Localization Insights
Localization Insights

Understanding the Power of Product Localization Strategy

Product localization is key to any brand thinking seriously about global growth. A piece of software, app, or online platform isn’t necessarily universal. It needs to be adapted to accommodate the unique cultural needs and language requirements of a new market. This can be as simple as translating technical text from one language into another. Other times, a more substantial rethink is called for. 

No matter how close to the original a localized product ends up being, the process involved in getting to that point is far from simple. A multi-stage localization strategy requires considerable time and investment, which can put a strain on smaller strains and overworked teams. However, it pays to prioritize product localization. A successful strategy can send user satisfaction levels soaring and significantly expand your customer base. Not sure where to start with assembling a product localization strategy? Our complete guide breaks down everything you need to know. 

Product localization strategy explained 

A product localization strategy involves adapting a product so it better appeals to a new market. The scope of the localization process varies. In some cases, only minor adaptations are called for. Other times, the localization effort is far more intensive, requiring extensive research into cultural nuances, norms, and values. Typically, the result is a product that’s largely unchanged from the original but now offers native appeal to a localized market.  

Localization can take many forms. Sometimes, potentially offensive colors are swapped out for something more sympathetic to the needs of a different culture. Colloquialisms can also be adapted for a new culture or territory, reducing the chance of international consumers feeling alienated and making them seem more familiar to a new market. 

The different approaches to product localization 

There are several types of product localization. Which one you use ultimately depends on what you’re offering consumers as you enter a new market. 

First, let’s take a look at cultural localization. Here, you’re adapting products so that they’re more in line with the cultural norms and expectations of a new market. Many content localization steps need to be undertaken here. You may need to adjust visuals for a new international marketing strategy or fine-tune text for an online platform. In fact, just about everything that might cause offense or be deemed inappropriate elsewhere in the world will need to be looked at and adjusted accordingly. 

Sometimes, a seemingly minor change can have major ramifications. For example, colors have wildly different connotations from one culture to the next. Regardless of how heavily your brand identity is tied to a particular shade, you’ll need to consider switching it to a new one to overcome any unwanted associations. 

There’s also linguistic localization. This is arguably one of the most straightforward approaches to product localization. Here, any text or imagery associated with your product is translated from one language into another. The process might be as simple as adapting UI elements into a customer’s language. Breaking into a foreign market with a new app? Linguistic localization can become a little more complicated. Along with localized content and rudimentary text translations, you may need to rethink the design of a user interface to ensure it meets the needs of a new audience. 

Finally, we have hardware and software customization. Adapting hardware and software for new markets is sometimes simple, but often complicated. In the case of software, linguistic localization will have gone some way in adapting it for a target market. However, there are plenty of under-the-hood elements to consider. Number and currency symbols, date and time formats, and language direction all require focus. Moving into a territory that uses a different operating system? Chances are you, you’ll need to make more than a few software changes to ensure optimal performance. 

Why product localization matters 

Think you can breeze into a new market without a proper product localization strategy? Think again. Many brands have made the mistake of assuming they were big enough to sideline product and marketing localization, with most of them falling foul of unimpressed markets. Need more convincing that product localization is pivotal to achieving success in a global market? Below are just a few of the ways product localization can enhance your brand and help you hit those international expansion objectives. 

Helps build your customer base 

Are too many competitors making it hard to establish your brand? Perhaps you’ve achieved success at home, but have long outgrown your current market. There’s only a finite number of customers in any territory, so you’ll need to think beyond borders if you want your business to continue to grow. With a robust localization strategy, you can easily tap into new markets and broaden your customer base. 

Without localization, it’s almost impossible to introduce consumers in other countries to your product. By adapting marketing messages to a new culture, you give your product the best chance at resonating with potential customers. In many cases, products themselves need to be adapted to appeal to new markets. No matter how well-established you are in one country, there’s no guarantee that you’ll secure the same success elsewhere. Once you’ve accommodated local preferences and enhanced the customer experience, you’re better positioned to emerge as a real competitor.

Increased ROI and happier customers 

When you invest in localization, you’re letting customers know you’re thinking about them. Consumers respond better to brands that invest time and money into localization. If nurtured, this consumer trust can become brand loyalty, providing you with invaluable word-of-mouth referrals as happy customers recommend you to friends, colleagues, and family members. 

Localizing for a new market isn’t always simple. Producing a near-identical carbon copy of an existing software product and making a few minor changes isn’t going to convince consumers you’ve thought much about them. Sometimes, a more radical rethink is the best approach, delivering a unique user experience that feels familiar, yet original to consumers in untapped markets. To endear your brand even more, think about localizing your customer support channels. 

