Localization is a top priority for both large corporations and small businesses. Statistics show that 40% of consumers will not buy from websites that don’t offer customer experience (website content, customer support, etc.) in their native language.
Hands down, localization is important for business growth. But what exactly is localization? Is it the same as translation? Why and how should you localize your product?
We will address all these questions and more in this comprehensive guide on localization.
- What is localization?
- Is localization the same as translation?
- Examples of localization
- Who needs localization?
- Why is localization important?
- What can you localize?
- What are the steps in the localization process?
- Human Translation vs. Machine Translation
- Who is involved in localization?
- Understanding Localization Tools: Translation Management System
- How Redokun helps you localize easily
What is localization?
Localization is when you modify and adapt content in one language to the linguistic and cultural context of a foreign target market.
Take advertising as an example. Content that appeals to consumers in one country or region may be ineffective, irrelevant, or even inappropriate in another locale. That’s why localization is necessary.
A properly localized product will cater to the expectations and needs of a given target audience.
Think of Pampers, an internationally renowned baby diaper brand.
The company had to remove its cute stork from the packaging when the company localized to Japan. Why? Japanese consumers don’t have the image of a stork carrying the baby to the parents in their folklore. Hence, this symbol simply did not resonate with the target market.
Instead of the stork, Pampers localized their product by adorning it with pictures of cute Japanese babies and their parents. This imagery is much more effective because it places the target audience at the center and lets them see how the product fits into their own lives. (See how comfortable that little baby is? That could be your baby!)
If the brand hadn’t localized its brand imagery and translated the content of its diaper packaging, its international expansion strategy would have likely failed.
Is localization the same as translation?
Many people still think localization is synonymous with translation, but that is not the case.
In fact, translation is only one part of the localization process. And it only covers the conversion of text from one language into another without changing the meaning of the original content.
Localization is a more profound form of content transformation. Apart from conveying text in another language, localization includes many other aspects like:
- Adapting the communication style and tone.
- Localizing visual materials to make them appealing to the target audience.
- Adjusting design features.
- Adapting standards of measurements and other unit formats. These include weight, date and time, currency, and even punctuation marks.
- Transforming marketing materials, etc.
Why care about the difference between localization and translation?
Let us answer this question with a telltale example:
This case study on Electrolux is an excellent illustration of the difference between translation and localization:
“Nothing sucks like Electrolux” is a slogan that was directly translated from Swedish for the company’s marketing campaign for English-speaking markets in the 1970s. In the USA, however, the word “suck” had already had a meaning of… well, you know.
In this case, the Electrolux marketers knew about the particular meaning of the word and intentionally translated the campaign slogan this way. In other words, it was a huge marketing gamble based on a (quite aggressive) pun.
Although it generated a lot of buzz around the brand, this was a risky tactic that could have failed. (Would you buy a product advertised in this manner? Maybe you’d have a laugh, but such a slogan doesn’t inspire brand trust.)
This highlights how important it is to do your research on the target audience before you launch your marketing campaigns in foreign markets.
This is why simply translating content is often not enough to make your product successful in a new target market. Localization helps transform the meaning, intention, and various connotations you want to convey to consumers.
Localization vs. Transcreation
Some localization professionals throw another term into the mix: transcreation. Transcreation is the process of changing the meaning of the original content to make it culturally appropriate and relevant for the target language.
Localization covers this process as well, but professionals consider transcreation a more creative, culturally-bound process. Transcreation is about transforming your content to make it appear organic and natural for the target users.
Localization vs. Internationalization
One more concept often connected to localization is internationalization.
Internationalization refers to making your products, services, and operations more adaptable to international markets rather than transforming them for one particular local market. What is the difference between globalization and localization? Localization is a more targeted process as it focuses on one given local market.
Overall, the main idea behind localization is to reshape your product or service and the content around it to meet the needs of a given target market.
Here are some examples of successful localization efforts to inspire you. You’ll find localization examples for a website, a document, and a game.
Website Localization Example: Amazon
Amazon caters to international audiences so localization is naturally their standard practice. Take a look at the German and Japanese versions of the website’s homepage.
Not only is it available in the local language, the featured products and product categories also cater to the local customer preferences.
However, the company’s design code is consistent and recognizable across the local markets, which serves their global branding.
Document Localization Example: Apple Terms and Conditions
It’s no surprise that a tech giant like Apple takes their legal document localization seriously. The Terms and Conditions Agreement is specific to a given country and region because all of them have different laws overlooking the sale of electronics and consumer rights.
That’s why Apple localizes these legal documents instead of simply translating from the original English-language document.
Game Localization Example: Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come is a game with an incredibly detailed world and intricate interface with lots of details. Its localization was a massive project that required deep cultural, historical, technical, and linguistic knowledge.
