By Jason Hemingway Chief Marketing Officer, Phrase
When a company enters a new international market, there are countless cultural, legal and linguistic differences that business leaders need to consider. This is where localization comes in. From a marketing standpoint, it’s about more than just translating campaigns and materials for a new market—it’s about localizing, understanding and experience.
Let’s take a look at six essential considerations that marketers need to keep in mind about localization as their companies and brands expand internationally.
Non-English speakers won’t buy what they can’t read
Not everyone speaks English, no matter how global the language has become, and competition is only a click away. Your potential customers will simply click on a website that caters to their needs and speaks their language, whether that’s a global competitor or a local provider on the ground. According to CSA Research conducted across 29 countries, 73 percent of consumers want to see product reviews in their language, and 40 percent will not buy when information isn’t presented in their language.
And it’s not only the words that they need to see in their own language to feel confident about buying from you. You need to ensure that the whole user experience is smooth and feels natural to them. Colors, for example, can have different meanings in different cultures. Currency, the date and time format, weights, measures, and images are other elements you need to consider to avoid alienating your new customers.
Localization and translation aren’t the same
It’s common to see localization and translation used interchangeably, but they are two different things. The main difference between localization and translation is scope: Translation is the process of converting text from one language to another, while localization takes a broader approach to encompass both translation and cultural adaptation. When you opt for mere translation in your quest to take your marketing global, you might end up with campaigns and experiences (or even products and services) that don’t make sense and thereby don’t engage across the differing cultures.
Research is a vital part of localization
Many companies have failed in their efforts to localize their message to different markets because they didn’t do their research. Before you start translating your website or app into another language, you must learn about the target market: What are their needs and preferences? What cultural references will resonate with them? What payment methods do they prefer? Market research can be a time-consuming process, but it’s essential if you want your global messages and experiences to resonate.
Localization requires prior internationalization
If your website or app isn’t prepared for localization, the process will be more difficult and expensive later on. The process of making a website or app “localization-ready” is referred to as internationalization. Some common internationalization tasks include:
- Extracting hard-coded text from the codebase and storing it in resource files
- Creating placeholder texts (or “skeletons”) for translated content
- Designing UI elements that can resize or be rearranged to accommodate different languages
- Using Unicode to support a wide range of characters
- Setting up a translation management system with all the necessary features for an efficient localization workflow
Internationalization is an essential task that requires careful planning and should be considered early on in the development process, so you don’t get caught down the line and miss launch deadlines.
You need a lot of space
User interface and user experience localization can be challenging. The average English sentence is about 15 words long, while the equivalent in German would be around 22 words—that’s 40 percent more. This difference means that you need more horizontal space on a page when translating into languages like German, French, Spanish and Russian. Vertical space is also important. In some languages, like Japanese and Chinese, the writing runs vertically rather than horizontally. Right-to-left languages like Hebrew and Arabic are another consideration—you’ll need to flip your UI around completely. Designing dropdown menus, CTAs, forms and other key elements with localization in mind from the outset is essential to ensure a great user experience.
SEO and ASO can make or break your localization efforts
Finally, you’ll need to make sure that your localized content is properly optimized for search in your target market. This is called international SEO, which factors in key differences in language use. Just think about the differences in vocabulary between Brits and Americans. British people wear jumpers. Americans wear sweaters. British people go on holiday. Americans take a vacation. You’ll need to acknowledge these key differences within your international SEO efforts.
The same applies to your mobile app store optimization (ASO) strategy. ASO for international markets is vital if you want to encourage downloads and ensure that your app is visible to potential users. Again, you’ll need to use the right keywords, plus the right app name, adequate imagery, and localized descriptions. You’ll also need fresh, local, relevant links pointing from your different app store listings to your localized website.
Devising a marketing localization strategy that accounts for all the above facts and automates key processes can help you save time and money while expanding your business globally. It’s all about having the right processes, people and tools in place to face the challenges and opportunities of the global market armed and ready.