What is localization?

What is localization

Localization is the adaptation of a product or content to a specific locale, market, or culture. More than simply speaking in that target audience’s language, it involves the implementation of audience-specific graphics, terminology, and formats. When expanding into global markets, it’s crucial to tailor your message, product, and services to your target audience. 

The days of businesses being all things to all people are over. We’ve all received the direct mail piece that displayed our full names, which no one has ever called us, or used our last name as our first name. Now, imagine this scenario when you’re trying to reach a new audience by the thousands, or millions, that speaks an entirely different language. When mistakes happen with a new launch, there’s no “rewind” button. That’s where localization comes into play.

The most successful marketing messages are those specifically targeted to its audience. Seth Godin, one of today’s most insightful marketers, explains:

“Anticipated, personal, and relevant advertising always does better than unsolicited junk.”

This personalization applies to most forms of communications, from traditional marketing and product pieces to digital content, which is why localization is so important.

What you need to know about the localization process

The localization process has a number of different steps, all of which are crucial for ensuring that your offerings and communications meet the needs of your intended audience. 

  1. Analyze existing content: Review all of your content to see where localization is needed. This can include copy, images, logos, symbols, and cultural references.
  2. Determine if internationalization is necessary: If you’re in the software business, this is a key step for localizing your product and related content. Although often confused with localization, internationalization actually helps to set the stage for successful localization. It’s the process of designing software or websites to be easily adaptable for different languages and cultures, so you can more quickly scale across global markets. In contrast, localization (abbreviated l10n, with 10 representing the number of letters between the L and the N) is the process of adapting your products and messaging to local audiences.
  3. Translate content: It takes customized tools and in-market linguistic experts to translate content into the target language. Your messaging needs to sound natural and authentic, avoiding idioms that don’t make sense in the local language and vague expressions that may cause confusion. Visual designs may also need to be customized for the needs and preferences of the specific audience.
  4. Employ transcreation if needed: More creative content like advertising campaigns and corporate taglines may benefit from transcreation. This term marries the concepts of “translation” and “creation.” Rather than a word-for-word translation, transcreation adapts content—tailoring idioms and cultural references while maintaining the original meaning—so that your communication is resonant and attention-grabbing.
  5. Conduct quality assurance: Before launching localized content, review it to make sure it’s accurate, culturally appropriate, and relevant for your target market. 

How can your business benefit from localization?

The right localization strategy provides a wide range of advantages for your business. It demonstrates that your company cares about its global audiences and is committed to delivering what they need. That goes a long way toward winning over new customers, helping to ease entry into new markets, and speeding growth. 

There are certain industries that naturally spring to mind when it comes to the need for localization. Local adaptation is crucial for ecommerce marketplaces, for example. In a survey, 65% of respondents said they prefer content in their own language and 40% will not buy from websites in other languages. However, localization benefits businesses and organizations of all kinds, including:

  • Financial services companies
  • Software/SaaS providers
  • Media and communications outlets
  • Non-profit organizations

What can you expect from your investment in localization? The positive impact of local adaptation can help your business:

Create a good user experience—Not surprisingly, people prefer products and content created specifically for them. Localizing your offerings and messages makes them more useful and satisfying for your customers, which in turn increases engagement and helps to build brand loyalty. 

Gain a competitive advantage—Making the effort to adapt your content for a new market shows that your business cares about local customers, giving you a boost over global competitors who don’t invest in localization. It also helps your brand compete on a more even playing field with local companies. 

Comply with local laws and regulations—The localization process goes far beyond translating content. It adapts every aspect of your offerings and operations for local business conditions, including making sure your brand meets legal and regulatory standards. This helps your company avoid missteps that can get in the way of your growth.

Achieve your KPIs and grow revenue—Your company has specific goals for its international expansion. Taking the steps to localize will put your business on the path to realizing your global ambitions, and your key metrics will reflect that. 

3 key takeaways about localization

  • People prefer products, content, and experiences that are created specifically for them. This makes localization absolutely critical for achieving your goals as you launch your brand in new global markets.
  • The localization process includes analyzing existing content to see what requires adaptation, determining if internationalization is necessary, translating your content, employing transcreation if needed, and reviewing your localized assets to ensure quality.
  • The need for localization services spans industries and sectors. All kinds of brands can benefit from adapting their offerings and messages for local audiences, including but not limited to ecommerce, financial services, software, non-profits, and others. 

Take the next step in your global expansion 

When performed by experts, localization empowers companies to expand into new markets and communicate with potential customers as one of them—in their language, with their familiarities. It can help turn product launches, apps, websites, brochures, and how-to guides into powerful tools to build your business across language markets. This way, your company can enjoy maximum engagement by overcoming cultural barriers. And when your customers are happy, everyone benefits. All you need is an expert team to develop your localization strategy.

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