The localization team took great care of even the smallest details: the text font, interface structure, and language stylistics. No matter where a gamer comes from, they have the same immersive experience in the fictional world of the game.
What do these three examples of localization have in common? They are:
- Consistent with the brand identity.
- Meet the expectations and specifics of the local market.
Keep these factors in mind when localizing your product and take cues from successful cases in your niche.
Who needs localization?
The simple answer is anyone who wants to reach new international consumer audiences. Localization is a must if you want to enter a new foreign market in a position of strength and awareness.
Localization is a winning strategy for:
- Various kinds of businesses: e-commerce, retail brands, etc.
- Application and software developers.
- Game developers.
- Website owners.
- Content creators: writers, bloggers, illustrators, etc.
Even renowned corporations have to localize their products and services.
Coca-Cola has invested in an unprecedented localization effort to cater to millions of customers worldwide. No matter what language consumers speak and what culture they come from, Coca-Cola made sure to address the specifics of every individual market.
Now, if you’re looking to successfully cross international borders with your business, localization is key. And the advantages it offers are numerous (more on that in a moment).
Why Is localization important?
Localization is important because it opens excellent opportunities for business growth. By localizing you content, you may:
- improve customer experience on your website or with your products.
- boost your competitiveness in the international market.
- increase customer acquisition rates.
- foster brand loyalty.
- minimize the risk of failed international launches.
- boost the efficiency of your marketing efforts.
- maximize your profits and find new streams of revenue.
For many consumers worldwide, having access to localized products/services is a priority. 65% of non-native English speakers want to see content in their native tongue, even if they are proficient in English.
That’s why localization is a key strategy for international brand expansion. Successful business operation in new markets is hardly possible without it.
What can you localize?
You can localize virtually any kind of content, product, and service. The main types of content localization are:
Software applications refer to desktop and mobile apps, SaaS, and other kinds of software. All elements and aspects of software undergo the localization process, including UI/UX design, copy, and content.
Website localization involves translating webpage and adapting the design. Another key step in localizing a website is to encode its content in UTF-8, or Unicode. This allows you to use special characters in pretty much every language. It’s especially important if you localize to languages like Mandarin or Arabic.
Pro-tip: To see how well your localization efforts perform with the target users, you can use A/B testing. It will help you understand which features and changes appeal to the target audience the most.
Localizing games for a new international market is probably the most interesting (and challenging) type of localization. It includes translating:
- In-game dialogues and conversations.
- The game interface.
- Culturally significant imagery, etc.
The revenue for the global game industry $178 billion in 2020, and it’s not slowing down. Hence, game localization is becoming increasingly important to developers who want capture a larger user base by going worldwide and increase their revenue.
Audio and subtitle localization
Audiovisual content is everywhere in today's digital world. Naturally, people want to have access to this content in their native language. Given that subtitles increase video viewing by 40% and more, localizing captions is key for promoting audio and video content.
When you can, hop onto Netflix and see how many languages they offer for their subtitles. Although I can’t speak any Turkish, I can still enjoy the best of Turkish soap operas thanks to the localized subtitles. Now that’s accessibility.
Marketing localization is part of your global content marketing strategy. You should not overlook this step if you want target customers to notice and get interested in your brand. Localization helps you customize your marketing efforts to the local cultural interests. And in turn generate substantial leads and sales in the new market.
Have you ever struggled to understand the product names and descriptions on foreign sites that were very clearly translated by machine?
Don’t make the same mistake with your online marketplace. Localized product names, descriptions, customer reviews, and Q&As will increase brand credibility and attract international consumers.
eLearning content localization
Education today transcends borders thanks to the Internet. Your eLearning products can be localized to reach a larger pool of keen learners worldwide.
As the data shows, companies that adapt their eLearning materials for non-English speaking employees have a 46% higher chance to become a leader in their industry.
Localization of legal documents
Differences in terminology, specifics of local laws, and other factors make document translation a challenging task for language professionals.
That’s why document localization is a necessity for this type of content. It ensures the document’s applicability and accuracy for the target users.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of the things that can be localized. Globalization and accelerated information exchange will only drive the need for localized products and services further up.
What are the steps in the localization process?
At this point, you might be asking: How can I localize my content? Where do I begin with localization? Who should I hire to do the job?
Every localization project is unique but there is a general blueprint for the localization process you can follow.
Let’s look at the first three prepatory steps.
a) Develop a localization strategy
This step helps you gain a better understanding of your localization goals and establish a steady workflow. A localization strategy is a business plan that helps you adapt your content to the needs and conventions of the local target market.
Learn more about this step in our detailed guide on building the right localization strategy.
b) Build a strong localization team
Stellar localization comes together when people in different fields collaborate. Ideally, a localization project would have managers, expert translators or linguists, designers, and marketers contributing to different aspects of the process.
