Marketing Localization: How to Optimize the Process End to End

Marketing localization is a complex process with a lot of potential pitfalls and challenges. Find out how to optimize the process from start to finish with our ultimate guide.

Two in three consumers prefer to buy products in their native language while whooping 40% won’t buy a product in other languages. These numbers highlight the importance of marketing localization when expanding into new markets.

Whether you like it or not, you need to start localizing if you want to sell globally. Localization isn’t just about translating your mobile app, changing its layout, or adding a plugin to your website to switch from one language to another.

Instead, localization refers to the full adaptation of your product to fit the local market needs and expectations. You’ll need to come up with a localization strategy every time you launch in a new market. Software and marketing localization are complex processes that take time, money, and human effort.

That’s why you need to make sure your investment is going to pay off. If you want to see a rapid return on investment (ROI), you’ll need to plan beyond the technical details of marketing localization. No matter how great your product is, no one will be interested unless you know how to sell it right.

As with every step of localization, you can optimize your marketing strategy to save time and money. Localizing with the right marketing strategy in mind means you’ll avoid mistakes and run less risk of damaging your local image before even entering the market.

Find the Right People to Support Your Marketing Localization

Steve Jobs used to say: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people”. Never was this statement truer than when it comes to localization. You need to assign the best specialists to handle a project as complex as software localization.

A localization team mainly consists of:

Localization Manager

A localization manager is in charge of the whole localization process from start to finish. In the initial phase, they’re responsible for hiring translators and localization testers. As the project progresses, they’re the ones who make sure all communication across teams goes smoothly and all files are properly uploaded and delivered to the team.

Product Manager

A product manager is responsible for the strategic direction of your product development, so they can be key players in designing and executing your localization strategy. They understand the international competitive landscape in which you’d be selling your product, so they can be a great resource during the localization process.

Developers or Localization Engineers

A localization engineer handles the database and sets guidelines for people to follow during the localization process. They can offer direct support to translators by offering screenshots or demonstrations of parts of the products so that all translations are as accurate as possible.

Localization Tester

These are your boots on the ground to make sure the final localization results are what you’d imagined. They’re the proofreaders that check the text for any language and design inconsistencies so that the final product looks as good as it can.

For instance, if a translated word is a bit longer and doesn’t sit well in the original design, they can catch that and either choose an alternative word or ask for tweaks in the existing design.

Designer

The designer is the creative force that makes sure that your users have a flawless user experience when interacting with your product. Designers are particularly important during the localization process as they can make sure that all translated text, selected colors, and illustrations fit well in the new, localized version of your product.

Translators

It goes without saying that translators are essential to your localization project as they’re the ones who put words to paper in your target language. Depending on the size of your project, you can hire one or multiple translators to work on different parts of your product.

Localizing is not just translating words from one language to another. You’d need to find localizers with excellent language skills who understand the implications of such a project. Localizers are generally experienced translators who have technical knowledge in the field and understand the localization process. They can make the difference between the success and failure of your project.

That said, steer clear of machine translation. Strings, marketing campaigns, app descriptions, and everything else should be translated by specialists. Use Google Translate or any other similar software and you run the risk of making your product sound and feel translated.

Bad translations can backfire and keep customers away instead of drawing them in. You may cut some costs here and there, but you’ll spend way more trying to fix the errors in your marketing localization later on.

Instead, invest in delivering high-quality content that is translated by professionals proficient in your target language with a good understanding of your new market and industry. Only then will you be able to build a positive image for your brand in any local market.

Experience Is Important

Developers who coordinate web or app localization on a daily basis will be able to give you important advice during the process. They’ve been down this road before, so they know how to take advantage of opportunities in various markets and can help you prioritize.

In this context, don’t underestimate the importance of external teams, either. Depending on how much of the process you decide to outsource, you’ll be in contact with linguists, local marketing and SEO specialists, testing teams, and maybe even some local partners.

When sourcing your local team, set clear milestones and make them aware of your goals from the start to make sure they respect deadlines. Always look for people who can communicate easily and are ready to adapt their working habits to your in-house team.

Finally, make things easier for your team by using a software localization platform that will enable them to communicate and share files more easily. This will leave less room for translation errors or misinterpretation of the source text.

