Translation and Localization: The Keys to Global Expansion
Global expansion is not just for the largest international corporations. Whether you’re a marketer at a high-tech company with thousands of employees, or a designer making artisan jewelry in your spare bedroom, expanding your global reach will increase your potential revenue.
Why Go Global?
The fundamental reason to enter new local markets is to reach new customers. More customers mean more purchases. But it’s not quite as straightforward as that. Customers in different regions are affected by different market forces. Investing in multiple markets means that a single natural disaster or major economic shift is less likely to hit you hard, so there is less risk to your business.
Since COVID-19, this is truer than ever. Stay-at-home orders, school and business closures, and reprioritization of resources mean that almost every industry has experienced unexpected changes to demand or the supply chain.
But consumers are also buying online more than ever, with e-commerce now accounting for 16.1% of all U.S. sales, up from 11.8% in the first quarter of 2020. If they can’t browse at the corner store anyway, people have decided they might as well buy from a company that’s on the other side of town, or even the other side of the world. For you, this means a bigger potential market and diversified risk, but it also means more competition. So you need to be smart about going global.
Expansion Strategy: Globalization vs. Localization
Of course, you don’t start a journey across the world without a plan, and your global business expansion needs a strategy too. The two most common approaches are globalization and localization.
Globalization is making your product and your content as universal as possible. This sounds efficient, and it can be a good option for companies with simple products or businesses in the early stages of global expansion. But as international revenues grow, localization can actually take you further.
Localization involves tailoring your offerings to individual local markets by carefully targeting products, services, and marketing messages. The world’s biggest brands all localize to meet market needs. Rather than relying on the same business model in each country, they make local adjustments based on their brand and the services they provide.
Localization is more than just Translation
The first step of localization is usually translation. But that only takes care of your content’s language. To really resonate with local audiences, the content itself needs to be adapted, not just translated directly. This requires market research to understand how different cultures relate to your brand and use your products. Once you’ve done this, you can adapt everything from currency and time zone information, to idioms, images, and service packages.
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How Localizing Your Funnel Helps Global Expansion
Thorough localization ensures that your customers can find you, trust you, and visualize themselves using your products or services. All of these will have a direct impact on your conversion rates and ROI.
For example, marketing materials or ads with pictures of Scandinavians will make you look out of touch in Southeast Asia. If you want to sell snow gear in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas references won’t make sense. And if customers can’t figure out how much it will cost in their local currency to ship your product to their address, they’re likely to join the 70% of online shoppers who abandon their carts mid-checkout.
But if you do all of this right, your information will be easily accessible, your content at all points in the funnel will be culturally relevant, and your purchase process will be easy to navigate. In short, you’ll have created a great user experience. Making it comfortable for customers to do what you want them to do will contribute directly to your global performance.
Entering Local Markets on the Right Foot
Translating your website and product packaging is a good start, but don’t stop there. Make sure you’ve taken into account all of your marketing and product collateral. This includes blogs, onboarding and confirmation messages, and tutorials, in addition to off-site content like native and social ads, reviews, app store pages, and social media accounts. If your customers can sign up or search through your products in their local language, they shouldn’t suddenly find themselves stuck in a different language. So, you may also need to find ways to handle customer support and social media locally. As you review all your content and customer interaction points, there are a few localization elements to consider:
- Translation Quality – This includes accuracy, correct spelling, and grammar, as well as consistent terminology and tone of voice.
- Technical Information – Shipping details, addresses, hours, currencies, phone numbers, and product availability should all be local.
- SEO – Local websites should be optimized for keywords that are the most popular and relevant locally, not just translations of popular keywords from the original market.
- Images – Pictures should show local ethnic diversity, local landscapes, architectural styles, and fashions. They also need to take into account cultural sensitivities about modesty and professionalism.
- Cultural Nuance – This is relevant for both the text translation and images, but you should also consider whether the brand voice, marketing funnel, and pricing resonate locally. For example, local norms may demand more formality, fewer sales emails, or packages designed for smaller budgets.
3 Tools for Getting Localization Right
Three primary resources can help you ensure successful, cost-effective localization:
The more you understand the needs of the local market, the better you can target them. This includes SEO research, purchasing patterns, and cultural norms.
Tools like Neural Machine Translation (NMT) technology can help with large-scale localization projects involving many different local markets. It can be especially helpful when you’ll need to update content automatically on multiple platforms and local sites. On a local level, make sure you’re using the payment and media platforms that are accessible and popular locally.
Local expertise is critical. Build a team that includes native-speaking, industry-specific authorities, or outsource to a language service provider like One Hour Translation. Make sure they’re familiar with the dialect and culture of the particular region in which you’re operating.
Building a Foundation for a Multimarket Strategy
Strong localization and accurate translation are the groundwork for successful international growth. If you can achieve this, you’ll capture your audiences and keep them loyal for the long haul. Relevant content that resonates locally is the key to a strong brand image and maximum revenue. Start with translating and localizing your ads – once you improve your CTR in a particular region, you’ll be able to pull them into your localized funnel and increase conversions exponentially.