Localization strategy

Demographic Research in Localization

Localization is about more than translating words into your target market's language. Here are the who, what, when, where, and why of demographic research.
Localization strategy blog category featured image | Phrase

Demographic research is incredibly important in going global. Just because you’re setting up a shop in Taipei doesn’t mean that your localization work ends with your fancy new Mandarin translations. To make sure that your business is capable of making software localization work the right way, you need to know a thing or two about who your audience is, what they’re looking for and why they’re using your software or application in the first place. Here are the who, what, when, where, and why of demographic research.


Who the heck are you trying to sell to, anyway?

If you don’t already have the answer to this question I’m not sure that we can move on with this guide until we’ve sorted this.

Knowing who your target market is, inside and out, is probably the single most important thing you can be doing as a company right now from a content marketing standpoint, period. You should know the ages, the genders, average incomes for individuals and have budget estimates for businesses.

You need to know the business climate, the language(s) spoken, their use of mobile technology, the nation’s economic growth rate, the most popular superheroes and their favorite brands of breakfast cereal before you can optimize your conversions and punch your new market in its soft spots.

Is your company in B2B? What sort of businesses are you localizing your software for? Are they large corporations, small startups, banks, schools, intergalactic alien tourists?

If you still can’t answer these questions you need to open up your analytics and take a good, hard look, right now, at who these people are. Spend some time reviewing your existing clients, on a personal level, and use that information to draw up some projections for your new market.

To add in an example from Phrase, I can tell you right now that our primary target audience is burgeoning startup companies looking to begin internationalizing their companies. Of this group - based solely on our blog readers data on Google Analytics - 86% of you are male and 14% female.

Most of our readers hail from the United States, Germany, and India respectively. These numbers indicate activity in three of the world’s most prominent, burgeoning startup locations. Makes sense.

Almost exactly half of our readers fall between the ages of 25 and 34.

Based solely on these few very simple metrics we can illustrate that the vast majority of readers - and by extension clients - are young men under the age of 35. These numbers shouldn’t come as a surprise considering as they corroborate perfectly the demographics of the revolutionary global startup climate.


What does this mean?

Well moving on with our own example, we know that we can target this cool young audience more accurately by using this information to get inside our targets’ heads. We can make assumptions about what they like and we know what they want more of.

This demographic isn’t into stuffy corporate meetings and fancy suits and briefcases like the business climate of their parents in the 20th century. They prefer video conferencing, less pyramidal administration and the use of social media.

Today’s business people are casual and progressive, preferring jeans and graphic tees to ties and sweater vests. They employ and spearhead the world’s cutting edge and bleeding edge tech.

However, this same demographic data also shows other important information such as the continuation of massive underrepresentation of women in the startup industry. Using these same metrics we can try to identify ways to reach out and appeal to this smaller demographic and turn it into a larger demographic.

The numbers we extrapolate are often collected by national census institutions and as mentioned above tend to include age, gender, fiscal statistics, language and other similar metrics that help our marketing efforts and the knowledge we need to localize on an international scale. This is one such way that you can collect the information you need.

How are the demographics represented? Statistics, statistics, statistics.

I know, stats put most of us to sleep, but bear with me - these loathsome numbers are important.

It would be foolish of us to assume that every market is going to be the same as - or even similar to - the ones we’re already involved with. So it is paramount that we take all of the steps necessary to make sure that we don’t take for granted the variations we’re likely to encounter on a globalized playing field.

You can’t really localize software, apps, or pretty much anything at all if you don’t have a basic understanding of demography and how to apply it to a business strategy.


The best time to spend some time doing demographic research for localizing software or apps would have been weeks, months or even years ago. The next best time is right now!

If your job is to market content to a fresh new potential client pool you need to know who you’re selling to and why they could possibly be interested in your product(s). There is nothing more important than making that happen as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Time is of the essence, better stop wasting it.

