Customers expect a lot from a company, especially when the market offers them a variety of choices, so finding a way to stand out is essential for survival. Localization is an integral part of a customer-first mindset that can help a brand push ahead of the competition. However, localization is not a single-step process, and it has not been immune to the changes that have affected almost every other aspect of business around the globe, including shifting economies, emerging technologies and the changing role of content and marketing in people’s daily lives. For many companies, proper localization is a difficult and nebulous goal.
While the benefits of localization are apparent to most savvy marketers, it can be challenging for brands to shift from a global mindset and break away from the need for centralization and consistency. This difficult-to-navigate shift, from international to local, has made many companies either undervalue or under-commit to localization efforts. I have seen firsthand how the different values put on localization can greatly affect the end value of a venture.
What Is Localization?
Localization means preparing your business for presentation to a new target market, typically in a new region; you are making your product or content more accessible to a new audience.
As CEO of a translation company that has successfully expanded into multiple regions and continents, I have seen localization issues from both sides. I regularly interact with businesses looking to accomplish some form of localization and I want to address three aspects of localization that I think are either regularly overlooked or not yet fully understood by other small-business owners. By looking at these three elements, we can get a better idea of localization, its importance and what it looks like in practice today.
These are three critical trends and lessons regarding localization that I have found increasingly relevant to small business owners.
1. Localization is more than translation.
A common mistake I see during localization is the assumption that the translation of a web page or app is all you need to do — that localization and translation are more or less synonymous.
Localization is also about adapting your business’s overall presentation, tone and customer interaction methods. This requires a comprehensive understanding of the targeted culture’s attitudes, ethics and beliefs and using this information to inform the way you operate and present yourself in this new region. Language is only one part of this complex puzzle.
Your new market may not speak a different language, but this does not mean you should skip other aspects of localization. Taking a product from the U.K. into the U.S. will still require you to adjust your sales methods and tactics.
2. Localization is a great tool for e-commerce.
E-commerce is becoming increasingly competitive, especially as more and more people shop online during the Covid pandemic. The internet is growing at an average of over 600,000 new users every day. More users and more sites mean more competition in a market, but not every market is growing at the same rate, and the world is rife with opportunity.
An efficient process for developing a site, service staff, marketing materials and other critical aspects of your product for a specific region or population group can help you penetrate markets well before your competitors. A good localization plan is part of this process, allowing you to promptly take advantage of emerging markets and diversify your income streams. As recent events have shown, there is no guarantee that any particular economy will be open and functioning from month to month.
This isn’t just an e-commerce concept. The better you localize, the more relevant and desired by the target demographics you will be; in turn, this will help you stay competitive in these markets as they grow and expand.
Personalization and localization are also essential tools for staying competitive online when it comes to going up against local brands. Local brands often get preferential treatment and are more readily trusted by customers. With proper localization, you can negate these advantages.
3. Personalization and localization can and should overlap.
While it is obvious that you should plan some form of localization when you move into a new country, localization can also be done on much smaller scales. For example, there are up to 24 different dialects of American English, split up into three major regions. Each of these regions may be an opportunity to adjust your headlines, body copy and even imagery to better fit your audience.
Personalizing your content for customers is becoming increasingly important in marketing, and localization is simply one aspect of a comprehensive approach to customer journey personalization. Anytime you are creating new content or a new site, you should ask yourself if localization would make this content more effective. You may begin to find your workflow changing to accommodate this slight shift in strategy and goals.
Localization Is Key To Staying Competitive
Personalization is becoming a critical aspect of competition for many industries, and localization heavily overlaps with, and enhances, most ideas of content personalization. Localizing your content for not just overseas markets but also smaller demographic segments within the areas you already operate in can be a fantastic way to keep your brand competitive and expanding for years to come.