What is a Localization Strategy and How to Create it?
A strategy is incremental to the growth of any business, it provides direction and establishes priorities. Without a clear plan in sight, companies often face miscommunication, missed deadlines, and inevitably - failure. Same principles apply for localization, and localization strategy.
Growing your business, and reaching new audiences across the world can be a challenging task, and the strategy should be in place to help guide you, and ensure that all of your clients, regardless of the region, receive the same quality, and have the same experience. That’s why it’s recommended creating not only one strategy for all countries, but one for each one.
What is a localization strategy?
A localization strategy presents a long-term plan of how you will adapt your product to a specific language and culture. It will help you define your goals, provide direction and a clear focus for moving forward.
You still might encounter minor issues along the way, but with a clear strategy you can avoid some of the major problems which might occur, and prepare for other, unplanned circumstances.
Creating a localization strategy takes time and resources, and should be drafted carefully. Having a strategy that’s not well thought out could actually do more damage than good in the long run.
What are the benefits of a localization strategy?
Many companies have gained word wide success thanks to their localization strategy. Netflix is among one of the greatest examples of this. They take localization very seriously and are making sure each user, regardless of their location, gets the best possible experience of their platform - from offering native titles, vast majority of subtitles to UI.
This brings us to the number #1 benefit of a localization strategy:
It will help you create a long lasting relationship with your customers
With a good strategy in place, you’ll be able to cover all aspects of localization - from marketing, to design and product.
You’ll be able to communicate with your audience in their native language, giving them a great experience of your product. They’ll feel comfortable using your service, and are sure to become a long lasting customer.
You’ll gain trust, and build brand loyalty.
You’ll prevent communication mistakes
In order to form a relationship with your clients and build trust, you need to be respectful of their culture - which means you need to know everything there is before you decide to market your product.
What is considered okay in one country, might be considered offensive in another. That’s why it’s of the essence you take the time to get familiarized with the culture and language. It would be helpful to form a team in the country you’re planning to expand to, or work with a consultant, to make sure you are getting the correct information.
Working with people you trust, and can rely on is at the core of every business. Same with localization.
You’ll avoid some of the most common localization problems
If you start localizing without a plan, it’s almost certain you’ll encounter some of the most common localization mistakes.
And this starts even before you market your product to customers in a particular country.
The first step is always development - and if you develop your product without localization in mind, once you decide to do it, the entire process will last a lot longer and it will cost a lot more.
What comes before localization is internationalization, meaning creating products with localization in mind. By doing this, you’ll save a lot of time when you actually start localizing.
This step is crucial if you want to avoid overwhelming your customer support when launching in a new region.
You’ll offer great customer support
Hopefully you’ve started thinking about customer support already, because this is one of the most important aspects of your business - and it’s crucial to form long lasting relationship with your clients.
You need to form a support team, or hire a support manager in the region you’re expanding to, so they could help with any inquires your new clients might have. This will influence your client’s experience with your product a great deal.
You’ll save time and money
Localization mistakes can be very expensive. (and we mean really!)
If your product isn’t ready for localization, it’ll take a lot of time to set everything up, and will require constant checkups to see if everything is fine, if the text isn’t running off the screen, if the UI isn’t broken and so on.
You also need to decide what you’ll be using for localization - excel spreadsheets, localization agencies or localization software. Keep in mind that localization isn’t a one time thing, it’s an ongoing process. You’ll be adding new things constantly, and updating old ones, which means you need to work with a tool you can rely on, and which isn’t taking too much of your team’s time.
Choosing a good translator is also essential - because one wrong translation could cost you a lot. Take it from KFC, whose slogan "Finger-lickin' Good!" was literally translated in China to "Eat Your Fingers!”.
If all of these things are planned in advance, you’re more likely to have a carefree localization experience.
How to create a localization strategy?
Now that you know the importance of a localization strategy, it’s time to create one. We’ll cover the 5 most important areas your localization strategy should contain.