If your team uses a single tool to perform all changes in real-time, you can optimize the entire process, from technical details to marketing localization, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Name a Localization Manager

If you plan to coordinate the entire software localization process yourself, then be ready for extra hours of hard work. If you aren’t comfortable with managing such a complex project or don’t have the time to do it, then you’d be better off allocating a dedicated localization manager.

They can coordinate your programmers, translators, engineers, and all other experts. This full-time job implies many responsibilities and requires a wide range of skills:

Organizational Skills

A good localization manager is a good organizer who can multitask and manage all aspects of the project simultaneously. This includes taking care of any linguistic issues, technical challenges, cultural differences, administrative details, budget, efficiency, and optimization.

People Management

Localizers come from various backgrounds, such as sales, development, marketing, QA, engineering, or publishing. Having the ability to understand how these teams work and coordinate them is essential when looking for maximum results with minimum effort (and without exceeding the budget).

Technical Acumen

A good localization manager must understand the technologies behind the project to be able to plan the localization process wisely. You can’t do infrastructure planning or design workflows unless you have a good grasp of the entire technical process that goes on behind the scenes.

Learn About Your New Market

All people you work with should have in-depth knowledge of your product and the market you’re localizing for. Your team needs to understand the local market and its specific demands in terms of marketing, design, and legislation. This is the only way they can craft a user-friendly product.

The Chinese market, for example, doesn’t require extra care only with translations and marketing. This country has tricky rules when it comes to coding, choosing the right local servers, and respecting the laws of China’s Great Firewall.

Supercell’s Clash of Clans is a good example of localization gone wrong. At their initial launch in China, hundreds of thousands of people were able to download the game only to be unable to buy the in-game currency. The game relied on users’ access to Google Play which people in China didn’t have. This is a major localization failure that cost the company dearly.

This is just one example of how things can go wrong if you don’t study all components before launching your product. In order to optimize the process, you should start your localization project considering all aspects that will help you create a product that fits the market.

In some cases, this means localizing to integrate with local products instead of your traditional western partners (such as social media platforms). Otherwise, you’ll just waste time and money correcting errors, testing, and retesting.

Define Your Potential Customers

When you look to optimize the full marketing localization process, you should start by defining some local profiles for your potential customers. Once you know who you’re going to sell to, you can adapt the localization process to more specific goals. This will help you reduce time-to-launch and costs.

That said, defining an international buyer persona is no longer enough if you really want to know your customers. Instead, you’d need to build local buyer personas for each country you’re localizing for.

For instance, most South Americans speak the same language, but they use it differently from one country to another. Likewise, Asia is an emerging market with huge potential, but approaching customers there requires a very different marketing strategy, one that’s in line with local culture and traditions.

You need to know who you’re dealing with in any of these markets and what your potential customers really want. Think about age, gender, relationship status, interests, education level, where they live, how much they earn, and what their purchasing habits are like. These answers will likely vary with each new country you’re approaching but are crucial for your localization efforts.

Finally, be ready to tailor your marketing localization strategy and target your content each time you start a new localization process. Adapt as much as you can from your centralized global marketing program to cut costs, but don’t ignore the local specifics.

Optimize the Technical Side of Marketing Localization with Unicode

Unicode (UTF-8) supports all characters, in any language, so it’s vital to use it for your localization project. Once you’ve written your code, you won’t have to make any additional changes when you decide to localize for countries like China, Japan, or Russia. This means less time and money spent on coding during multiple language localizations.

Here are some other advantages of Unicode that will make localization easier in the long term:

Save Time and Money

When your source code uses a single standard, you have lower development costs and can reduce the time needed to launch a new version of your product. For example, when you want to update your app, you can make changes in the Unicode version to be able to use it worldwide.

In contrast, if you use various character sets, you’ll have to make multiple updates, one for each version. This increases the chances of bugs and human errors.

Easy to Integrate

Most operating systems, languages, and databases support Unicode, so your app or website will easily integrate with other products available on the market. IBM, Microsoft, HP, Sun, Oracle, and SAP all work with Unicode. Likewise, Java, JavaScript, XML, and Perl are Unicode-based.

Enhanced User Experience

The exchange of text and data is easier with Unicode, as you won’t have problems with data conversion when you need to use specific characters. Your users won’t have to deal with incomprehensible characters, no matter what language they speak. This way, you provide an enhanced user experience, with less effort and without additional costs.

