As a company seeking international growth, you will sooner or later face the question of whether localizing software products is important or not. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. It all depends on a multitude of aspects regarding your business and specific needs. Luckily, there are still clear indicators and proof-points to determine the business value of localization and draw up a solid business localization strategy.
Why Is Localization Important for Business?
There is always a cost to doing business, but it doesn’t have to set you back an arm and a leg. Many companies fear that localizing their products might cause increased administrative overhead and might slow down the release cycle and is thus just not worth the time. This can be true but there’s really no getting around it entirely if successful expansion is your goal and I’m willing to bet that it won’t be as bad as you think.
Here are just some of the benefits of localization for your business:
Improving Customer Satisfaction
Localization is much more than just direct translation. It is about carefully refining and adapting content to resonate with the culture and to meet local peculiarities. Companies can and often do spend millions crafting global campaigns only to find that their new slogan translates into something that wasn’t exactly intended in their target country, often with hilarious – or downright offensive – results.
Localization will help to prevent you from falling head over heels into pitfalls like these. It will help you to support a more appealing user experience for your diversifying clientele and in doing so, increase your overall customer conversions.
Increasing Your Customer Base
The ability to expand a company’s potential customer base is essential in today’s globalized world. Adapting existing products to new markets through translation and localization management is key for global growth. Professional localization helps to decrease the barrier for new potential customers, as localized products fit local market conditions better and lower cultural barriers.
Localization allows more consumers to learn about your products and increases your customer base. FAMILO, for example, noticed an overwhelming 400% increase in new customers after they scaled their mobile app for families internationally and became an industry leader through effective localization.
Localization Allows You to Enter New Markets More Rapidly
The localization process can speed up the time it takes to enter new markets as localized products help to overcome cultural barriers. This results in customers being more likely to spread the word about the product. Companies that localize content tend to see improvements in engagement and market share from an ever more diverse clientele.
From a business perspective, this means gaining a competitive advantage by the rapid and flexible deployment of products. Companies that start localizing faster tend to grow faster – and for obvious reasons. As an example, when using Phrase, 95% of ordered translations are done within 24 hours and 80% of orders take 12 hours or less. This allows our clients to enter new markets with their businesses at an extremely rapid rate.
Considering all these factors, it looks like there’s pretty much no reason at all not to localize your business and if you’re reading this you’re already interested in the process. Unless you’re just very lazy, a fan of stagnating, or enjoy losing sales and otherwise not expanding, the answer to the title question is: “Very”.
If your business strategy is focused on increasing revenue, market share and your customer base, localization is going to be a necessity for your business. And, really, if your business isn’t thinking about those three things, should you really continue calling yourself one at all?
How to Get Started with Localization?
In most circumstances, the ultimate costs involved with the localization of your software or website will be less than the returns from the opportunities it creates. If you’ve made the decision to localize your product or service, make sure to proof whether it’s even localization-ready and choose the right tools in order to seamlessly integrate localization into your processes.
Now, where do you start? With so many elements involved in a skillfully conducted localization project, this can be a daunting task. As with most areas of business, if you want to get it right, success often lies in the planning stages. Check out our six essential steps in preparing your localization strategy.
Planning and Research
You wouldn’t launch a product in your home market without carrying out extensive research first. Just because you’re confident in your software and making good sales, it doesn’t mean that you should dive into foreign waters without finding out how deep those waters are first. You want your software localization project to become a case study in terms of sales success, product adoption, and clever message adaption. Not because you made monumental bundlers worthy of making a list of epic global marketing fails. There are safeguards to ensure that your software localization project is hassle-free and most of them are born out of proper planning.
So, try to think about the individual markets in which you have a good chance of success. Analyze your website traffic visitors and software users. Do you get a lot of visits from Eastern Europe? Is much of your foreign traffic UK-based? How similar is culture? What is their legislation like? Do you have local resources on the ground you can reach out to? There are more than 4 billion internet connections around the world. But, that doesn’t mean they’ll all be interested in your product. Narrow your focus through careful research and planning first.
Remember that you’ll need to take the crafting of your message seriously. The last thing you want to do is enter a new market with a half-translated website, poor attempt at software localization. Research showed that 87 percent of people who can’t understand English, won’t buy from English-only websites. They won’t use your software or download your app either. So, make sure you don’t cut corners when it comes to your content.
During your planning and research stage, you’ll need to make sure to consider important elements, such as your software design layout. Languages take up different amounts of space. The last thing you want is to come up with a beautifully functioning product which when translated into French, German, or Arabic doesn’t work from its layout design anymore. Don’t even think about using hard-coded design elements, as you’re going to be asking for problems.
Also, be sure to consider internet speeds globally. One thing people have in common around the world is their lack of time and growing impatience. Your site needs to load as quickly as possible everywhere you do business. If that means relying on not-so-hot local internet speeds, you might want to use a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to provide an optimal user experience for all. Site speed is also one of many search engines’ ranking factors, so working on this metric is important.
Last but not least, think about your costs. The cost of software localization will obviously increase according to how many different languages you want to localize into. If you don’t have a huge budget at your disposal, there’s no need to localize into 200 languages at once. Pick one or two that you think will bring you the highest localization ROI. China is one of the most lucrative markets in the world, but it’s also one of the hardest to crack. If large companies like Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Google can have problems over there, you’ll need to be fully confident in your product before you go.
Building Your Team
Successful localization requires a rock-solid team. And putting your team together is one of the hardest things you can do. You have to ensure that you have the right skill sets and talents and that each team member can function with the other. Not everyone is a programmer, and not every programmer is a linguist. This means that you want to make sure collaboration is easy. More than likely, the majority of your team will be working remotely, in different regions of the world. You’ll need native translators who also have the ability to transcreate if needed. They’ll need to understand locally used slang and vocabulary and capture the tone and voice of local audiences.