And sometimes you might need to hire vendors if you’re unable to cover some of these aspects in-house.
Read more about putting together a strong localization team here.
c) Choose the right localization tools
Living in the age of software, you can also use specific tools to boost your translation accuracy and save your team valuable time. Some widely used localization tools are:
- Machine Translation tools (MT) and Translation Memories (TM). These tools offer automated translation suggestions for text segments.
- Image translation software. They can recognize and automatically translate text in images.
- Bug tracking and quality assurance tools.
- Translation management system (TMS). This type of software enables you to coordinate your localization efforts, team, and content assets on one intuitive platform. The goal is to streamline your workflow when producing localized versions of your content and move to market at a faster pace.
Once you’ve determined your localization strategy, gathered a team of localization professionals, and found the TMS to centralize your workflow, you’re ready for the next stage. It has 5 elements:
d) Extract and send your content for localization
At this stage, you will determine the scope of content that needs translating, extract it from the source, and deliver it to your translators. Sometimes, this step requires format changes and conversions, so things can get tricky.
For example, if you need translate a brochure that was created in InDesign, you can’t just send the InDesign document to a translator who doesn’t know how to use the tool. The general solution is to collect the text in an Excel or Word document before sending it off.
Tools to help you here: Use a translation management system (TMS) so you can avoid having to extract the text manually yourself. A TMS like Redokun can even help you retain the original layout of your documents once you translate them.
e) Translate the content
This is where your team actually works on adapting the content. You can either set up an in-house team or outsource this part of your localziation process.
Either way, remember to find real translation experts when you’re building your team.
Tools to help you here: Consider using computer-assisted translation tools to speed up the translation process. Popular machine translators like Google Translate and DeepL help human translators by providing suggestions and ideas.
f) Revise and perform quality control
Once translations are ready, go over it again to ensure that it’s high quality and culturally appropriate for the target market. You can do proofreading, revisions, and other quality control steps.
Tools to help you here: Try using Translation Memories (TM) to achieve consistent translations effortlessly. TM is a tool that’s built into most translation management systems. It’s a digital database that stores every single translation you’ve approved.
Then, you can automatically apply these translations when the same text segments pop up in your subsequent projects.
It’s a quick way to ensure your team always use the same translation for specific terminologies and also never translate the same thing twice.
g) Prepare the localized content for publication
Your translation is ready. Before you deliver it to market, you need to integrate the translation back into your product, website, or document.
This process can be time consuming, especially if you localize to several languages at once. Imagine producing a brochure in 10 languages, using the copy-paste method.
Tools to help you here: Try translating your content using a translation management system like Redokun that helps you retain your file formatting. That way, you can download your translation in its original file format and layout without manual design intervention. This will save you a lot of time (and tears).
h) Launch the localized product or service
Now you’re ready to launch. Of course, this is no time to sit back and relax. You still need to:
- Watch out for possible mistakes or bugs.
- Track customer or user feedback.
- Adjust your localized product swiftly.
This will allow you to boost customer satisfaction in the new market.
Tools to help you here: Marketing analytics tool can help you assess whether your localized content is on target.
Human Translation vs. Machine Translation
In the process of localizing content, you might find yourself consider adding machine translation to your toolkit.
People hold different opinions on human versus machine translation. For some, machine translation is unreliable, inaccurate, and sloppy. For others, human translation is too time-consuming and expensive while still not immune to mistakes.
Ultimately, professional translators are still essential and irreplaceable in localization. The AI technology is not quite there yet. Even the popular AI chatbot ChatGPT still comes up with canned responses most of the time.
So, machine translation — yes or no?
The short answer is yes. Machine translation can be very useful in the localization process. Almost 90% of professional translations use at least 1 computer-assisted translation (CAT) tool in their workflow.
- With the help of CAT tools, you can instantly translate simple sentences, which usually won’t require any revisions.
- You can use CAT tools to pre-translate a large volume of text. Once the machine pre-translation is ready, all you need to do is revise and edit the output. The result is a less time consuming thought process and translation workflow.
- CAT tools translation memories is essentially a bilingual database that contains 100% accurate automated translations. This is because it captures all the translation you’ve done and approved in previous projects. Subsequently, when you work on new content, it can give you translation suggestions for matching or similar text segments. This helps tremendously when you’re dealing with large or industry-specific texts.
So don’t hesitate to turn to machine translation. It’s a great addition to your localization workflow that supports your translation process, helping you save both time and energy.
Who is involved in localization?
Speaking of teams, it’s no secret that the heart of every project is an inspired group of people collaborating for the best possible result. Localization is no exception to this rule.
Localization may involve different types of professionals depending on the project type and scale.
First and foremost, every localization effort requires management. Project and localization managers are responsible for coordination and guidance for all the team members.
Other professionals whose work is crucial in localization are:
- Developers: They take care of the necessary software code changes and content integration.