Invest in a Flexible Design and Powerful Colors

Any product that is destined to go on the international market needs to have a UX design that is flexible enough to support multiple languages down the line. Some languages require as much as 35-40% more space. So, having enough room for text expansions is essential.

The opposite can occur as well where you have less text after translation. So, your web or app layout should be flexible enough to allow for any type of movement.

Furthermore, colors are just as important during localization. Choosing the right tones is not an exact science as we all associate colors with different emotions. Red is exciting, blue is dependable and orange is generally cheerful. But, meanings vary not only from one culture to another, but also within the same community based on gender, age, and education.

For instance, a study called “What We Know about Consumers’ Color Perception” revealed that colors can change a client’s attitude towards a certain product and influence their decision to buy, their perception of the brand, and even the likelihood of repeat business. Therefore, it’s important to choose colors that truly represent your brand.

In order to manage a unique global image, try to integrate them as much as possible into your marketing localization strategy. It’s no surprise that most brands decide to keep their colors intact in all markets. In fact, colors increase brand recognition by up to 80%. Coca Cola, for example, changed its name for the Chinese market, but they kept their brand colors. Evernote went for the same strategy.

Uber, on the other hand, decided to change the rules and came up with 65 local color palettes in a unique localized design strategy! This strategy certainly paid off, as Uber now registers over 93 million monthly active riders worldwide.

Pay Attention to Local Formats

Everything you miss could become a good reason for a potential customer to choose another product instead of yours. No matter how great your marketing localization strategy is, your product doesn’t have a chance if it lacks consistency.

So, even if you manage to create an inviting app description that boosts your downloads, users will uninstall it immediately if its content is badly localized. Here, it’s important to pay attention to:

Currencies and payment methods

A survey by PayPal conducted in 2018 shows that 76% of potential customers prefer to shop in a local or their own currency. Nearly half said that they’d not feel comfortable paying in a foreign currency.

Systems of Measurement

Most non-English speaking countries use the metric system and no one likes to waste time converting inches and gallons.

Address Formats

They usually vary from one country to another, so make sure you add or remove fields every time you localize for a new language. National conventions for writing telephone numbers vary too.

So, if you know your app will ask for these details from your customers, you’d better redesign to make this step as easy as possible.

Decimal and Thousands of Separators

Decimal and thousands of separators should be adapted for each country, as they vary in some cases. In fact, the US and the UK are some of the few countries that use the comma to separate groups of thousands. Most countries use the decimal separator.

Name Formats

Respecting local politeness and formality is essential, so make sure you set the name format right. In some countries, the family name is written first, while in other cases it’s common for a person to have multiple family names. Allow users to enter punctuation and names with spaces, and make sure your fields are large enough to accept long names.

Choose the Right Marketing Localization Strategy

The international marketing environment is all about diversity. You’ll have to deal with different cultures, legal systems, and varying speeds of economic development. Success in one market doesn’t always guarantee global sales. Customers are different wherever you go, and so are their purchasing habits.

So, if you want to get ahead of your competitors (both local and global), you’ll need to modify your marketing language to resonate with a higher number of users. You can go about marketing localization in a couple of ways. Either develop a standard global marketing strategy to use all over the world (not recommended) or come up with a customized strategy for each new market.

While standardizing your marketing efforts will save you costs in the short term, you run the risk of not connecting with your target market. This is especially risky when you consider expanding your business to diverse markets, like China or Russia. A standard marketing campaign will have different results, depending on the country, as people don’t respond to the same stimulus in the same way.

To illustrate, one of the most well-known brands to try standard marketing campaigns is Coca-Cola. But even they had to switch from global to local to increase their market share in some countries. Adapting your marketing strategy to local standards (marketing localization) will help potential customers identify themselves with your brand.

Here, the trick is to build every local message in line with your brand image. Create a style guide for all your local marketing specialists. McDonald’s, for example, manages to maintain a unique global image, while at the same time localizing their marketing efforts. They’ve diversified their marketing message, products, and even recipes to gain a greater global foothold.