But, they’ll need to have some basic technical skills as well, or, at least, the ability to learn. Start talking about HTML and strings to a person who barely knows how to use a computer and the conversation won’t get very far. That’s why you’ll need skilled software developers who understand how to use Unicode and apply internationalization techniques. But, you’ll also need them to have some semblance of people skills. They’ll have to develop an understanding of how translators work. Instead of passing them random strings to translate, they should know all about the importance of context.
You’ll also need local marketing advisors and maybe even a legal consultant to find out about anti-competition laws. Promotional restrictions also vary from country to country. Finally, you’ll need someone highly skilled in management. Let’s face it, it might very well be you, who get’s to be the glue that holds everything together.
Deciding on the Right Translation Management Software
If no one has let you in on this secret, it’s about time someone did. Using the right translation management software (TMS) will make or break your software localization project. The right TMS will have several key features that will allow you to seamlessly manage your team and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Look out for a web-based platform that will allow you to manage your worldwide team more effectively with reduced costs.
Be sure that it has an API that will make automation easier. An in-built API will allow your programmers to integrate new products easily into your workflow. Being able to import locale files quickly and easily is essential. Especially if you want to localize into more languages or take on more software localization projects for clients. Your TMS should allow your team members to collaborate easily and leave messages for each other, upload screenshots, tag people, leave feedback and generally make the project more effective, as well as fun! You can even speed up your workflow and reduce the amount of technical training involved by translating directly onto your software or website.
You’ll have no more need for localizing with spreadsheets or sending out long emails and trawling through your inbox trying to find what you’re looking for. You’ll also get to build up a translation memory that will allow you to complete projects faster. It will save frequently used terms in the language you’re working in and allow your translators to progress more quickly through the task. And if you’re not really crazy about acting as the project manager or babysitting your team, let your TMS take care of that for you.
Preparing Your Software for Localization
Localization is way too often considered unimportant and too time-consuming, so many companies don’t bother concerning themselves with it until the damage is already done. You might find yourself having to totally overhaul your entire project in order to later support other languages because your developers did not care about other languages, international formats or other necessary localization attributes when they wrote the code.
All it takes is a tiny mistake to send everything careening off a cliff. Errors in source content can be replicated or worse, amplified in various different language versions if they’re not prepared properly beforehand. If you don’t want to spend months fixing localization bugs after translation, you had better internationalize your software from the very start. This basically means that you’ll be able to add new languages to your software with greater ease and reduced effort.
Your developers will apply Unicode (UTF-8) throughout your software to standardize encoding between languages. It provides a unique symbol for all characters and can be applied to almost every language in the world. Your programmers will also separate the source code from the translated strings and store it for future use, so that you can adapt the data to each new language. In layman’s terms, that basically means you won’t have to break the strings when you want to translate into a new language. Internationalization of your software will also allow you to set codes for local preferences, which makes changing number formats, dates, times, measurements and currencies easier.
Website localization and localization of your marketing materials can greatly improve your SEO. And if you’re talking about your company’s mobile app or app version of your software, your ASO strategy is equally fundamental. So, once your software localization is carried out, you’ll need to ensure that your SEO strategy is seamless. Even though many people look at this towards the end of a project, your SEO/ASO strategy is better planned from the start. Why? Because you’ll need your foreign-language content translated and optimized with the right keywords and search terms used by browsers on the web and the app store.
You’ll need to build up links to your website from local sites that complement your business or can pass on relevant PR and link juice. If all your third-party website links are pointing to your English site version, you’ll have an uphill battle when it comes to local SEO. Search is increasingly local and consumers will be shown the most relevant results that are nearest to them. Localizing your website by adding local phone numbers, pages and an office (if you have one) will greatly help your SERP ranking. It’s very similar with the app store. If you have a great app localized into French, it won’t do you any good if you don’t get the keywords right. You simply won’t get seen among the competition.
Also, remember to find out the most popular search engines and app stores in the market you want to launch in. In China, they use Baidu. In Russia, they have a preference for Yandex. There are also hundreds of different app stores in China and a notable absence of Google Play. Get your strategy geared up for the wrong channels and you’ll fail to get your software localization project noticed. Or worse, you’ll be banished from a market for failing to comply with the rules.
Localization and Linguistic Testing
A vital step that can’t be missed, you’ll need to factor both localization and linguistic testing into your software localization strategy. Hire local testers to make sure that your message makes sense. That you’ve used the right vocabulary and that the text flows and appeals to users. Contract expert programmers who can simulate the user experience across different operating systems and platforms. Localization testing will ensure that your software works well and at optimal speed. That there are no broken translations, forms or code. You’ll also double check that the images, symbols, and icons you’ve used are culturally appropriate. If you don’t find fault with your product, you can bet your customers will. It’s much better to stall your launch a few more days than deal with customer complaints or bad reviews.
While it’s definitely true that for some, business localization is often easier said than done – since proper processes and responsibilities need to be established – that doesn’t mean that it needs to be some sort of arduous ordeal. By properly localizing your content, you can significantly decrease your time to market by massively increasing the efficiency with which your software, website or application are localized. Using the right tools and streamlining the localization process can remove unnecessary, repetitive manual work and administrative overhead and should not be overlooked.
You can break your business localization project down into an achievable bite-sized project. You just need to make sure that you spend adequate time and resources in the planning and research stages. Build a team that works well together and ensure that you use the right translation management tool. Internationalize your software from the very outset and work on your ASO/SEO strategies well in advance. And once you’ve done all that, test, test, and test again!