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Product Localization: How to Adapt Your Product for the Global Market?

Product Localization: How to Adapt Your Product for the Global Market?

April 11, 2022
Chief Marketing Officer
Anna Zhuk
Reading time is 9 minutes
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There comes a moment in the lifetime of a product when its local market becomes too crampet for it. But goods and services that are successful on their local market, may fail, nevertheless, in a new region.. There are multiple reasons why products fail in a new market, and one of them is the cultural barrier.

Product localization is a way to overcome this barrier and prepare for a better introduction of a product to a new market. Localization makes the product closer to customers by considering local culture, laws, and language nuances in translation.

In this article, we are going to discuss the importance of product localization, provide tips on how to prepare for it, describe the process as well as share some of the best product localization practices.
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To localize a product or a service is to translate, modify and adapt it for the target language. Localization is different from regular translation work: the job of a localizer is to consider the cultural, religious, social, and behavioral nuances of a target audience.

But why should you as a product owner bother with localization when you can hire a translator? The research submitted by CSA in 2020 claims that 76% of customers won't buy a product if the description was written in a foreign language. The same report states that the business risks losing 40% of the market if it made a decision to not localize its products. Why does localization matter so much?

What is Product Localization?

Besides the lack of understanding between a brand and customers speaking different languages, there's another reason: people are more willing to buy something that feels familiar. Usage of local date format, currency, and units of measure, as well as choice of appropriate graphic details connects the product to a new customer pool. This, in turn, builds a path to smooth reception of your brand on the local market.
Now that we are talking about introducing the brand to a new audience, you might wonder what actions you should take to succeed. The process of preparation of a product for a new market is called a localization strategy. While it might seem unnecessary to invest in a long-term operation, the more regions your brand expands to, the more complex the localization process becomes.

At first, it might be easy to manage localization for two or three foreign countries, but as time goes on and your product gains popularity, you might face a situation where your knowledge and cultural experience won't be enough. This is why localization strategy is as important as a marketing strategy: if it's inefficient, you will lose a part of the market.

A classic example of a successful localization strategy is Netflix. This streaming service captures a wide global audience, providing voiceover and subtitles for shows and movies. Their strategy works so well, that 90% of the German TV series Dark audience comes from outside Germany. And Netflix doesn't stop there: the service makes subtle changes to app navigation and UI for different countries.

If you find yourself curious, you can learn more about localization strategy. Now, let's prepare to successfully localize your product.

Why is Localization Strategy Important?

The first thing to consider in your localization strategy is that product support is a continuous process. As you are improving the quality and widening the range of products, you will have to control and monitor a lot of drafts, documentation, and translation. Continuous localization is a challenging task, but you can make it easier by leveraging existing tools:

  • Glossaries. A translation glossary contains specific terminology with established translations in all target languages. Glossaries are created and translated by language and subject-matter experts, reviewed by the quality assurance team, and agreed upon with the client. Aside from terminology, the glossary may include trademark terms, acronyms, and names. Glossaries serve to cut long-term localization costs, preserve brand identity and make translations time-efficient.
  • Computer-assisted translation and Translation memory. These tools are a database of all segments (sentences, paragraphs, sentence-like units) that you have translated before. Translation memories store source input and target outcome throughout all languages. TM works in tandem with translation software and will automatically suggest identical or similar entries for new documents.
  • Machine translation. MT simply substitutes words from one language for another. This method rarely yields good results alone, but can be useful in cases when context doesn't matter, like, for example, in product reviews.
  • Translation management systems (TMS). While not exactly useful for translation, TMS organizes documentation, files, and localization workflows. It allows you to return and make changes to the translation through different stages. Translation management software is essential for companies that deal with a high volume of files.
  • Quality Assurance Tools. QA tools can verify terminology, trademarks, abbreviations, usage of metrics, and translation consistency. They can be integrated into translation tools. Automated tools save the time of the quality assurance team and help fix mistakes overlooked by the human eye.

While translation tools are very helpful, tools alone won't provide a good localization. As you prepare for localization:

  • Plan ahead. Before you go global, plan how you will structure your content to communicate with a new audience. Prioritize messages that would work for multiple markets. Strive to create universal experiences that will feel personal for a target culture.
  • Don't just translate, adapt. Plan the design of your product to fit local cultural nuances. For example, Arabic is written from right to left, and most languages take up more space in user interfaces than English. Your design should be flexible to accommodate localized versions. Look closely at your color choices, as different colors can have different connotations in specific countries.

Now that you are familiar with preparations for localization, let's explore the process itself.

What Do You Need to Know Before Localizing Your Brand?

Product Localization Process

As it was mentioned before, localization differs from regular translation. You can't just dive in and start translating your documentation. Before you start the localization process, conduct extensive research on the market and cultural preferences of potential customers. To estimate the potential of your product on a foreign market, answer the following questions:

  • Will there be a demand for your product?
  • Who will be your competitor in this market?
  • What marketing strategy will be most efficient for this market?

Answering these questions, keep in mind that advertisements that work well in your native country might not work for a different region. Be adaptive and innovate, consider marketing choices that your competitors made to achieve popularity.

Another thing you must research is local laws and customs. Following local law will eliminate the risk of lawsuits and allow you to communicate with local partners. Look carefully through regulations for quality, safety, and advertisements.

