Localization Strategy: 5 Tips That Can Make or Break Yours
Last update: 7 September 2023 at 10:16 am
For brands looking to enter new markets, it’s imperative that they think long and hard about their localization strategy.
This means the tiny incremental gains, that on the face of it don’t mean much, but when added together combine to build the intangible values of trust, closeness and familiarity that will translate to sales in the long term.
A successful localization strategy includes:
- Thinking globally, acting locally – Stay true to your core brand and ethos, but integrate cultural nuances and consumer trends.
- Setting up local social media accounts – fundamental to giving your brand a local face.
- Getting local help to transcreate not just translate – It’s not the words you use, but how you use them…
- But speaking the language, well – The right words are also important.
- Understanding differences in body language – Your communication has to be 360 degree.
We’ll give you the rundown on each and every one of them, to make sure you cross borders without a hitch…
Localization Strategy Definition
So, to start at the beginning – what exactly is a localization strategy? Well, it’s looking at your content plan, and working out how to translate that into content into brand communications that will resonate with your new audience in a new market or country.
How will that particular foreign market react to you and your business? Do you understand the cultural differences that their potential customers might have?
A global audience is very different to a local market, and reacting to these differences and offering a personalized, localized experience can make the difference between merely doing business in other countries and enjoying long and successful growth.
How Do you Create a Localization Strategy?
Prior to planning your localization strategy it’s worth also thinking about a go-to-market strategy for that particular region – so planning how you will reach target customers and achieve a competitive advantage.
It’s essentially a blueprint for success showing how you’re going to deliver your product or service to your end customer through utilizing outside resources such as sales force and distributors, in order to deliver your unique value proposition to customers and offer an enhanced customer experience.
This needs to work alongside your localization strategy, keeping plans on track and everything pushing in the same direction.
5 Tips That Can Make or Break Your Localization Strategy
So without further ado, and now we’ve got a grounding in the subject, here are five tips that you can apply to make sure your localization strategy goes without a hitch
The Key To Localization: Think Global Act Local
You’ll need to ‘think global but act local’ when it comes to planning your strategy. You need to stay true to your core brand identity and ethos. But you also need to appreciate cultural nuances and customer behaviors in your new territory.
This makes sure that your product or service can be understood easily and quickly by the people you want to use or buy it.
It’s therefore important for your brand to look and feel as if it’s been created specifically for your new ‘home market’, irrespective of their native tongue, culture, or religion. The importance of graphic design work, translation, and content creation is one thing, but it goes far further.
After all, you want your customer experience to be the best it can be to maximize customer loyalty, drive your business forward and grasp that all-important market share.
A localization strategy is looking at your content plan, and working out how to translate that into content into communications that will resonate with your new audience in a new market or country.
As such, understanding your goals for that content is also important as it may mean tweaks or changes to your overall marketing strategy which are particular to the new target market you’re looking to reach.
Localize Your Social Media
Consider your social media channels. One of the most-used inbound marketing channels, having one social media account for your global brand won’t be enough.
‘Social’ media is just that – social – and to interact with the local market you’ll need to consider launching country-specific channels to actively engage with the local community – in their own language with their own culture.
German retailer Lidl, in cracking the British market, is a great example.
Their GB twitter account co-brands together with the hugely popular Sunday Brunch cooking show, and tweets all about it, of course, with an item of food that’s distinctively British:
They provoke engagement by talking about the weather (that’s a British staple)
And they mirror the emotions of the nation’s (wounded) sports fans:
They even go so far as to “cross the aisle” and using social media and the strong social proof it provides in their offline marketing: resulting in the meta-masterpiece below. And is there anything more British than describing a Chianti as “Well nice”?
The lesson is clear: your social presence needs to follow the same rules as the overall localization strategy.
That ensures your content and marketing messages appeal to your new audience by sharing information that’s relevant to their needs and interests.
Transcreate to Cross Borders
It’s really important not to view your localization strategy as just a series of straight translations, because it should be so much more than that.
At SWC Partnership, we carry out a deep-dive and conduct simple market research around the market, the local customers and their purchasing habits allowing us to gain an understanding of and overcome cultural barriers that may hinder our client’s efforts in their new markets.
We find that localization strategies give a great competitive advantage for our clients. The importance of the right tone of voice in communications cannot be overstated.
But equally, it’s about making them locally relevant – and often allows us to include elements within their creative and messaging that are key to engaging new target markets.
Your agency should do the same, as it’s incredible what seemingly tiny things can make a huge difference.
