Are you keen to take your product global? Then you will need a sound strategy to move ahead. Your product will have to be interesting and useful to new foreign audiences, and you will need the right tools to make sure that your product reaches them in a way that entices them.
This is where product localization comes in.
In this blog, we offer you a detailed overview of what product localization entails and the vital building blocks it consists of. We will also offer you our top 7 strategies to help you go global with confidence!
What Is Product Localization?
A product localization strategy refers to the linguistic, cultural, and technical changes you make to make your product appealing to your potential new customers. This way, you offer them something that they need and that connects with their expectations of what the product should be. This includes, first and foremost, supporting the local languages of your audiences. But also, brand names, colors, taglines, references, and so on, to fit their cultural preferences and sensibilities. Letâs focus on some key elements that define product localization. We will offer you some striking examples of brands that get it right and expand on why every element is of value to you.
Linguistic And Cultural Localization
Product localization involves getting the language and the cultural adaptation of your product just right. You want your new audience to connect with your product and make them feel like it was created just for them.Linguistic localization refers to the translation of all content into your potential new customersâ native language. These translations require different levels of expertise and specialization depending on the industry and content types. Translating instruction manuals, for example, will require great precision and a linguist with technical experience in the subject matter at hand.When we are talking about cultural adaptation, we mean that the product will need to be adapted in such a way that it resonates with your audience and causes no offense, from words to colors.Letâs look at Starbucks as an example. The US-based multinational coffeehouses and roastery reserves chain has pushed for global expansion and boasts a 31 billion USD global revenue in 2022.1 Their famous green mermaid logo is known to most of us and has been reused in many nations. However, there were certain instances when the company saw fit to make some changes to accommodate the local culture. For example, in Saudi Arabia, the topless mermaid figure was deemed inappropriate, and the logo was replaced with a white crown floating in the ocean.2
Global Product Branding
So, what about your branding? Product Branding refers to the way you manage your products in different regions of the world, while still giving your brand a consistent personality in all the markets that it operates. In short, it lies at the very heart of what localization is all about.Letâs look at Starbucks as an example once more. Beyond changing its image to be more appropriate in certain markets, the company also played around with its name and color schemes to not only adapt but also blend into a new market, respecting local customs.In Japan, for example, Starbucks has opened a shop in the historical town of Kyoto. However, here we donât see the trademark green mermaid in a modern and sleak-designed building. We see what looks like a traditional Japanese tea shop with an updated logo that is altogether more subdued and serene, fitting in perfectly with the town.
The brand has always experimented with its logo and has once even dropped the name from the design with an eye on global expansion.3 The decision to drop the name was announced in the same year as the company announced that new leadership would reform the brand. And we can see that according to the companyâs timeline, 31 stores have been opened in new locations around the world between 2011 and 2020.4
Your product will have to be linguistically and culturally potent, but it should also be free of bugs and run smoothly in any language you translate into. This is where technical localization comes in.Technical localization refers to the process of modifying a product to boost its functionality in a new locale. If you are trying to introduce certain appliances into a new marker, for example, you will need to confirm which plug is used locally.
If you are planning on taking your software to new markets, you will need to confirm the compatibility with locally preferred operating systems. For example, in China, Android is the most popular mobile operating system with a 77% share,5 and for desktops, Windows tops the list with 85%.6
UI and UX Localization
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) are of vital importance for any multilingual digital product you intend to launch. You want to make the visuals appealing to your new market and make sure that your product is aesthetically pleasing. But beyond that, you also want to present the correct units of measure, date formats, currencies, phone numbers, and so on. And you want your system to run smoothly and bug-free.Here, it is important to note that with UI and UX localization, technical precision matters greatly. And when it comes to localizing software, applications, or websites, you will find that this process can get complex and produce many errors unless the correct steps, such as internationalization, are taken beforehand.
You can experience issues with character set differences across different languages, errors related to left-to-right and right-to-left direction languages, issues with text readability after localization, and illustrations that need to be adapted to the local market efficiently. But we will expand more on this later!
Price and Payment Localization
eCommerce had already been growing steadily for some time, but since the pandemic, it has become a new way of life for many people. A way of life that stuck! The eCommerce market is booming, and global eCommerce sales are projected to reach 5.5 trillion worldwide by the end of 2022.7In order to take advantage of this, you will have to make sure that the buyerâs journey is respected for any market you intend to introduce your process to, and this includes payment methods. It may surprise you to learn that preferences in payment methods still vary widely depending on the country. And if you want to build trust with your customers, you will make sure that you offer them the payment options they are comfortable with. In China, for example, the three major payment methods are WeChat Pay, UnionPay, and Alipay.8 In Latin America, 80% of online payments are still done in installments.9 Even in European countries where you expect everyone will just whip out a credit card, the preferences may surprise you. In Germany, for example, online payment options and debit/credit cards are popular, but ranking in second place with 57% are invoice payments.10
When you are localizing your product for a new audience, you will likely need to do so for a lot of different content types. One of the most complex localization services is multimedia localization. Multimedia localization can involve subtitling translation, voice-over, videos, captioning, transcription, images, and so on.Using visuals can significantly boost your productâs success and engagement with your brand, and it should definitely be a part of your expansion strategy. In fact, according to a recent survey by Wyzowl, 88% of people have been convinced to buy a product or request a service by watching a company’s video, and 94% of video marketers said that videos have helped increase a userâs understanding of their product.11
Pro Tip! Learn more about multimedia localization in our blogs Multilingual Voice-Over: Get In On the Action, Multilingual Voice-Over: How To Get It Loudly Right, and Machine Subtitling: Automation To Support Large Subtitling Productions
Marketing localization involves the linguistic and cultural adaptations of any material you will use to promote your business, services, and brand. This can include campaigns, advertising, social media, newsletters, and so on.When it comes to localizing marketing campaigns for a new market, it is vital that you speak with your potential new clients not just in their language, but also in a way that truly connects with them. Take this H&M Campaign for the clothing storeâs chains in Amsterdam. In this video, H&M connects the ambiance and traits of Amsterdam with its own services and also includes a Dutch voice-over artist.