Marketing localization is more efficient because it allows you to keep up with your local competitors. Don’t forget they have the advantage of knowing how to tailor their messages to reach their audience. Your initial costs will be higher, in terms of research, design, and development, but get the message right, and your investment will pay off.

There’s nothing worse than launching a perfectly localized website or app, only to have it fly under the radar due to poor marketing localization.

Work On Your App’s Name

If you’re localizing an app for different markets, you’ll have to consider changing its name when you launch into new markets. That can be hard, especially when you’ve invested a lot in your app’s current name. Coming up with a new one may not be what you had in mind when you decided to go global.

However, just because your name has positive connotations in one country, it doesn’t mean it will work everywhere. If your product has an invented name, it may be easier to launch in almost any new market just the way it is. As long as you check that the name (or pronunciation of it) doesn’t have any negative meanings in your target market. But, if your app name actually means something – like “jogging” or “pregnancy,” you’ll either have to come up with a new one or opt for name translation.

Either way, do your research well before you choose a name in order to avoid confusion or undesired outcomes. The list of companies to fail at localization is long. In many cases, a lack of research is the main culprit. Nokia, for example, failed to research their market before launching its Lumia phone line. They found themselves selling a product with a name that means “prostitute” in Spanish slang!

Most apps usually have short names, composed of one or two easy to pronounce words that explain the object and functionality of the product. Try to remain authentic but clear at the same time.

That said, make sure the name is not already registered by another business in your target country. It’s never a pleasant experience to find out after weeks invested in creating logos and slogans that your name’s been already taken!

Enhance Your Marketing Localization Strategy with Visuals

Ninety percent of the information that reaches our brains is visual. So, you need great images to sell, no matter what countries you localize for. By optimizing visuals, you can grab your audiences’ attention easier, regardless of whether you rely on Google Play to your online shopping site.

Strong images can have a strong emotional impact on us, so they can increase your number of downloads and sales when used properly. They will encourage more engagement and get users to spend more time in your app or on your website.

So, make sure you localize all your visuals to maximize impact. Don’t expect Asians to react to photos you’ve used in your European marketing campaign. People can’t identify themselves with something they don’t understand, so pick photos and videos that you can easily integrate into your local messages.

In contrast, avoid religious symbols and anything that might be offensive. Review your screenshots for any unintended meaning. If you’re selling a localized version of your product, make sure your customers see it right from the beginning. Otherwise, you risk losing potential users unimpressed by untranslated texts or irrelevant maps or images.

Hire Local ASO/SEO Experts

Content optimization is important, especially when you’re focusing on marketing localization. Titles, slogans, descriptions, texts; you should make most of them to increase your ranking in app stores and search engines.

For instance, Apple doesn’t search app descriptions, so don’t waste time integrating keywords if you only localize for the App Store. Google Play, on the other hand, does. So, you should optimize your app description to obtain a better ranking.

A word of warning, though. Keyword stuffing won’t bring you success. Write a captivating description for people, not for search engines. If you’re localizing for countries with hundreds of Android app stores, like China, you should consider each store’s policy when writing your texts. This way, you’ll get the maximum advantage from every character you use.

Nevertheless, whether you want to improve your website or blog SEO or you want to work on your app store optimization (ASO), always work with local experts for optimum results. Translating keywords is not enough. Language dynamics vary and sometimes people give different meanings to the same words.

First and foremost, find the keywords your target market uses to search in each country and integrate them to optimize your content. Then examine traffic, edit and adjust your keywords if necessary, and periodically analyze the results. Ignoring the competition is bad for business, so take time to check what keywords they use to attract audiences.

Local developers know the market better than you do, so getting some inspiration from them could prove invaluable, especially when you’re entering a new country. Your additional content should also be optimized, so your product is easy to find by search engines.

Similarly, note that not all internet users go to Google when looking for something online. Make sure to optimize for Bing and Yahoo as well. And if you’re launching in Russia or China, get ready to learn more about Yandex and Baidu, the popular search engines in these countries.

This may seem like new stuff if you’ve only worked with Google until now, but it’s nothing a local expert can’t do.

Local Content Beats a Standard Global Strategy

When carrying out your marketing localization, you must also think about what content you’re going to use. Having great marketing content is essential when you’re looking to capture market share, as it will help you build brand awareness.

