succeeds in doing so boils down to how well you plan and execute your localization strategy.

But why is having a strategy for localization so important, and how can you get started building one? Let’s find out.

Overview:

What is localization strategy?

A localization strategy is a business plan for how you will adapt your communication methods to the linguistic and cultural customs of a target market.

The strategy sets the direction for how your company will adjust the contents of your website, marketing campaigns, social media, and other parts of the user experience to attract local customers.

When strategizing for localization, your company should adapt all points of customer interactions to a specific market while ensuring that the new content aligns with your brand message. Ideally, you would like the user to engage with your brand in ways that feel familiar to them, which ups your traffic and enhances your potential of converting leads to sales.

what is a localization strategy

In other words, a localization strategy should address:

  • Which markets you want to target and why
  • The adaptability of your brand
  • The languages spoken in the target markets
  • Culture and socio-political attitudes
  • Purchasing habits and preferences
  • The accessibility of global marketing channels

Why do you need one?

why localization strategy is important

These days, business owners are no strangers to the benefits of localization. The latest research by CSA shows that 66% of top executives in the language services industry experienced an increased demand for translation and localization services in 2021.

Having a localization strategy helps companies:

  • Prevent communication errors
  • Avoid using culturally inappropriate language
  • Build brand trust and loyalty
  • Enhance competitive advantage
  • Appear user-friendly to local customers
  • Demonstrate commitment to a certain market

However, all too often, companies rely on general strategies or simply include localization as an overarching goal for content creation or marketing. What they don't have is an aligned strategy to guide localization activities and decisions across teams.

The result is a lack of depth in the integration and commitment of their localization stakeholders. In fact, in a 2017 study, only one-third of localization team members characterized themselves as strongly integrated into the decision-making process of business activities.

In order to succeed in international growth, localization needs to be present at all levels of strategic planning in your business, whether big or small. This means no matter how many people you have on your payroll, a localization strategy should be considered when your company start to plan for entry into foreign markets. Preferably even before, by making sure you have efficient systems in place during development for easy adaption into multiple local markets.

So how do you do that, exactly?

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How to get started

Strategy planning is not a task to take lightly, and can easily become overwhelming if your business is planning to expand into several different markets across the world.

There is a lot to consider, from the cultural specifics of each locale to how you will manage the different roles and tasks with a localization workflow that spans multiple languages.

For an easy start, these are the steps we recommend you take:

  1. Find target markets in line with your business goals
  2. Create a localized marketing strategy
  3. Implement localization in design and development
  4. Optimize your website for different countries
  5. Use tools to enhance your translation workflow

The image below shows these five different steps, along with an overview of the main aspects of each stage of the strategizing process.

How to create a localization strategy

1. Find target markets in line with your business goals

Find target markets in line with your business goals

The first step to building a localization strategy for your business is to determine which markets to target, and why. This can be anywhere from a country, a region, or regions within a country (especially in countries like Zimbabwe with multiple official languages). Most global businesses, however, will focus on country-by-country targeting.

To determine which locales will serve your business best for expansion, you want to ask yourself:

  • What is the size of the market in the country?
  • What languages are spoken, and which ones can/should we target?
  • What are the demographics of our target audience?
  • Is our brand commercially viable?
  • How adaptable is the product or service?

No matter what countries you decide to target, you should make sure it is a realistic venture in terms of your business goals, finances and available resources. This will also require extensive research and analysis on market opportunities.

For example, while South Koreans are big on phone communication, it might not be wise to launch a messaging app in a country where KakaoTalk is used by 47 billion people, or 92% of its overall population (which just about excludes infants and children).

Usually, the best place to look for your initial market expansion will be in your immediate geographic area for a staged localization approach (à la Netflix, which first expanded to Canada), but have a look at your website traffic first to see if you have a sizeable amount of visitors from a certain country.

Tip: Check out the T-Index to find markets ranked according to online purchasing power. Finally, convince your stakeholders on the importance of your chosen market by estimating the localization ROI, complemented by A/B testing and cost/benefit analysis to measure the potential returns from expanding into a new market.

2. Create a localized marketing strategy

how to tailor your localization strategy to a locale

Customizing your marketing plan based on the characteristics of the targeted locales is a key next step in strategizing for new markets. Focusing on localization is important across all business activities, but particularly for content marketing.

The internet is full of examples of marketing campaigns that have gone awry due to a lack of focus on localization. And the last thing you want is your business added to that list. Not only will it be expensive to rebrand your campaign, but it will also set you off on a bad start in building a reputation for your brand in the market.

