There is great potential in expanding an e-commerce business into international markets. And, even in their own countries, businesses have a greater need to appeal to foreign-speaking communities, in this ever-increasing fluidity of population movement. While companies may think that just getting a good translation is enough, there is so much more to it than that. It’s called localization.
The overriding concept of localization is to make all of your content – your website, your blog, your social media networks, and all of your other marketing content – “feel” local to your target customers. Once you have satisfied all of the legal and compliance issues of doing business in a foreign locale, you now have the task of localizing that content, so that your target audience is fully comfortable with what they read and see. This is a huge challenge, and it entails many details.
- Localizing such things as how dates are written, time zone coordination, currency, localized payment options, etc. These re “housekeeping” tasks and easily accomplished.
- Localizing expressions, visuals, and other content, so that it is culturally appropriate and welcomed by your target audience. In short, your digital presence must demonstrate that you have an understanding of their values, beliefs, and mores and that you honor them. This is the larger challenge and it will probably require some expertise you may not have in-house.
In sum, localization is all that you must do beyond just translation to engage and establish relationships with a target foreign audience.
Why is Localization Important?
There are big benefits to be had if localization is done right, and some big drawbacks, and even reputational damage, if it is not. Even “big boys” have made serious mistakes as they attempted to market their products in foreign locales. Just a few of these include:
- Gerber Baby Foods launched its products in Africa with the same cute baby on the label. What it did not take the time to learn is that there is a large proportion of Africans who are illiterate. Food labels in Africa have pictures of what is insider the jar or can.
- Nike once had to recall thousands of shoes because it had used a decoration (supposed to resemble fire) that in fact looked like the Arabic word for Allah.
- Pepsodent Toothpaste launched a campaign in Vietnam, extolling the virtues of its product for keeping teeth wonderfully white. What it did not realize was that in this country, black teeth are considered normal and culturally valuable – a product of betel nut consumption. No one cares about white teeth.
So, what can you do to prevent such errors? First, you should use expertise that can be provided by a reputable translation service, such as The Word Point. When you use these types of services, you can expect to be assigned to a native of the target country/language who will not only translate all of your content, documents, and materials, but who will act as an advisor on localization, so that all of your marketing materials and company information are culturally and linguistically appropriate, as well as engaging.
Benefits of Localization
- Making Connections/Market Expansion
The obvious benefit is that you will make solid connections with your target audience. But let’s break these down into more precise benefits, and this is number one on the list of four benefits you will realize. Of course, your products must be ones they need, and your price must be locally acceptable. You must also have ease of shopping and shipping, but if done right, you will expand your market and, of course your ROI.
- Meeting/Beating the Competition
You will have competition both from native online companies and those from your own and other countries – all of you vying for a solid market share. You do not have much of a competitive edge over native companies, unless your product is superior and/or your price is better for the same quality. With other foreign companies, you have a greater chance of beating your competition, if your localization efforts are better than yours. And, if they are, you will attract a wider audience than they will. A lot of companies simply translate but fail to localize. Don’t be one of them.
- Satisfied Customers
When your site is fully localized, you have visitors and customers that feel comfortable accessing your content. Your reputation is established. And as trust is developed, they are far more inclined to make purchases. But, there is another part of localization that is just as important – customer service before, during, and after the sale. If you have done everything right, then you will have a customer service process and staff in place to handle all questions, issues, and needs your customers may have. Such service may include an answering service center of native speaking agents, a live chat line, manned by native speakers, and a method of email contact, with responses completed by natives as well.
- Reducing Risk of Failure
You have a business to run, product to manufacture, inventory to manage, and logistics to maintain. You have accounting and other financial administrative tasks. All of these things keep your business operating. Worrying about how you will be received by your foreign target audiences should not have to be a concern. You are using the expertise of those who understand localization and who have crafted all of it well. You can relax, knowing that all of your content and marketing materials will not be an embarrassment or cause damage that will have to be cleaned up.
Summing It Up
By now, you understand that translation and localization are not the same thing. And you also understand these things:
- Localization is absolutely critical if you are to establish the connections and relationships with your target foreign audience.
- Getting the expertise to localize correctly is not an option. You have to invest in this for both short- and long-term benefits. You will not have to spend time cleaning up errors and your reputation, if it’s right the first time.
- Great localization will give you the competitive edge you need, as you move into foreign markets.
The bottom line is this: Don’t scrimp on localization. You will pay a high price if you do.