It’s not just about sending a message in the right language, but about reaching real people using a voice your potential customers can understand. The best strategy, if you’re looking for optimization, is a mix of translated and localized.

It would be impossible to come up with original content for each country and still stay within budget. Still, you can’t reduce your content marketing strategy to translations and adapted slogans either. So, how much should you translate?

It all depends on revenues and cost-efficiency. Analyze each market individually and decide based on their specific characteristics. Translating English content into other European languages helps, but this strategy won’t pay off in China. People there have almost no interest in products that aren’t directly related to their country.

Introducing local content allows you to target messages, so don’t just consider costs when deciding between translations and localized content. Try to see the entire picture before deciding for one way or another. And don’t be afraid to change strategy if you don’t get the results you wanted.

Adapt Prices to Local Markets

A full marketing localization process implies adapting prices too. Succeeding in emerging markets is about adapting your product to local requirements. What may seem like an affordable app in the US or in Northern Europe can easily be seen as too expensive in Eastern Europe or South America.

Things get even harder when a local competitor provides a similar product for less or, in some cases, for free. If you’re exclusively making and selling iOS apps, you may not encounter these difficulties, as generally, Apple users tend to spend more. Android users, on the other hand, are more careful when purchasing apps.

So, adjusting prices can help you increase downloads and sales. If you’re planning to launch your app in a country where people aren’t willing to spend much, why not create a simplified version that potential clients can test free of charge?

Alternatively, you can adapt your price to include discounts. No one can refuse a bargain! This way you’ll also create interest for your app in people who wouldn’t usually be able to afford your products.

Go Social

Social media is still key to reaching huge audiences, so take advantage of their potential to connect with your public. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, each of these channels can be a great source of new customers.

In addition, social media can help you build a human image for your brand because it allows you to connect directly with your users and create a community around your product. You can attract more traffic, increase brand awareness and even reward your users for purchasing your products.

This is the best way to get positive reviews which means a higher ranking in the app store and search engines alike. Similarly, social media gives you the opportunity to improve your customer service based on direct feedback from your users.

But, you need to pay attention to what people write about you. Bad reviews spread like wildfire and can harm your company’s reputation. Always respond promptly to messages and never let negative feedback go unnoticed. If you’re responsible for a client’s complaint, contact them directly and apologize, or provide solutions to their problem.

Since you’d need to keep costs under control, avoid investing the same amount of resources into all social media channels. Analyze each market and prioritize depending on local trends. Facebook is one safe way to gain visibility almost everywhere, whereas Twitter is less popular in some European countries. Likewise, consider a YouTube channel or a TikTok account to connect to a younger demographic.

A particular exception to the rule is China, where “traditional” social media are not even present. The Chinese prefer their local networks and you should adapt to their habits if you want to be seen. WeChat is the most popular social media platform in China with over 1 billion users, so it’s a good starting point for your marketing localization strategy.

Test and Ask for Local Feedback on Your Marketing Localization Effort

Testing is essential before launching an app. Use local A/B testing teams to get relevant feedback and make all changes before publishing your app in stores. This is the only way to provide an optimum user experience.

If you don’t factor in time for running tests and fixing bugs and translation errors, you’ll lose more clients than you can afford. Your marketing localization efforts will be worthless if your product doesn’t meet expectations. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so don’t risk an entire launch campaign only to meet a self-imposed deadline.

Always Improve

Globalization has brought more business opportunities, but also stiffer competition. That means if you aren’t serving up what your users expect, your competition certainly will. App markets may be different from one country to another, but they share two characteristics: they’re dynamic and crowded.

Millions of apps are downloaded in app stores and a few hundred new products launched every day. Standing out from the competition is hard work and requires ongoing work. This includes updates, new features, and improved versions to keep up with the latest technologies.

Not only that, but you need to stay one step ahead if you want to hold your own with the competition. Optimizing the full marketing localization process may seem overwhelming, but it’s a continuous process with a certain amount of trial and error.

Keep track of your movements in each local market, recycle what you can to reduce costs, and encourage your local teams to communicate to improve your global and local strategy.

Remember, the work you put in today will come back to you tenfold in increased sales, global market share, and greater brand recognition in the future.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to go at it alone. At Phrase, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide specifically designed for marketing teams to launch strong marketing localization strategies each and every time.

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