1. Research your target audience
When creating a localization strategy, your first step should always be research and choosing which language you should localize to first. We recommend starting with Google Analytics, and viewing your current audience’s demographic. Are you noticing an increased traffic from France? Awesome - that’s your starting point.
We also recommend you research your competitor’s presence in the area and see what potential your product has in that market. If the research confirms this is a good move, you are ready to proceed with the next step, and that is - getting the know the culture.
Make sure you learn everything you can about the region you’re planning to expand to, so you could give your audience the best possible experience of your product. Make a list of all the languages spoken there, and see how you can adapt your brand to their needs.
2. Determine what should be localized
Once your first step - choosing and researching your target audience is done, you should dedicate time to your product and see if it’s ready for localization. If you were building your product with localization in mind, great! You don’t have to worry about optimizing certain aspects of it to get it ready for the process. However, if you did not do this prior, now’s the time to think about it, and see what you need to get done on the development side in order to prepare.
Do you have a mobile app? A website? Helpdesk? Then all of this should be localized. Make a list of everything you want to adapt, so you don’t forget about any of the crucial resources.
Nest step - design. Your design team should adapt their design for a new language you are introducing. Localizaion can affect your UI a great deal because some phrases might be shorter or longer in other languages. You risk compromising your great UI unless you plan ahead and have your design team double check what needs to be redesigned for a new market.
Same goes for your marketing team. They are the ones who will be promoting the product in a new market and need to know everything about the culture and their regulations. Another thing they should start planning ahead is SEO. Here it’s important to do proper keyword research and not translate word for word, because different phrases might be used to describe the same product you have.
3. Choose a software localization platform
Another highly important step in your localization strategy is finding the right localization platform for your business. As mentioned before, localization is a long term process, and you need to work with a tool you can rely on.
Many businesses start with excel and quickly find themselves lost in endless, outdated spreadsheets. Your product evolves constantly, and with it, you need to be constantly updating your content. Needless to say, you cannot do this just for a few languages. You need to make sure each region and language is getting the same dedication and commitment.
Another thing you need to be mindful of here is that you’ll soon find yourself localizing for a different region, meaning you’ll be introducing at least one new language. Find a solution that can keep track with your progress, so you don’t lose time and money along the way switching between a few different ones, trying to find the right one. Do this ahead, and save you and your dev team the headache.
4. Hire the right translators and consultants
Working with reliable translators and consultants is absolutely crucial for your product’s success in a different market. You need someone who really knows the culture you’re expanding to.
A good example is what happened to KFC, but that is not the only example. A lot of business have made the same mistake of translating their content word for word, causing the complete opposite of what they were trying to achieve.
In order for your audience to really use the product, they need to understand it well. You also need to make sure you are respectful of their culture and cultural differences, that you aren’t using any offensive symbols.
And don’t just focus on the copy itself. There are a lot of other things you need to think of - what is the local currency, measuring units, date/time formats, payment methods etc. There’s a lot more to localization that just translation, that is just a part of it.
If you really want to give your users, regardless of the location, the best possible experience of your product, working with a team of reliable translators and consultants is highly recommended.
5. Measure your success
Before you start localization, you need to sit down with your team and discuss your goals. Your first step should be determining what your business goals are. What are you trying to achieve by expanding to a new market?
Once you have that, you need to define how you’ll measure success. Launching a product, and hoping for the best isn’t exactly the best way to get results. You need to have a clear goal in mind, with various smaller goals to support it and a list of metrics you want to track along the way.
Each department should have their own metrics they track, but all should work together to that business goal you set at the beginning.
Time to create your winning localization strategy
Each company needs a strategy and a business plan, same goes for localization. If you want to succeed and make the process as smooth as possible, make sure you have a good strategy to rely on.
It’s okay to take more time and draft the strategy, as it will save you a lot of time in the future, by helping you prioritize and avoid some of the most common localization mistakes.
We hope our article has helped you draft a winning localization strategy, and if you ever need additional resources along the way, visit our blog, where you’ll find an abundance of articles written to help you and your team.