To set your business up for success in a foreign market, here’s what you need to do to localize your marketing strategies:

  1. Hire cultural consultants and translators: This should be the first thing you do, as secondary research alone can never replace the value of information with a human touch. Check out our directory on where to find translators here.
  2. Do market research: Gather the information you need to inform your strategy through different market research methods like focus groups, surveys, social media listening, etc. For example, what are the most popular social media channels in the target market? What forms of communication are more popular with local users - long or short form?
  3. Create local buyer personas: This is where you start getting specific by imagining a real person as a consumer of your products through buyer personas. Will they be more or less the same as in your target market, or will their characteristics differ across countries?
  4. Establish the user journey: What are the different steps of the user journey, from the first interaction to the final sales conversion? Will this need to be adapted to multicultural buyers?
  5. Figure out local laws and regulations: Marketing materials in different countries will be impacted by other laws and regulations than in the domestic market. Do make sure you have all your ducks in a row before publishing your product or campaign. For example, the release of the first original Netflix series Lilyhammer was postponed in Norway because the series contained product placement, which is illegal to show on state-owned channels in the country.
  6. Keep in mind cultural customs and norms: Avoiding making a cultural faux-pas is crucial to the success of your marketing strategy, which means you need to develop a good understanding of the dominant beliefs, values and norms in the target market. Again, the best place to start is your team of consultants and translators.
  7. Research local SEO practices: What are the most popular search engines in that country, and what do you need to do to rank for certain keywords? What are the SEO best practices - do they correspond to global digital marketing trends?
Tip: A great tool for creating ad banners is Adobe InDesign, which also happens to be compatible with Redokun when creating multilingual marketing campaigns.

3. Implement localization in design and development

your page design and development should be considered in your localization strategy

You can enhance efficiency by anticipating potential market expansion from the early stages of business development. That includes ensuring your source materials, product and website are all ready for adaptation into multilingual markets.

Think of features like page layouts and button sizes - are they up to scale for particular languages? What about the fonts and colors used, do they need to be changed? If people in the country you want to target are more likely to use a particular device to make a purchase, have you made sure your product or website functions well on said device?

Representation and relevancy in images are also key factors. A study by Google demonstrated that 64% of the respondents are more likely to purchase a product from ads they consider to be inclusive.

The point of localization is that people want to buy from companies that tailor their products to them, and visual representation goes a long way in giving that impression.

Tip: Ideally, localization should not be an afterthought in the UX design process. Stay ahead of the competition and think long term by keeping all the mentioned factors in mind when working with the different prototyping softwares. Also, choose one that works well with your chosen translation software.

4. Optimize your website for different countries

optimizing your website is a good localization strategy

Your website is usually the point of sale in the buying process of the customer journey. Thus, you want to make sure it is accessible to users in your target market. Language is only one part of website localization, and this is where you can benefit from extensive research and consulting with your team of translators.

When you are localizing your website for different markets, ensure to optimize it for:

  • The primary payment methods in that country
  • What local currency is used
  • Common date and time formats
  • The dominant browsers by the local users
  • Measuring units
  • Character coding (especially if the language uses another alphabet)
Tip: Website optimization across locales can be tricky, so just like with design and development, you should always keep your localization team involved in all steps of the process. Obvious things like currency is one thing, but there are also other, more subjective aspects like: Are acronyms less common in one language than another? If so, you should consider using less acronyms for titles and categories in your website to make it more familiar to users from that locale.

5. Enhance your translation workflow

This last step relates to the part of your localization strategy that happens continuously: the process of translating and localizing your content for multilingual audiences. This can either happen at the same time as the product is developed, or after. Either way, it is important to ensure consistent communication for quick implementation of project details and feedback.

The basic end-to-end translation workflow proceeds like this:

Enhance your translation workflow
  1. Assign roles: Many people are involved in localization teams, which typically includes project managers, engineers, developers, translators, marketers, editors, reviewers and proofreaders. Some team members can fulfil multiple roles.
  2. Gather files and content to be translated: This steps gives you an idea of the scope of the project, i.e. how many words are to be translated, as well as what type of content. This can range from online and offline marketing materials, website content, social media posts to contracts and legal correspondence.
  3. Proofread and review: The translations are always a work in progress as finished translations are proofread, reviewed and the product changes due to feedback from editors and consultants.
  4. Post-translation: Once a translation has been approved for publication, the design team will work on preparing the material for publication. At this stage, the translations should be compatible with the specifics of the design, which is why it is a must to to include inputs from the localization team.
  5. Publication of content: The translated content is published, and feedback on how it is received in the target market informs and renews the other stages of the process.

As you can see, there are many aspects to creating a localization workflow, and attempting to do all of it manually is the biggest time eater. We've previously written about how to improve your translation workflow, and a lot of what goes into that is to automate it. That’s where translation management systems (TMS) come in.

Tip: You can use a translation management system (TMS) to reduce miscommunication and improve productivity across team. With a TMS, you can quickly organize teams and assign roles, consolidate your documents, and translate them efficiently. TMS is the ideal translation software for marketing agencies or businesses with ever-growing content localization needs, because the technology is always scalable to your workflow demands.

Measuring and improving your localization strategy

The process of adapting materials for local markets is not linear. Instead, it is part of a cycle as your business strategy is continuously informed by feedback on how your target audience reacts to your localization marketing efforts.

