David Ost
David Ost 16 March 2017

How To Optimize The Full Marketing Localization Process - Part I

Marketing localization is a complex process with a lot of potential pitfalls and challenges. Find out how to optimize the whole process in this two-part series.

Three in four customers living in Europe, Asia and South America prefer to buy products in their native language. This is according to research by the Common Sense Advisory, called “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy.” With these numbers in mind, the importance of marketing localization becomes increasingly obvious. Whether you like it or not, you need to start localizing if you want to sell globally.

And it’s not just about translating your mobile app and changing its layout. Or adding a plugin to your website to switch from one language to another. Beyond localization of your product, you’ll need to come up with a localized marketing strategy every time you launch in a new country.

Software localization and marketing localization are complex processes that takes time, money and human resources. So, you need to make sure your investment is going to pay off. If you want to see rapid ROI, you’ll need to plan beyond the technical details, to marketing localization. Because no matter how great your product is, no one will be interested unless you know how to sell it right.

The marketing localization process should start from day one. As with every step of localization, you can optimize your marketing strategy to save time and money. Localizing with the right marketing strategy in mind means you’ll avoid mistakes and run less risk of damaging your local image before even entering the market.

1. Find The Right People To Work With

Steve Jobs used to say: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people”. Never was this statement so true than when it comes to localization. You need to assign the best specialists to handle a project as complex as software localization.

A localization team mainly consists of:

  • Localization engineers, who generally handle the database and set guidelines for people to follow during the process.
  • Localizers who translate strings and make all changes when it comes to graphics, design of the layout, UI, and multimedia.

Localizing is not just translating words from one language to another, so you need to find localizers with excellent language skills, who understand the implications of such a project. Localizers are generally experienced translators, who have technical knowledge in the field and understand the localization process. They can make the difference between success and failure of your project.

Steer clear of machine translation. Strings, marketing campaigns, app descriptions, and everything else should be translated by specialists. Only by delivering high quality content, will you manage to build a positive image for your brand in any local market.

No one likes a product that looks and feels translated. Use Google Translate or any other similar software, and you run the risk of offering exactly that. Bad translations that will keep potential customers away, instead of encouraging them to buy. You may cut some costs here and there, but you’ll spend way more trying to fix the errors in your marketing localization later on.

Experience Is Important

Developers who coordinate web and app localization on a daily basis will be able to give you important advice during the process. As they’ve been down this road before, they know how to take advantage of opportunities in various markets and can help you prioritize. Avoiding beginner mistakes will make things a lot easier, especially if you’re anxious to launch your product in a new market fast.

Don’t underestimate the importance of external teams, either. Depending on how much of the process you decide to outsource, you’ll be in contact with linguists, local marketing and SEO specialists, testing teams, and maybe even some local partners. Set clear milestones when signing with local teams and let them know about your goals from the start, to make sure they respect deadlines. Always look for people who can communicate easily and are ready to adapt their working habits to your in-house team.

Use a translation management software to keep your team working effectively on one platform during the localization process. This way, localizers and localization engineers can communicate easier. This will leave less room for translation errors or misinterpretation of the source text. If your team uses a unique tool to perform all changes in real time, you can optimize the entire process, from technical details to marketing localization.

2. Name A Localization Manager

If you plan to coordinate the entire software localization process yourself, then be ready for extra hours of hard work. As well as following multiple workflows and planning moves ahead. If you aren’t comfortable with managing such a complex project, or don’t have the time to dedicate to it, name a localization manager. They can coordinate your programmers, translators, engineers, and all other experts.

This full-time job implies many responsibilities and requires a wide range of skills:

  • A good localization manager is a good organizer, who can put together all aspects of the project. This includes linguistic issues, technical challenges, cultural differences, administrative details, budget, efficiency and optimization.
  • People management skills are essential. Localizers come from various fields, such as sales, development, marketing, QA, engineering, or publishing. So, having the ability to coordinate such a team is essential when looking for maximum results with minimum effort (and without exceeding the budget).
  • Technical skills are a must. A good localization manager must understand the technologies behind the project to be able to plan the localization process wisely. You can’t do infrastructure planning or design workflows, unless you have a good knowledge of the entire process.

3. Learn As Much As You Can About The Market You’re Localizing For

All people you work with should have in-depth knowledge about your product and the market you’re localizing for. Your team needs to understand the local market and its specific demands, in terms of marketing, design and legislation. This is the only way they can craft a user-friendly product.

China, for example, doesn’t only require extra care with translations and marketing. This country has tricky rules when it comes to coding, choosing the right local servers, and respecting the laws of the China’s Great Firewall. Supercell’s Clash of Clans managed to get hundreds of thousands of downloads in this country. But users couldn’t buy the in-game currency, because developers had ignored the important fact that Chinese didn’t have access to Google Play. This is a major localization fail that cost the company dearly.

This is just one example of how things can go wrong if you don’t study all components before launching your product.