When you are presenting your product to an international audience, you may need to adapt your packaging to fit local standards as well. We say âmayâ, because while you should keep cultural references in mind, you have to make sure that you understand what to localize, and what to keep as it is. It is possible that your brand may already have some level of familiarity with international audiences, so you may not need to change every detail.Coca Cola, for example, may have been invented in the late 19th century and its red and white logo is now as famous and recognizable as the drink itself, but the brand still manages to reinvent itself in small but highly effective ways. When localizing its bottles and packaging for international audiences, they do not change the red and white as it is so unique to them. Instead, they find new ways to tweak the packages to meet local preferences. The Share a Coke campaign, first launched in Australia in 2011, is a great example. The idea was simply: to select 150 of the most popular names in the country and put them on the bottle so people can buy them as a personalized gift idea. âThis is the first time in its 125-year history that Coca-Cola has made such a major change to its packaging and the limited edition bottles are expected to fly off shelves as people search for their friendâs names,â a company representative stated.12 In fact, the campaign was so successful, that two years later, the campaign was expanded into new countries with successful local adaptations in countries such as China and Denmark.
Pro Tip! Packing Localization involves more than just adapting the language and colors to new markets. There are also crucial steps involved in terms of legislation and meeting legal demands. Learn more about it in our blog Product Packaging or Product Listing Localization: What They Are And What You Need
7 Product Localization Strategies That Will Help You Gain A Global Customer-Base
So, we have given you a range of examples of brands approaching certain facets of product localization in an intriguing and innovative manner. But how can you build yours? Here are our top 6 tips on how you can get started and make it big!
1. Research Your Target Audience
If companies such as Starbucks and Coca-Cola have taught us anything, it is that knowing your audience is key. You will need to understand exactly who you will be targeting, what their preferences are, and if there are any cultural considerations you should take into account. After all, the last thing you will want to do is alienate your potential new clients.This is why you should conduct research into your target audience so you can determine your chance of success and isolate the methods that could prove most effective for you. While you can run tears in different ways, we highly recommend that you work with local experts who can help you dive deeply into this new territory you intend to expand into.
They will be able to offer you insights into the local competition. Insights like if there is a demand for your product, what the specific buying behaviors are (remember what we said about payment methods!), and which cultural sensitivities and preferences are vital to keep in mind.
2. Know What A Qualified Localization Professional Looks Like
Each industry will have its unique terminology and regulations, each language will have its linguistic idiosyncrasies, and each culture will have its preferences. And, as we have seen, product localization can involve highly technical adaptations as well. This is why it is so important that youâll find the right experts for your project. Here is what you should keep in mind!
- They should have years of professional experience in a specific subject matter. There are a lot of niche markets out there, and if the translator is highly trained in one of two of those niches, in particular, they will make the most intuitive choices.
- Speaking of making the best choices, translators should also reside in the target region. This way, they are consistently aware of their regionâs preferences and latest trends.
- Of course, translators arenât the only ones on the team. When it comes to localization engineers, they should understand how to solve complex problems in a creative way. It wonât just do to have the technical know-how to make a product run smoothly. Any roadblock that comes their way will have to be resolved as swiftly and effectively as possible. For example, have a look at How We Overcame Mobile Game Localization Challenges for Arabic
3. Build Your Localization Team
So, what kind of team should you put together? Will you want to connect with an LSP, or do you feel like youâd be more comfortable with a centralized approach? Whatever your choice will be, it is important to make this decision when in possession of all the facts.
So, which one is right for you, a centralized product localization department, or an LSP? Have a look at all the pros and cons!
|Pros of an LSP||Cons of an LSP|
|Pros of a centralized Product Localization department||Cons of a centralized Product Localization department|
In our section on technical and UI localization, we have already referenced internationalization, and now we will explore it a bit further. Internationalization occurs before the application, website, or any software becomes local. It will help you prepare your products for the localization process and avoid costly workarounds and errors that can commonly creep up. Implementing internationalization effectively will take some strategizing and involves some boxes that should always be ticked.