Tangible data, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), will go a long way in measuring the success of your strategy and pinpoint areas that you might want to improve.

Here are some examples of localization KPIs:

  • SEO ranking
  • Page traffic
  • Sales leads
  • Conversion rates
  • Social media metrics (followers, likes, shares, etc)
  • Click-through rate for ad campaigns
  • Market share
  • Net revenue
  • Website bounce rate
  • Website loading time
  • % of returning visitors
  • Country-by-country sales

Tips for how to improve your localization strategy:

If one or more of the above KPIs is stopping you from reaching your localization ROI, that might tell you it is time to review and find ways to improve your strategy. While we believe the steps we described earlier will put you on the path to success in localization, we recommend you do to take the following corrective actions:

tips on how to improve localization strategy
  1. Expand your team of local experts: You probably already have an established team of translators and cultural consultants to help you shape messaging based on what works in their country, and it won’t hurt to find more. Try to  look for localization experts with experience in marketing for your industry. You can either use freelance portals like Upwork, or team up with local recruitment partners to find the best talent for your business.
  2. Reconsider your product adaptability: Think of how your product can be further adapted to solve the pain points and appeal to the purchase preferences of a local buyer persona - maybe you can even branch out and develop all new products for this particular market?
  3. Scale up your marketing efforts: Look at ways you can make your marketing efforts more efficient by focusing on highly discoverable content. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to increase your budget, so look for simple and cost-effective ways to create memorable experiences tied to your brand. Working with local influencers could be a good way to build trust.
  4. Take another look at the pricing structure: One thing that is often overlooked when brands expand into foreign markets is price localization, or adjusting the price of the product based on the purchasing power of the local audience. Setting the right price for your products can go a long way in winning the loyalty of consumers in overseas markets.

Localization Strategy Examples

Following a market expansion strategy based on localization is one of the most effective ways to scale your business for global growth. This has not gone unnoticed by companies, big and small alike. Famous companies like Coca-Cola, Netflix, Starbucks Nintendo, Apple, Nike and Microsoft have all used localization strategies to capture global audiences.

In our guide on market expansion strategy, we wrote about how Netflix successfully expanded their operations into new markets by adapting their content for local audiences. We also included some examples of cases where localization did not go so smoothly. Now, let’s look at another good localization example from Coca Cola.

Case Study: Coca Cola Localization

The story of Coca Cola’s global growth is unparalleled. With a history that goes back to 1896, the soft drink brand with the unmistakable red and white logo is available in all but two countries in the world. Following a two-pronged strategy that combines universal messages with locally-anchored product specifications, Coca Cola implements localization in several aspects of their business activities:

  • Product customization: Although most of the basic ingredients remain the same, the company adjusts the type and amount of sweetener used in their beverages from country to country based on local taste preferences. Consider, for example, the difference between US and Mexican versions of Coke. Moreover, due to the greater demand for low or zero sugar alternatives in Europe, 75% of Coca Cola’s ad spend in that region is spent on showcasing their Coke Zero Sugar beverage brands.
  • Packaging design: The layout, design and imagery on Coca Cola cans differ from country to country. In China, for example, they have been known to use cultural symbols like red lanterns and clay doll characters timed with major holidays such as Chinese New Year. In 2020, they even created a Chinese font and initiated a campaign with personalized bottle slogans, a major hit among the country’s consumers.
  • Marketing campaigns: Part of Coca Cola’s growth agenda is to create a beverage that is “loved and shared by people around the world.” This was evident in the famous “Share a Coke” campaign, which used popular first names in each country in place of the logo. The success of the campaign relied on a simple concept: if people see familiar names on the bottles and cans of the beverage, they are more likely to buy it and share it with their friends.

Although these examples are all from major companies with massive budgets, this is not a must. The wealth of accessible tools these days makes it possible for any business to succeed in using localization to accelerate global growth initiatives.

A translation management system (TMS) is a good starter to your localization toolkit. With just a single tool, you will have all the features you need to start small (or big) in translating your key assets for global success.

Meet Redokun

Localization can get pretty complicated, so what you don't need is an equally complicated TMS that take ages to learn.

Redokun is an easy-to-use, simple solution that helps your localization team translate, manage and collaborate on multilingual projects. With Redokun, your focus is on the doing rather than the learning of the tool.

Your team will have access to an array of computer-assisted translation tools designed to boost productivity:

  • All approved translations are automatically stored in a database to be used as suggestions in future projects. You'll never have to do the same translations more than once improving your time-to-market and work efficiency.
  • Your localization project managers can assign roles and jobs with immediate feedback on the status of your projects.
  • Your design team can take it easy at the post-translation stage because they won't have to style or format the translations to its original standard. Redokun automatically retains the styles and layout of your documents even in their translated versions. Just download and check for any minor discrepancies.

You can try Redokun for free today - no commitment or payment details required.

Till next time,

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