Research

Vital Content Comes First

In a perfect scenario, you will eventually localize almost every part of your product: from names to the product description to documentation. But in reality, localization should be effective. You should prioritize the content that should be localized first, otherwise, the expenses will be too high. Research will aid you to determine local demands. Here are examples of content that you'd want to localize as soon as possible:

  • Product content: legal documents, brand name, reference material;
  • Marketing elements: promotions, advertisements, prices (currency and cost);
  • Customer support scripts, chatbot scripts;
  • Online content: website, social media, blog posts, video tutorials, newsletters.

In most situations, the first step is to localize your website. Global consumers often look through brand web pages to familiarize themselves with a newcomer. A properly localized webpage will boost the customer impression of the brand.
If you chose to localize, you might find yourself in a position where you have to engage an outsource translation service provider. Pick a service provider with experience in localization in multiple languages, good reviews, and an established portfolio. Such a provider will become a trusted partner and give a perfect look to your product.

To oversee and control the localization process, you can hire a product localization manager. Product localization managers are responsible for schedules, suppliers, selection, and management of the localization team. They serve as a bridge between client and service provider, ensuring comfortable communication and high-quality, efficient work.

Find an Experienced Partner

After a language service provider has translated the materials, the client can involve an in-country reviewer into the localization process. In-country review is a validation of translated material by a local reviewer. ICR is used to ensure that the translation is culturally relevant.

In-country reviewers typically aren't professional linguists, which means their proofreading ability might be better than their linguistic skill. To avoid troubles and miscommunications, clients need to establish certain guidelines for ICRs. These guidelines may include:

  • List of criteria ICRs should follow while editing. ICRs are expected to enhance the translation, not change it.
  • Terminology and style guides used by the company and LSP, to keep consistency. In addition, ICR can have a meeting with LSP to understand the reasoning behind certain translations.

The output of an ICR is a localized material tailored to the target market.

In-Country Review (ICR)

Once everything is double-checked, you may finally release the product and collect the first user experiences. Remember that successful localization, like product development, is a continuous process. This process doesn't stop after your product is released to a new market. After vital content was localized and the product was well-received, you can plan on localizing less important content. As you update your product, don't forget to update localizations, too.

Release the Product and Keep It Up

Product Localization: Best Practices

International audiences often have historically formed preferences of media consumption. For example, if there are video tutorials on your website, you should consider your customer's' preference: would they settle for subtitles, or will they expect a quality dubbed version? Would you have to hire a professional to do the voiceover or will a synthetic voice be enough? Follow the demands of the target region and your customers will be grateful.

1. Use Customer-preferred Ways of Localization

While automated translation tools can't replace an actual translator, they can still help if you're dealing with repetitive translations. Technology offers an opportunity to reduce localization efforts, cut costs, and speed up the process. A proper tech stack will help with project management, organize your translation files, and provide ready glossaries for future translations.

2. Embrace Digital Experiences

To successfully move forward, you need to have a grip on the problem you're trying to solve with localization. Is your company focused on a specific international customer base, or is it trying to quickly expand? Should you strive for quality or efficiency, or both? Once you've defined your goals, you can form a model to work with your future localization partner.

Consider the following issues:
  • Cost. What is the budget? Will you engage the development team?
  • Quality. Will you engage QA experts? Will QA be outsourced or do you plan to use your own staff? Will you entrust quality assurance to chosen localization experts? What tools are you planning to engage in QA?
  • Speed. What are the deadlines for the project? How should your partners report their progress?
  • Scalability. Will you cooperate with your partner for a long time? Is there a possibility of scaling the project?
  • Efficiency. Will the model, as you see it, be efficient? What adjustments can be done to make it better?

To help you evaluate the efficiency of your investments, there's a performance measure called Return of Investment. Using this measure, you will be able to define direct and incremental revenue from sales of localized products and services.

ROI = (Current added value of localization - Cost of localization)/Cost of localization

Localization ROI is a bit more challenging than classic ROI. This is because localization ROI significantly varies depending on a company and the project. Calculating ROI of localization, you will need to:
  • Create KPI. Key Performance Indicators (KPI) show how well the project is achieving business objectives. KPIs help to track the progress and identify new localization opportunities. Examples of localization KPIs are incremental sales, SEO keyword ranking, market share, page views, conversion rates, etc.
  • Understand the costs of localization. Keep in mind that localization costs include translation work, project management, customer support, marketing, and engineering costs.
  • Keep track of the revenue. Before the start of a project, predict and estimate expected revenue based on sales forecasts, growth predictions, and marketing activities. After the localization was implemented, track the real revenue and market data to compare it with predictions.

In the end, you will have an improved view of the project, a clear understanding of the efficiency of your investments, and be more prepared to communicate your goals to the localizer.

3. Understand Your Goals and Evaluate Options

A good localization strategy can unlock the limitless potential of the ever-expanding global market. Introducing your product to a new audience opens new ways to collect profit, stimulate global growth, and expand your business.

To properly manage delicate work that is localization, you need an experienced partner. With the support of the Palex team of skilled professionals, you can translate and localize your products and services into 80 languages. Contact us for a consultation on a profitable localization strategy.

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