Shifting to a Global Mindset: Overcoming the Challenge of Entering New Markets
The Important Aspects of Localization
There are good reasons why entering new global markets presents challenges even to the most experienced and sophisticated brands. Because our shared understanding of selling to new customers is often limited strictly to translation — meaning a one-to-one exchange between a source language and an equivalent target language — the complexities in shifting to a global mindset are sometimes taken for granted.
To clarify things, let’s consider a few important aspects of localization. Ideally, preparing your business to shift to a global mindset should be a strategic business goal that involves your entire organization. Keeping these best practices in mind can support you no matter where you are on your localization journey.
What is Localization?
Localization is an umbrella term encompassing the broad strategic actions and technical issues around presenting your business to a new market, typically in a new region and language. However, the focus on language often leads to a common misperception that translating content from one language to another is the result, or worse, that localization and translation are synonymous.
Language is a big part of the localization process, and translation has complex aspects that we’ll discuss below. It’s a powerful concept, so understanding its characteristics can help you overcome many hurdles in executing your expansion plan.
Support Localization Strategy with Metrics
Before we discuss the characteristics of a solid localization strategy, starting at the beginning is essential. Many localization experts agree that figuring out “how” localization is supposed to work is secondary to asking “why” you want to localize. Localization can achieve various business goals ranging from increasing revenue and improving brand recognition to enhancing competitiveness.
If a company’s leadership can agree on the business impact they hope to achieve through localization — and communicate the importance of localization to the broader company — success is much more likely.
Localization success can be measured by various metrics, including the following:
- Research about new markets. This requires identifying your target audience, really understanding their linguistic and cultural differences, and ensuring the availability of local resources and expertise availability.
- Percent of content localized. This is often part of a strategy to introduce a company’s products or services to a new market or region with as broad an impact as possible. It might also be part of a phased approach where some content is perceived as more important or in demand.
- Supported language revenue. This is revenue generated from markets, regions, or customers for whom localization is essential to sales. In which areas does your company make more money? Which languages are more popular with your customers?
- Increase in brand awareness and recognition. As Netflix began to focus more on series and movies based on locale and offer dubbing and subtitles for each region’s languages, the company was able to enter more markets that might have remained out of reach.
- Creation of competitive advantage. A localization strategy can help improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, generate word of mouth and local referrals, and give you an edge over competitors.
Tracking results will also help you with performance assessments as your program grows. Eventually, you can make direct connections between budgets, timelines, and deliverables to increase the metrics we referenced above.
Localization Isn’t Always Optional
There are many reasons to explore localization, and companies that invest the time and effort to plan and resource their programs often see results. But in some cases, localization isn’t just a lever to make sales — it’s a fundamental requirement for doing business.
Whether it’s commercial products that must come with service manuals and warranties or medical manufacturers obligated to meet exacting legal and compliance requirements, some businesses need a multilingual approach that only localization can solve.
The Importance of Preparation
Localization can be notoriously tricky to get right, but it can yield significant returns on investment when done well. Companies that rush to market with little or no planning or undervalue or under-resource their localization efforts often see repercussions down the road. Remember that localization means preparing your business for presentation to new markets, audiences, and customers. Making your product or content successful takes a lot of planning.
Localization is about adapting your business’s overall appearance, tone, and content to a new way of interacting with customers. Language alone doesn’t get the message across – it also takes knowledge about your target customers’ attitudes, culture, values, and communication methods. This takes research and, ideally, a language services partner with the expertise to guide your efforts.
There are also complex technical aspects to localization, which can be expensive and time-consuming to correct after the fact. Preparing your product or service for localization and incorporating localization best practices will always yield better results and a positive impression from local users than an ad-hoc process.
Learning How Language Behaves
For example, an average English sentence can require as much as 40 percent more horizontal space when it’s translated into German, and that’s without considering languages like Japanese or Korean that don’t use Latin alphabets or formatting. Even better examples emerge with languages like Hebrew or Arabic, which are read left to right.
Where language issues are often solved by a combination of human expertise and the right tools, language also affects the critical engineering process of internationalization. Internationalization examines products and content at the code level so workflows, tools, and translated text don’t go awry during translation. Localizing without preparing the code for translation can introduce problems such as incorrect address, date, time, and currency formats. The problem happens when a single issue that might be a minor bug in the original language multiplies exponentially as the product is localized into multiple languages.
On Tools, Technology, and Automation
If you get started on the right foot, the first challenge you’ll likely confront in localization is your success. Successful localization efforts that yield movement in the metrics discussed above will almost always produce demands for more localization. More demand inevitably leads to the need for technological solutions. That’s because any localization process can only be as robust and scalable as the processes and workflows that support it.
Professional language services companies employ so much technology to produce the best outcome between the nuanced translations provided by humans and the efficiencies that tools offer. Technology, including artificial intelligence (AI), neural machine translation (NMT), and workflow automation, provide multiple benefits, including faster time to market, lower costs, and higher translation volumes. Generally, the most efficient localization workflows integrate technology and automation to optimize processes for quality, deadlines, and budgets.
Two fundamental tools are game changers when it comes to localization. The first is a translation management system or TMS. A TMS helps organizations scale by centralizing communication and automating processes. It also allows all stakeholders to keep tabs on deadlines, stakeholders, budgets, and file transmission important to any localization project.
A second fundamental tool is a Translation Memory or TM. The TM is a database that stores previously translated content and allows you to reuse it when content is updated. The TM helps translate content faster while preserving quality and reducing costs.
On Teams and Partners
Internally, ensuring stakeholders have committed to localization as a foundational part of your business strategy is critical. Regarding logistics, a localization program may have only one or two team members. Still, the localization effort will cross every function in a company, from product development to legal to marketing.
Key responsibilities include the management of essential localization functions, such as coordinating with other departments and your language partner and monitoring timelines, quality, budgets, and workflows to ensure the localization process is running smoothly. Your team may also include specialists in marketing and design or developers and engineers, depending on your localization strategy and the type and volume of materials you are translating.
While large businesses might maintain their internal localization teams, most rely on language service providers. Your relationship with a language services partner is often defined by the level of services and technologies you need. Your language partner can recommend customized and automated solutions to free up your internal resources for other tasks. Most importantly, considering your language partner an extension of your internal team is the most effective way to open new markets and reach new audiences.
It All Begins with Planning
Localization is a complex process with multiple approaches, but considering the right factors before starting doesn’t have to be complicated. With planning, technology, and help from the experts at your language service partner, localization can be a positive result for your business and your global audiences.