Streamlines expansion into new markets 

Don’t make the mistake of adapting your current product to make it more universal. This can seem like a good way to engage customers elsewhere in the world, but you could easily end up turning away existing ones. Whether you’re making minor changes to a product or undertaking a more extensive overhaul, localization will increase your odds of resonating with new customers, without making your existing ones feel as though they’ve been shortchanged. 

What does localization involve?

Looking to implement a product localization strategy that works? Priming a successful localization strategy can feel exhausting. Need some pointers? Below is a breakdown of the key steps involved in a typical localization strategy. 

1. Start with market research

Without undertaking market research, you’ll never be able to understand the needs of would-be consumers. The first step in product localization involves getting to grips with who actually makes up your target market. Where in the world are these new customers based and what languages do they speak? What kind of content resonates best in these territories? What’s more, you’ll need to delve deep when exploring cultural nuances to ensure your current product and associated content won’t offend. Once all this is done, you can turn things up a gear. 

2. Assembling a product localization team 

The size of a product localization team will vary depending on what product you’re offering and what resources your company has available. Less established companies may be able to get by with a relatively small team, while larger companies will have the resources to pull together a much larger lineup for localization. No matter the final headcount, a localization team should include a few key roles with no exceptions. At a bare minimum, you’ll need a project manager and translators. 

Project Managers 

Finding the right fit for a project manager position can take time. They’ll need to be able to drive an entire localization team and ensure time-sensitive tasks are delivered on schedule, so excellent leadership skills are a must. What’s more, they’ll need to be able to demonstrate fluency in any languages involved in the localization process. Finally, make sure you’re choosing someone with proven experience in a similar role. 

Translation Teams 

Translators will make up the bulk of your localization team. These linguists are responsible for adapting your product from one language to another, so naturally they’ll need to be fluent in both. How many translators you assign to a localization project is up to you. A smaller team of experienced translators might seem like a good idea if you’re chasing consistency and clear communication. However, the scope of most localization projects makes a threadbare translation team unviable. 

In almost every case, a larger team is best. As well as being able to cope with a bigger workload, a broader team provides you with more perspectives that can help overcome minor obstacles in the localization process. 

Product Developers 

You’ll also find product developers making up the numbers in many localization teams. Product developers play an active part throughout the entire localization process and their insights can prove invaluable. They perform a more technical function than other team members, pinpointing any project-critical issues before localization gets underway. They might also create time-saving tools to streamline the translation workflow or implement machine translation functions. 

3. Utilizing the best tools and expertise 

Without the right tools at your disposal, your localization strategy isn’t likely to succeed. What’s more, you’ll need people with the right expertise to utilize these tools. For smaller companies with limited resources, choosing the right software solution or translation management system is even more important, with useful features that can help streamline certain tasks and make life easier for translators with minimal localization experience. 

4. Localize for every market you’re targeting 

While localization best practices can be applied to any project, no two projects are ever the same. Rather than use an identikit approach to localization, you’ll need to consider the product itself, along with the needs of each target market you’re looking to expand into. Make sure you’re launching a complete localization process from scratch, every time you make moves on a new territory. You might think that morsels learned from market research in one part of the world can be applied elsewhere. However, now’s not the time to make assumptions. 

5. Product localization testing 

You might think that the product localization process has gone smoothly, but you’d be unwise to use a gut feeling as a guarantee of success. To get a clear idea of how well things have actually fared, you’ll need to prepare for testing. Use consumers from your target market for this. You’ll get more accurate insights into what’s working and what elements still require attention. Only when you’ve done this and made any necessary changes are you finally ready to to think about launching a localized product. 

Marketing and promotion strategies with BLEND

If you’ve never undertaken a software localization project before, adapting a product for the specific needs of a target market can seem overwhelming. Navigating cultural and linguistic nuances can prove a minefield at the best of times, which is why you need an ironclad localization strategy in place before you even consider launching a product elsewhere in the world. 

Not sure which localization techniques you should be employing as you move into new territories? Perhaps you need some guidance about what tools and resources are best utilized for international expansion. Bringing in an experienced localization partner like BLEND will streamline the process and make it easier for your brand to assimilate into foreign markets. 

With industry-leading expertise and a network of thousands of linguists working in more than 120 languages, BLEND is the obvious choice when you’re looking to expand internationally. Whether you need help fine-tuning a marketing campaign for new audiences or require more exhaustive localization services, we’re here to help.  

Keen to find out more about how BLEND can assist with product localization? Get in touch with the team today.

author post

Corinne Sharabi

Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.


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