“But everybody speaks English!” seems to be a mantra in the business world nowadays. If that’s the case then one version of a website, software, or advertisement is enough. An English version, of course. So what’s the point of spending valuable resources on something so seemingly redundant as localization?
First of all, we need to establish what exactly localization is. According to Wikipedia:
“In computing, internationalization and localization (…) are means of adapting computer software to different languages, regional differences and technical requirements of a target market. Internationalization is the process of designing a software application so that it can potentially be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes.”
However, cross-cultural digital media advisor, Dr. Nitish Singh, offers a more detailed definition (Definitive Guide to Website Translation):
“In an international marketing and advertising context, localization pertains more specifically to adapting company offerings and communications to locale-specific expectations. Thus, marketing localization is more specifically analyzed in context of the four Ps (product, placement, price, and promotion). But in terms of digital media, and more specifically the web, localization entails adaptation based on cultural, linguistic, functional, technical, and other locale-specific requirements.”
So, it’s basically an adaptation to linguistic, cultural, and technical requirements. In what way could such a process translate into (pun intended) bigger sales? Furthermore, does data support the notion that English is really the lingua franca of the world?
1. Reach a Global Audience
According to Sheffield Hallam University, a shocking majority of the global population (75%!) doesn’t speak English at all. Out of the remaining 25%, many people may not speak English very well and won’t be able to understand marketing content accurately – not to mention catch the subtleties of cultural references and word pla which are the foundation of many marketing campaigns. All in all, global population consists only of 6% of native English speakers. In such a context localization can be the key to reaching a global audience, and hence – boosting your sales.
2. Expand Your Business
As research by Gartner Inc. implies, by 2017, 268 billion downloads of mobile applications will generate more than $77 billion worth of revenue. Additionally, a recent survey by Common Sense Advisory found that 84% of international customers claim they are more likely to buy products and services from websites which provide product information in their native language. Therefore, the best way to sell to global audiences and to cut a slice of the fast growing mobile market is to localize your applications, software, websites, etc.
It’s also a great way to expand your business, as it allows you to introduce your brand to new markets. By giving your brand more exposure localization helps you to reach a wider audience for your products and services. More exposure increases demand and thus boosts sales.
3. Improve Customer Satisfaction
By localizing your content, you can show your customers that they are important to you, the reason being that you are ready to go the extra mile for them. Localization allows you to embrace the target culture and deliver a personalized experience, consequently gaining trust and increasing engagement of your customers.
Since the holiday season is almost upon us it’s worth remembering that although around 45% of the world’s population celebrates Christmas, it would be a good idea to check if your customers belong to that 45%, before sending them a mailing full of Christmas trees. As a result, you will not only leave a good impression but also strengthen your brand and… boost your sales.
4. Cut Down Risk
Localization may be very helpful when it comes to reducing the risk of copyright infringement or violation of local laws. Additionally, it can help you avoid serious marketing fails. Even the biggest brands had to learn the hard way that not all of their product names are appropriate in a given culture. Here are some of the most mind-blowing examples of (mostly) car brands that obviously have not been properly localized:
- Ford: Fiera – “beast” in Spanish
- Ford: Pinto – “male genitalia” in Portuguese
- Daihatsu: Naked – this one goes without saying…
- Fiat: Uno – “stupid” in Finnish
- Opel: Ascona – “female genitalia” in Portuguese
- Mazda: Laputa – “whore” in Spanish
- Starbucks: Latte – “erection” in German slang
Steering clear of such mistakes may save your sales from some serious explaining 😉
5. Increase Marketing Effectiveness
Narrowing international campaigns to a number of local markets may help you in improving marketing effectiveness. Location targeting makes the investment much more cost-effective. What’s the point of paying for all of the marketing channels worldwide when the campaign you have just prepared may be effective in only one country? Answering such questions before an actual launch may result in an increase of the campaign’s ROI (Return Over Investment). Moreover, localization is very useful for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as search results are heavily influenced by a physical location. The more effective your marketing is, the higher the sales.
6. Reduce Costs
Localization may really help you save time and money. After all, it costs much less than development. If you have already spent thousands of dollars on writing an application, spending just a percentage of that cost on adapting the software to local markets, and hence creating a possibility of additional revenue, makes for a very good investment.
Moreover, you can make localization much cheaper if you make it a part of the development process at an early stage (and not leave it for the end as trying to implement it too late never ends well for the project). Using appropriate tools such as style guides and TMs (translation memories) won’t hurt either.
Last, but not least, localization means fewer costs for support and customer service, considering that software in your customers’ language makes navigation and configuration much more intuitive for them, resulting in less inquiries for your support department, less claims for refunds, better brand reputation and, consequently, more sales.
These are just a few ways in which localization may help you boost your sales. Have you already started localizing your products? What other profits have you gained because of this process? Share your thoughts in the comments below!