- Translators: They translate content and deal with all things linguistic.
- Designers: They maintain the design code of the localized product or content.
- Marketers: These experts conduct market research and develop a focused marketing strategy.
On top of that, you might require extra services and procedures to assess your localization quality. These professionals can be:
- Product or service testers: They guard the localization quality and find possible flaws so you can swiftly address them before fully launching.
- Linguists: Sometimes, translators might benefit from working with linguists. Since linguists study languages at a broader scale, they can provide extra cultural and linguistic context for a more nuanced localization effort.
- Consultants: You can hire localization consultants, marketing consultants, or any other types of consulting professionals. Their role is to give advice throughout various localization steps.
The amount of work and people involved in localization might seem a bit overwhelming. That’s where localization software comes into play. With the right tool, you can efficiently coordinate your localization workflow and make sure every team member fulfills their role productively.
Understanding Localization Tools: Translation Management System (TMS)
Every localization project becomes better — a little faster, lighter, happier — when you use a suitable translation management system (TMS).
A translation management system (TMS) is a type of software you can use to coordinate, automate, and streamline your localization processes from content creation to publication.
With a TMS, you can efficiently:
- Collect, circulate, and centralize your content that needs to be localized.
- Automate the tedious parts no one likes doing (like copy-pasting text from one sheet to another).
- Translate and edit content with the help of CAT tools.
- Communicate and collaborate with your localization team, even in remote settings.
Without a TMS, you will be wasting time and resources on manual processes. It could be copy-pasting content for translation, dealing with endless format conversions, looking for past translations of terms and terminologies.
On top of that, it’s a real challenge to coordinate your translators and other people involved in a localization project without a centralized platform. A TMS solves all of these problems by automating and streamlining key localization stages.
What features should my translation management system have?
There is a variety of translation management systems to choose from for your localization project. How to navigate this world of TMS and pick the best tool? Consider these factors:
- It’s simply easy to use. This is arguably the most important consideration. If a TMS is too complicated, you’ll spend too much time and resources just teaching their teams to navigate the software. This process can lower your localization project ROI and slow down time to market. By choosing a TMS with a simple and intuitive interface, you can start enjoying the benefits almost immediately.
- It’s integrated with CAT tools that help your team work faster. The goal of using tools is to help your team feel more productive and less overwhelmed. A good TMS should be integrated with computer-assisted translation tools that help cut down on their jobs to be done. Look for TMS with built-in tools like machine translation, Translation Memories, and automatic file formatting.
- It’s suitable for hybrid workflows. Do you work with remote team members or turn to external vendors to localize content? These hybrid workflows require flexibility combined with centralization to allow every team member to collaborate effectively. A translation management system should help you navigate all localization processes and project communication centrally. It should be scalable and replicable across all types of workflow.
- If things go wrong, you can get in touch with the support team and get a reply quickly. As with any type of software, you may require technical assistance should there be any bugs or glitches in the system. That’s why having a helpful and responsive tech support team is another factor contributing to an effective localization workflow.
Read more: Some "not-so-essential" features that are still nice to have.
Overall, the translation management system that suits you should hold the localization project together and make work feel light and easy. With the right team, a well-defined localization workflow, and a TMS governing your workflow, your localization project is sure to be successful.
How Redokun can help you localize easily
Redokun is a translation management system designed to make localization a well-structured, automated, and seamless process for everyone on your team.
We hope that your managers, designers, and translators will find the process of localization enjoyable by using Redokun. It allows you to boost productivity, avoid manual tasks, and collaborate effectively with both internal team members and external vendors.
Redokun is easy to implement and use:
- It works in a browser. There’s no need to install it as a separate app.
- You don’t need to spend days or weeks training your team to use Redokun. Learning to get around within the TMS requires just a few minutes of onboarding.
- It is cloud-based. Just log in and start working on your localization project from any location.
- Redokun leverages the power of machine translation. You can speed up the translation process with the help of CAT tools and translation memories.
- It is a full-scale online collaboration space. It allows comments, mentions, updates, and notifications to keep every team member in the loop.
- It has a solid data security protocol. Your data is safe. We take your data privacy seriously and keep our infrastructure secure to prevent unauthorized access to our encrypted customer data. Redokun also permanently deletes all your translations, documents, or accounts within five days after you delete them.
- It is scalable. No matter what your project scope and size are, you can implement it swiftly on Redokun.
Check out what our users say about Redokun:
Localization involves more than just translating content. It is a multi-step transformation that makes your product, service, or content more culturally relevant and sensitive to new target markets.
High quality localization takes a strong team of professionals, a scalable localization workflow, and the right productivity-boosting tools.
If you’re window shopping for tools in this area, Redokun is one simple tool that will help you establish a smoother and faster workflow. Come try it free for 14 days today (no credit card required.