Some Examples of Transcreation
For example, colours are viewed differently in different countries. Take red – usually standing for passion, excitement and danger in Western cultures and happiness, good fortune and luck in China.
But in South Africa it’s linked to mourning, where it’s seen as bloodshed linked to the struggle for independence.
Similarly, green in North America and Europe is lucky; images of happy people celebrating St Patrick’s day in bright green hats are fairly common
But you’d do well to avoid images like this in China, where wearing a green hat is associated with cheating on your spouse. In many Latin and South American cultures, green is also the colour of death. Not ideal if you’re promoting products for the living…
As you can see, even in this one area of creative it’s a minefield out there, so trying to understand local culture before you even begin with translated content is a really, really good idea.
Don’t Skimp on the Translation
However, you can’t really discuss a solid localization strategy without looking long and hard at translations. There are several options around translating copy, each with their own pros and cons.
Machine translation is essentially running your copy through a computer. Quick and usually fairly cheap, this could seem like an easy option for a translation process.
At best you may get a few grammatical errors or some incorrect formatting, but we always feel that this is a no-go when it comes to entering a new market as first impressions count, so we urge our clients to go for a high-quality translation where possible.
How Translation and Transcreation Meet
We have found using local experts allows the translation to adapt and become more of a transcreation, using language that feels familiar, with local preferences that resonate with as broad an audience as possible.
Even if you run copy through a computer first, having in-country feedback from an actual human being is invaluable and worth every penny. It should even pay for itself with those incremental sales you might get from using just the right phrasing.
And don’t forget about a multi-lingual SEO tool. If you’ve spent the budget on correct translations, a quick local SEO review can make sure your target market can find you, your product or service.
Translating your website into other languages can feel like a huge task, but is key if you’re looking to break into a foreign market.
Having an online presence that allows your potential customers to read all about your company, products and services in their native language is incredibly important to a successful localization strategy.
Software Localization: Not To Be Forgotten
Therefore if you are considering launching in new markets, software localization may be something to consider. ‘Normal’ translations are typically done when a document has been finalized. Software localization can run in parallel with the development of your website to allow all language versions to launch together.
This can be labour-intensive and can be a lot of work for a development team, but (and it’s a big but) the translation and localization of your website allows it to look and feel as if it’s been specifically written and designed for your new local community.
If done correctly, it will cover everything from design and font size of your site to the nitty-gritty, such as multiple currency options to the correct number and address formats for that region, to the right payment methods, time and date formats, even word separation and hyphenation to name but a few.
But if you’re already developing exceptional products for new people to buy, why not make your website – one of your key sales tools – exceptional too?
Take Into Account the Body Language
With your creative looking beautiful, translations just right and website good to go, you might think you’re ready to launch your marketing campaigns and wow your potential customers.
And you’re right, you’re nearly there… but there are a couple of other considerations around a localization strategy that you should also take into account.
When thinking about global audiences and your creative and marketing materials, it’s also key to consider any people within your advertising – and their body language.
Arms crossed is a powerful stance in Western cultures, but if you’re using your adverts for the global marketplace, note that in some countries folding your arms across your chest can appear standoffish and even insulting. Not ideal when you’re looking to engage local consumers with your business and goods.
Similarly, locations matter – Christmas in sunny Australia is totally different to a white Christmas in the UK, so a slip up on a festive promotional campaign for example, could make your company stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Cross-cultural marketing can be tricky, but again, your agency should be there to guide you through, helping you seamlessly integrate localization into your marketing activity.
The localization process is all about ensuring that you have a strong understanding across all ‘other’ markets.
It’s these types of detail-oriented and thoughtful localization efforts that will win over your local market and help you stand out as a ‘local’ business.
A Localization Case Study
Working with an agency that is just right for you, your business and your localization goals are absolutely key to making your localization strategy a successful one.
You need a team that will act as an extension of your team. Who understand your goals, and who understand the market that you’re looking to enter. Who are happy to conduct valuable research into that target market.
The language, culture, beliefs, social, norms, customer behavior and buying habits of those people are essential. Allowing you to adapt, plan and execute the best strategy for your business.
Advice With The Benefit Of Experience
We didn’t just take their US creative, change the words and hope for the best. We created several localization solutions. They needed a super-personalised localization strategy, driving their business forward into a healthy market – and we knew this because we’d done our research.
At SWC Partnership, we know that with a proper localization strategy, your business can have the foundation of a successful tactical plan to enter other markets across the globe.
If you’re interested in learning how we can help your business be locally relevant, get in touch for a chat. We’re always happy to listen and help where we can.