If you want to optimize the process, you should start your localization project with all details in mind, as you need to create a product that fits the market. In some cases, this means localizing to integrate with local products available, instead of your traditional western partners (such as social media platforms). Otherwise, you’ll just waste time and money correcting errors, testing and retesting.

4. Define Your Potential Customers

When you look to optimize the full marketing localization process, you should start by defining some local profiles for your potential customers. Once you know who you’re going to sell to, you can adapt the localization process to more specific goals. This will help you reduce time-to-launch and costs.

Defining an international buyer persona is not enough anymore if you really want to know your customers. You need to build local buyer personas for each country you’re localizing for. Most South Americans speak the same language, for example, but they use it differently from one country to another. Asia is an emerging market with huge potential, but approaching customers there requires a very different marketing strategy, in line with local culture and traditions.

You need to know who you’re dealing with in any of these markets. So, try to find out as much as you can about what defines your potential customers. Think about age, gender, relationship status, interests, education level, where they live, how much they earn and what their purchasing habits are like.

These answers will likely vary with each new country you’re approaching. So, be ready to tailor your marketing localization strategy and target your content each time you start a new localization process. Adapt as much as you can from your centralized global marketing program to cut costs, but don’t ignore the local specifics.

5. Optimize The Technical Side Of Localization With Unicode

Unicode (UTF-8) supports all characters, in any language, so it’s vital to use it for your localization project. Once you’ve written your code, you won’t have to make any additional changes when you decide to localize for countries like China, Japan or Russia.

Unicode (UTF-8) supports all characters, so it’s vital to use it for your localization project

This means less time and money spent on coding during multiple language localization. Here are some other advantages of Unicode that will make localization easier in the long term:

  • When your source code uses a single standard, you have lower development costs and can reduce the time needed to launch a new version of your product. For example, when you update your app, make changes in the Unicode version to be able to use it worldwide. If you use various character sets instead, you’ll have to make multiple updates, one for each version. This increases the chances of bugs and human errors.
  • Most operating systems, languages and databases support Unicode, so your app or website will easily integrate with other products available on the market. IBM, Microsoft, HP, Sun, Oracle and SAP all work with Unicode. Also, Java, JavaScript, XML and Perl are Unicode-based. Trust me, you don’t want to be using anything else!
  • Exchange of text and data is easier with Unicode, as you won’t have problems of data conversion when you need to use specific characters. Your users won’t have to deal with incomprehensible characters, no matter what language they speak. This way, you provide an enhanced user experience, with less effort and without additional costs.

6. Invest In A Flexible Design

When getting your website or app ready for localization, make sure you leave enough room for any changes in the layout of the UI. Some languages require as much as 35-40% more space. So, having enough room for text expansions is essential. The opposite can also occur, where you have less text after translation. So, your web or app layout should be flexible enough to allow for any type of movement.

Colors are also important for localization. Choosing the right tones is not exact science, as any of us associates colors with emotions differently. Red is exciting, blue is dependable, orange is generally cheerful. But meanings and symbols vary not only from one culture to another, but also within the same community, based on gender, age and education.

A study called “Impact of color on marketing” revealed that colors can change a client’s attitude towards a certain product, by influencing moods and brand perception. Choose colors that represent your brand better. And try to integrate them as well as possible into your marketing localization strategy, to maintain a unique global image.

Most brands decide to keep their colors intact in all markets, as colors increase brand recognition by up to 80%. Coca Cola, for example, changed its name for the Chinese market, but they kept their brand colors. Evernote went for the same strategy. Uber, on the other hand, decided to change the rules and came up with 65 local color palettes in a unique localized design strategy! This strategy certainly paid off, as Uber now registers over 40 million monthly active riders worldwide.

7. Marketing Localization Success Is In The Details

Everything you miss could become a good reason for a potential customer to choose another product instead of yours. No matter how great your marketing localization strategy is, your product doesn’t have a chance if it lacks consistency. So, even if you manage to create an inviting app description that boosts your downloads, users will uninstall it immediately if its content is badly localized.

Pay attention to:

  • Currencies and payment methods. A survey conducted in 2012 showed that over 90% of potential customers prefer to shop on websites that use local currency. 33% of them would leave a site that lists prices in USD only.
  • Systems of measurement. Most non-English speaking countries use the metric system and no one likes to waste time converting inches and gallons.
  • Address formats. They usually vary from one country to another, so make sure you add or remove fields every time you localize for a new language. National conventions for writing telephone numbers vary too. So, if you know your app will ask for these details from your customers, you’d better redesign to make this step as easy as possible.
  • Decimal and thousands separators should be adapted for each country, as they vary in some cases. In fact, the US and the UK are some of the few countries that use the comma to separate groups of thousands. Most countries use the decimal separator.
  • Name formats. Respecting local politeness and formality is essential, so make sure you set the name format right. In some countries, the family name is written first, while in other cases it’s common for a person to have multiple family names. Allow users to enter punctuation and names with spaces, and make sure your fields are large enough to accept long names.
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