- To make localization for images run more smoothly, avoid hard-coding images and provide your translation partner with editable files.
- Take text expansion into account and leave room for more verbose languages. German, for example, can take up about 30% more space than English!
- If you are translating your content into a bidirectional language such as Arabic, add the markup that supports bidirectional languages to your DTD.
- When it comes to your developing and storing your strings in a way that makes localization a whole lot easier, make sure to enable Unicode and make sure that local formats such as local currencies, numbers, etc, are supported in your code.
Pro Tip! Learn more about internationalization and its place in the localization process in our blog Localization, Globalization And Internationalization: The What, The Why, And The How. We have also included a great case study that will help you develop a sound internationalization strategy!
5 . Use Translation Tools To Streamline Product Localization Process
So, how can quality be maintained, even when a tighter budget and timeline are at play? A large part of product localization comes down to selecting the right tools to optimize the translation and localization process. Letâs have a quick look at which ones they are, and why they matter so much!
- A Translation Management System (TMS) is used to automate certain parts of the translation process and ensure that all team members, including translators, localization engineers, and project managers, will be able to communicate efficiently.
- The TMS is fitted with a Translation CAT Tool, where a glossary (more on this below!) and Translation Memory (TM) are leveraged to boost both accuracy and efficiency. The TM saves all previously translated terms and reuses them when needed, meaning that accuracy is maintained and that you will also never have to pay for the same translation twice.
- Any stylistic preferences of your content such as tone and style should be outlined in a style guide.
Letâs look a bit more closely at this glossary! A Glossary is a list of terms specific to your brand and their approved translation. To avoid possible issues and to make sure that the glossary remains up to date, we highly recommend that:
- For static websites or apps, assess your glossaries once or twice annually.
- If you have dynamic content that changes constantly, this can be the case if you run an eCommerce platform, for example, consider reviewing the glossary once a month.
In order for the product localization to run more smoothly and for reworks to be avoided, we also recommend that you add comments and extra information to your glossary. At the least, every source term should include:
- A definition
- The part of speech (verb, noun, etc.)
- Variations, synonyms, and antonyms
- Visual references, if you have any
- And any notes that will provide the linguists with context
Pro Tip! The termbase can be created in an automated or manual way and will be introduced into the workflow through the CAT Tool. Learn more about the technical details involved in terminology management in our blog Terminology Management: The Way To Consistent And Qualitative Translations
6. Use Machine Translation Cautiously
So, what about the controversial topic of Machine Translation (MT)? You will often read that MT should not be used when you have a Product Localization project that is more technical in nature. While this is true, we have personally handled some highly technical projects with a service called Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE). When we received this project, which involved German technical translation for the automotive industry, we made sure to apply the correct type of MTPE to the content. MTPE will always involve a level of Post-Editing, but these are divided into two different types depending on the precision of the Post-Editing process. These are:
- Light Post editing where errors in grammar and spelling are corrected, and minimal edits are made
- Full Post Editing where grammar, spelling, as well as cultural references and style, are taken into account.
For highly technical content, we applied the full post-editing process. This way, our client was happy to receive the requested service, and we were able to provide the accuracy and precision that is required for technical translation. That being said, if we thought that MTPE would have undermined the quality of the work, we definitely would have recommended another course of action. Other content types such as marketing translation, involve such high levels of customization in each language, that MTPE might actually slow the translation process down.Still not sure which way to go? Have a look at the graph below. You will see that there are certain content types that will require higher accuracy and intuitive human touch, while others could benefit from MT or MTPE. When in doubt, consult your translation partner!
7. Testing And Quality Assurance (QA) Are The Golden Ticket
Any localization process should involve a high level of testing and QA. However, these are not services that appear at the end of the process. The best translation process has QA integrated throughout. This can be achieved with the above-mentioned tools, but also with the rigorous Translation, Editing, and Proofreading (TEP) Process that every translation project should adhere to.Beyond this, there are specific steps involving the QA process that are vital in ensuring qualitative product localization. These are the following.
- Linguistic QA: here, everything language-related such as spelling, grammar, tone, style, and so on, will be verified for quality and accuracy.
- Visual QA: the visual integrity of the product will be verified, which includes confirming all visuals are culturally appropriate, weeding out truncated content, and confirming all characters are displayed correctly.
- Functionality QA: this involves resolving any UX and UI issues, resolving text expansion errors, testing the productâs performance, and resolving coding issues.
- Compliance Testing: some software types may need compliance testing as well. In the EU, for example, all products must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).13
Pro Tip! Learn more about QA and testing for specific products in our blogs Website Localization Quality Assurance (QA): How To Get It Right, Software Localization Quality Assurance (QA): What Is It And Why Does It Matter?, and Game Localization Quality Assurance (QA): How To Go Multilingual With Confidence
A lot needs to happen before you get a perfectly localized product. Localization requires a strategy that involves human expertise as well as automated tools. It needs to follow best practices for every content type. And the ideal team will need to be put together to realize these goals and proper research will need to be conducted into each target locale.Eager to see how much your localization project will set you back? Request a quote!
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