The ultimate guide to SaaS localization and translation

By Acclaro
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The Ultimate Guide to SaaS Localization and Translation

Ambitious software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers dream of selling their solutions globally, with happy customers from Tallinn to Tokyo to Toronto. But as you push beyond the borders of your home country, the language and culture are potential roadblocks. Yet, thriving in the global marketplace requires more than just translating your software into multiple languages. It demands a well-planned localization strategy that respects and reflects the diverse cultures and markets you wish to reach. This guide offers practical insights for SaaS companies eager to make their mark worldwide, showing you how to develop a streamlined localization process that ensures customer satisfaction everywhere you do business.

SaaS localization vs. SaaS translation: What’s the difference?

Understanding the difference between localization and translation is crucial for any SaaS company aiming to expand internationally. Translation for SaaS involves converting text from one language to another (think of it as a 1 to 1 correspondence of words), but often that’s not enough to make a product feel intuitive, easy to use, and relevant in a new place. SaaS localization goes deeper, adapting your product to meet each market’s cultural, functional, and linguistic expectations.

For example, localization could include tasks like:

  • Going beyond translation to transcreate text for a new market
  • Adjusting formats for dates, currencies, and units of measure
  • Adjusting graphics and photos to align with local cultural norms
  • Changing layouts to accommodate changing text directionality as well as text expansion and contraction

4 key considerations for SaaS localization

SaaS localization services make your software feel native everywhere you do business, significantly enhancing its local appeal. For SaaS companies, effective localization is not just about selling to global audiences; it’s about fostering trust, engineering a stellar customer experience, and building a loyal customer base across diverse cultural landscapes.

Localization boosts sales and adoption rates by ensuring that your product meets cultural preferences and expectations. Creating customized experiences helps your software stand out, giving you a clear edge in competitive global markets.

Software development is already a complicated process, and localization adds another layer of complexity. Yet there are actions you can take to minimize the extra effort and resources required. Here are several key considerations that can help make sure your localization efforts are successful and scalable.


Internationalization, often abbreviated i18n, is the process of preparing your software for localization. That means making it easy to adapt to different languages and countries without having to change the source code.

Without internationalization, the amount of coding required to update software in different markets will skyrocket, as will time and costs. By designing your software from the start to support easy adaptation, you can make it faster and less resource-intensive to localize for new markets and to keep localized products up to date.

Cultural adaptation

Understanding and catering to different cultural norms and preferences is crucial. Whether it’s choosing the right color schemes, formats for dates and currencies, or knowing cultural taboos, every detail matters. Tailoring content to fit cultural contexts can significantly enhance user engagement and satisfaction.

UI and UX optimization

The user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) must be customized for target markets. This includes adapting layouts to support right-to-left or vertical text, ensuring that images and icons are culturally appropriate, and possibly altering navigation structures to align with local user behavior. Optimizing UI/UX for each locale can dramatically improve your SaaS product’s practical and emotional appeal.

Scalability through continuous localization

A scalable SaaS localization strategy is ready to grow with your business. To create one, integrate localization efforts into your software’s development cycles to help maintain consistency as your product evolves and expands into new markets. You can take it further by implementing continuous localization, which enables translation while source updates are processed, so you can release your product in all languages almost simultaneously.

Continuous software localization ensures that all language versions of your software stay synchronized with new updates. It’s crucial for maintaining a consistent global presence, but it does add an additional layer of complexity to the software development process. This is why you need a partner who is an expert in the software localization process.

Since your software development processes are agile, your localization processes should be, too. Align localization processes with your agile development methodologies so that localization tasks are part of each sprint and iteration. This ensures that localized versions of your software are updated alongside the main development track.

6 SaaS localization best practices

For your SaaS product to succeed globally, effective localization practices are essential and will help you overcome the challenges of continuous localization. The guidelines below will help ensure that your adaptation efforts are efficient and high-quality.

Choose the best-suited translation approach

You can use humans, machines, or a combo for software localization. Machine translation excels at quickly translating large volumes of content, but the results are sometimes poorly phrased or inaccurate. Human translators excel at producing accurate, culturally relevant translations but work much more slowly. For optimal results, combine the two. Let automated tools quickly handle straightforward content, perhaps with human post-editing.  Human translators can offer the necessary cultural sensitivity for complex or user-facing text. This strategy balances speed with quality.

Conduct thorough quality assurance and testing

Does your software work just as well for international users as it does in your home country?  Quality assurance in the form of functional and linguistic testing is key to providing an exceptional customer experience globally. Have native speakers test the localized software to catch and fix any linguistic, cultural, or functional errors. This step ensures the final product is intuitive and easy to use for the target audience and works as intended.

Leverage technology to streamline workflows

Using a Translation Management System (TMS) can streamline your localization efforts. A TMS automates parts of the translation process, reduces manual work, and helps manage content volumes efficiently.

Among other advantages, a TMS takes advantage of past translations, called translation memories (TMs), so that you never have to pay to translate the same phrase twice. Translation memories also ensure consistency and help preserve your brand voice.

To get the most out of your TMS, tap into the power of automated workflows to  keep localization on pace with rapid development cycles.

Use automation

Improve efficiency by automating repetitive tasks such as string extraction to enhance your workflow. With or without AI, automated workflows reduce manual effort and accelerate the localization of content so that your software stays up to date in all languages.

Centralize your assets

Managing multiple versions and maintaining consistency across translations is complex.

Use a centralized repository for all localization assets, including terminology databases and language assets, including translation memories. By centralizing assets and using a TMS, you’ll save time and reduce costs.

Measure success with KPIs

Continuously improving localization efforts to align with business goals can be challenging without clear metrics. Get clarity by monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate the effectiveness of your localization processes.

While it’s important to select metrics that are relevant to your business, the KPIs below are commonly used to evaluate localization initiatives:

  • Turnaround time
  • Spend by language/market
  • Throughput rate
  • Translation quality scores
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)

These best practices will refine your localization approach, improving speed and accuracy and ensuring that your international users get the same top-notch experience as the users in your home country do.

The future of SaaS localization

Localization for SaaS is advancing quickly, driven by technological advancements and changing global consumer expectations. Here are some of the most impactful trends we’ve been noticing:

  • Advances in machine translation (MT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the localization process, making translations faster and more accurate while reducing costs.
  • Consumers worldwide expect more from products. As user expectations evolve, there is a growing demand for hyper-personalized experiences. In fact, research shows that 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from businesses that offer personalized experiences.
  • Markets are becoming more diverse, driving the need to adhere to global accessibility standards and ensure that software products are usable by people with diverse abilities worldwide.
  • Emerging markets are bringing new languages and dialects into focus, expanding the linguistic diversity that SaaS companies must address. This shift demands more sophisticated localization strategies to engage users effectively in these new regions.

How to select the right localization partner

Choosing the right partner for your SaaS localization needs is critical. Look for a partner with:

  • Domain expertise: A partner knowledgeable about your industry can provide higher quality localization and more customized solutions.
  • Experience in agile processes: A partner experienced in agile methodologies can seamlessly integrate with your development cycles, keeping projects on track and adaptable to changes.
  • Compatibility with your tech stack: Ensure the localization company can work with your existing technology to streamline processes and avoid complications.

Ready to take your software global?

Precise and strategic localization is your gateway to the worldwide success of your software. At Acclaro, we have 20-plus years of experience helping major software brands deploy SaaS localization strategies that save time, use resources wisely, and produce a high-quality user experience for international customers. 

Contact us today and embrace the future of localization for software as a service with our expert strategies and innovative solutions.

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