Whether you’re just starting out in the global marketplace or looking to expand into other markets to obtain a more international audience, planning for localization is necessary if you want to succeed. It’s important to realize that localization is not the same as translation — although it’s an integral part of it. Localization moves beyond basic translation to enhance a user interface at the cultural level.
It’s not just what you’re saying; it’s how you’re saying it.
Having a solid localization plan will keep everyone on your team on the same track – web designers, developers, marketers, business strategists, localization partners.
What Is a Localization Plan?
A localization strategy refers to your overall plan for adapting your offerings, messages, and online content to new targeted countries and markets. Planning for localization involves taking into account each market’s language, culture, and social norms so that your messages resonate with your local customers and prospects. Your targeted population should feel that you’re directly connecting with them in a personal, relatable, and natural way as if your business were a local business. Any localization strategy should consider:
- Which countries and markets to target.
- The culture of the targeted markets.
- Purchasing behaviors of your targeted consumers.
- Preferred payment options in your target market.
Here are four tips to assist you in planning for localization:
1. Humanize Your Translation and Localization Efforts
Effective localization means developing trust as you enter a new market. You might think that a few grammatical or idiomatic errors are no big deal, but you may risk offending your potential customers (never a good idea!) and also losing their trust. They can tell whether you care about them or not by how your website is designed, translated, and localized.
Cultural norms, nuances, and expectations matter. Let’s take honorifics, for example. How you greet your prospective customers and interact with them matters. For instance:
- Japan: It’s important to use the right honorific for whomever you are addressing.
- Mexico: Do your forms have enough space for double first and last names?
Similarly, you should pay attention to how you expect your customers to pay for their purchases. Credit/debit cards and bank transfers can work in different ways in other countries. For example:
- Credit cards aren’t widely used in Germany.
- PayPal won’t work in Bangladesh.
2. Anticipate Localization Needs During Design and Development
Ideally, planning for localization should begin before the design phase. Successful localization aims to make your audience feel that your business is coming from their local market. This starts with empathetic design. Your website should be designed with other languages in mind. For example:
- Translating from English into German can result in a 20-35% text expansion.
- English to Swedish can result in a 20-35% text contraction.
- Asian languages such as Japanese and Korean expand vertically when translated from English.
- Some languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic, are written right-to-left.
Your web designer should determine if the design needs to be changed to suit different locales before a single line of code is even written.
3. Document Your Brand
Your localization planning should align with your brand. The best way to ensure this is by documenting everything to do with your brand and marketing strategy. If you don’t already have a style guide, you should create one. It should include the following information:
- Your tone of voice – is it formal, friendly, or somewhere in between?
- The personality of your company – what would it be like if it were a person?
- Common terms, phrases, and acronyms pertaining to your company and/or industry and their meanings.
- Specific conventions and grammar to avoid, e.g., contractions.
- List of competitors you like or dislike and why.
Translators will make use of your style guide to ensure their work reflects your brand. Often multiple translators are likely to work on a single project, so you need to make certain everyone is on the same page.
Consideration should also be given to how your brand will translate in a foreign market. You want translators to be able to see how cultural differences can be taken into account without changing whatever it is that makes your brand special.
You also need to document your website structure and any best practices with respect to mobile versus desktop coding and browsing. Different markets don’t engage with the internet in the same way, so pay attention to how you want your brand identity to look and feel everywhere.
4. Involve Your Whole Team
Planning for localization should include training on aspects of your new markets, along with how to use the localization tools you choose. Your entire team needs to be part of your localization planning, including:
- Designers, so they can design defensively and choose culturally relevant images.
- Developers, so they have an understanding of the code implications for different languages.
- Marketers, so they can design campaigns that work across a variety of markets.
- Product managers, so they can stay on top of deadlines.
- Business leaders, so they are able to understand how localization can fit into their overall perspectives.
Planning for Localization – Case Study: Coca-Cola
Few brands have obtained the global status of Coca-Cola. You can order a “Coke,” a “Cola,” or a “Coca,” depending on where in the world you are drinking. The company’s localization strategy is two-fold:
- At the product level, each version of Coca-Cola is a little different due to bottling in-country and adjustments for local taste preferences. Each country uses a formula, packaging, and messaging that works best in their country.
- At the packaging level, slogans remain simple and personalized. The emphasis is on universally understood words like “Enjoy,” “Happiness,” and “Sharing,” which can be easily translated and localized to other cultural norms.
Planning for Localization – Case Study: Starbucks
Starbucks creates each menu with local items to suit the taste preferences of each country. Partnering with local coffee companies enables them to change the formulas and packaging to ones that make the most sense for the local market. Here are a couple of examples of the coffee company’s successful localization pertaining to its local premises:
Milan: In a country famous for good coffee, Starbucks chose to locate in a well-known building instead of placing a new store in the center of a historic district. Working within the local culture enabled Starbucks to enter the Italian market successfully.
Japan: Starbucks hired local designers to incorporate local elements into their stores, including traditional craftsmanship and facades that blend in with the local tea houses and shops. Although tea is the preferred drink in Japan, Starbucks was able to easily enter the Japanese market.
Execute Your Localization Strategy with Localize
Localize’s translation management system makes it easy for you to automate your translation and localization processes. We can help you put your localization planning into effect – all on one platform. Take advantage of an automated system, workflow transparency, and seamless project delivery with Localize. Sign up for a free trial today.