Keep in mind that things change.

What is the business or economic status of the region you’re working in going to look like in 10 years? What about in 25 years? That may seem like a distant future irrelevant to your current state but it’s all worth keeping in mind when localizing your business on an international scale.

Demographic information can help you to make predictions about the cultural or socio-economic progress (or a lack thereof) of a given market in the future.

And keep in mind that your demographic research doesn’t end. The localization process is ongoing and your market will evolve - more rapidly than you’d probably like.

These changes will inevitably require you to adapt. So the real answer to this question is; always.


Let us assume that your goal is to localize your brand for a new (or existing) market.

The “where” question might be slightly trickier and require more thought than it may at first appear. In addition to the physical location of your company and your clients, we need to get a little bit more proactive in our research.

Consider not only the current population but also the rate at which the population in your new market is changing. Keep an eye on migration and the locations from and to which your prospects are moving.

For example, a company that is already established here in Germany needs to take into consideration the recent influx of migrants. A company needs to learn how immigrants interact with the market, who they are, and draw up estimates as to where that population is going in the future.

If translating your content for localization is your goal - and I assume that if you’re reading this, it is - think about trends in language on a global scale. Ask yourself which languages are currently spoken in your new region and whether those languages are likely to change in the future based on economic and population growth or evolution.

With the ever-expanding reign of certain languages on the international scale - such as Spanish and Vietnamese in the US and Arabic and English in Europe - consider anthropological and linguistic projections for growth.

To continue with the American example, evidence from the Pew Research Institute indicates that as of 2016 the Hispanic population in the United States has reached 55.3 million, or 17.3% of the total population of the country. Of those, more than 1/3rd of the consumer (18+) population are reported to speak either no or very little English.

That’s around 14 million people.

You may not be thinking this far ahead right now, but by 2060 the Hispanic population is projected to reach 28.6% of the population, or over 119 million. You can extrapolate some pretty mind-stomping figures from this projection.

Keep metrics such as these in mind when making estimates about the future prevalence of a language or its speakers.

Your bank account will thank you later.

Any company breaking or expanding within a US market would be hilariously ill-equipped to take on this demographic without first identifying these metrics and their relevance to localization and capitalizing on them.

So when devising a solid localization strategy for your business, think not only of what your market looks like right now but where it will be or could be further down the road.


Because if you don’t you won’t reach potential clients. You won’t expand. You will miss out on potential revenue, and that sucks.

Keep in mind that depending on your current region, you may even be looking at an expand-or-die scenario.

Certain populations, such as that of the European Union, for example, are actually in decline despite an overall global increase. Information provided by Eurostat shows that the rate of growth in the EU is slowing considerably each year as the current “baby boomer” generation’s death rate exceeds decreasing birth rates.

This trend may level off in the future and such statistics are difficult to predict with absolute certainty - so don’t panic just yet. But the ongoing global diaspora to the European Union underscores a herculean boost in the demographic evolution of the region.

But you need to do your own research. If you can’t identify and target your audience through sufficient demographic data you’re not going to know how to best localize your app or software to a diverse -and ever changing - customer base.

Wrapping It Up: Demographic Research Doesn’t Have to Be That Hard

Do your research! Demographic research doesn’t have to be that hard to do.

Break out a spreadsheet, open Google Analytics, and start looking at who is checking out your page. Who is reading your blog and how they engage and interact with your website, company, and products? Ask your clients. Put out surveys. Talk to people. Engage.

Hire an anthropologist if you have to, just get it done!

It matters. It really, really matters and marketing seems kind of silly without complete and total mastery over the target audience’s quirks, style and population trends doesn’t it?

Localizing your content doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you use software such as Phrase, but until you know what you’re dealing with, you’re going to be sunk.

So what are you doing now? Are you keeping close track of your demographics for localization?

What kind of tools and strategies do you use to keep on top of your research?

Leave a comment with some of your favorites.

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