How Important is Localization for Your Customer Base?
Should you localize your products or services? Can it affect how your customers feel about your brand?
Let’s find out.
Last Updated:  August 25, 2021
Any business hoping to stay competitive and steadily growing will face the decision to localize their products or services to their customer base.
Why is Localization Important?
Across the world, cultures can be very different. We already know this for a fact. What some people do not realize is that our culture can also affect our consumer habits. Whether it’s our method of payment, language, or colors, these can each have an effect on the reach you may have in new areas. Localization can improve that for your business.
Our consumer habits can even differ across different age groups. By acknowledging and understanding these habits we can offer better experiences to our consumers.
Buyers in specific countries expect a particular online experience specific to their typical experience. Businesses that try to enter a new foreign market, may struggle if they cannot localize to their customer base. A lot can be lost in translation, especially idioms, such as when we say, “it’s raining cats and dogs outside.” This phrase translated literally to any other language would sound absurd.
Cultural localizations can use different tactics such as local customs, colors, societal codes and values, and other cues that would be recognized by the market. For example, some websites for the United States may utilize red, white, and blue to appear more patriotic, especially around national holidays.
Just as the website is customized for the United States, businesses may have separate websites for other countries that will need to be fit for that specific market. Even when there are British or Australian websites where there isn’t much of a need to translate all the content to another language for purchases in the United States, separate websites make it easier to locate and ship to customers. This moves along the supply chain smoothly and makes it possible to do more for customers in specific areas.
Localization ensures that customers will get the same quality experience that they would get with a local business. This allows for an experience that they would be more comfortable and confident navigating.
Localization is centered around making products more available and accessible to a new client or customer base. Accessibility may be overlooked by businesses that value their product over their consumer experience.
The first step of localization is ensuring that the product is available to be shipped to or downloaded by a specific demographic. If you can’t ship to their country, the localization will not be a success, this is a given. It’s important that your product will have this accessibility before you even launch your site to your new consumer base. It’s important to ensure that if you have a physical product, your supply chain can support this new market and be properly imported and exported.
Project Management software like Asana, Basecamp, and Nifty made localization accessibility a core part of their go-to market strategy and were able to increase their total addressable market by more than 70%! Through localization, you can not only expand your customer base, but also form connections with new communities and even create jobs in their area. Localization is best done with help from the people who actually live there.
Other businesses are able to do the same when they properly localize new consumer markets. This has to be done through internationalization along with a global strategy to cater to each new market.
Marketing on certain platforms can also play into the localization as not all platforms are available around the world. For example, if you mainly market through Facebook, you will be unable to market at all to anyone in China so it would be necessary to use their own local platforms.
Additionally, language accessibility is a necessity to any localization of a business. If customers can’t read it, then how would you expect them to buy it? Using tools like Google translate may seem like a useful option for quick and short translations to get basic meaning, but beyond that they can cause more issues than they help. Meaning can be lost or twisted so easily without the context that human translators are able to provide.
If websites are not properly translated for easy accessibility for that market, they can completely turn users off from using that website. This means more than just using Google Translate to create new website content. Using local translators to create the correctly translated content will make it all the better for the new consumers you are hoping to attract to your site.
All marketing materials, content, products and websites should be set to the preferred language of a specific region. Beyond just translating content, it may be necessary to shift tone to better appeal to the culture. Are you breaking into a market that believes in informal or formal business? Do they prefer individualism or collectivism? Do they prefer traditionally masculine or feminine traits?
The more user friendly and accessible that your business becomes, the more return on investment that you will be able to see. Focusing on accessibility is a smart, long term investment that will end up saving money for your business down the road.
Newer, emerging markets have been identified by Forbes as growing 3-4 times faster than those in developed countries. It is even foreseen that the total GDP of emerging markets has the capacity to overtake those of developed countries. Emerging markets are actually the reason that the world economy was saved when the US 2008 recession hit.
New business opportunities in new locations such as India, Brazil, and China are in positions to rapidly grow and expand. It has been estimated that around 70% of world growth over the next few years will come from emerging markets. Of that 70% China and India are expected to account for 40% of the new growth. Emerging markets are more likely to have young working age populations, something that the US has been seeing a decline in over the past several years.
In comparison to these new markets, the United States is saturated with products, tools and applications, beyond what any user could ever use in their lifetime. Meanwhile, these newer markets are waiting for the next big thing to explode on the scene.
In certain regions, clients may prefer mobile browsing over desktop browsing or vice-versa. It is completely necessary to hire people that understand specific market consumers’ language, culture and behaviors. Use local experts in the form of your staff, agencies, or in-country partners. Your company should create a cultural guide to assist you through each market.
It’s important for businesses to identify what their local customer base prefers and to cater to those expectations. Translations should be reliable and evoke feelings of reliability in your business. Using translation tools is not going to work as many of these do not pick up on the intended message or tone. The use of real translators will ensure that your business gets its message across the correct way to consumers.
Through high-quality translations on your website and search engine optimization (SEO) reviewed for local trends, will generate more traffic from that specific region. The use of local translators will be the key to your localization.
Another area that is obviously going to have an effect on your customer base is the way they can pay for your product or services. Right away, you need to localize conversions. Consumers purchasing in another country are not going to want to know the price is USD.
Merchants typically partner with payment service providers that can localize payment methods themselves. Though some people may be accustomed to paying with a credit card, this is not common for every region. For example, consumers in the Southeast Asian market tend to prefer paying with MOLPay while consumers in India may prefer to pay with Paytm wallet.
It is not common to pay with credit cards in some countries, such as Germany, which requires other payment options to be available. Additionally, different currency options make it easier for a customer to identify their ability to pay.
Your brand and your brand identity may have to shift across different cultures. What works for one market is not guaranteed to work for the next one. It is important to research prior to completely investing in a new market. For example, the way we use humor in one country may not be the same style in other countries. Humor is very relative to each culture and will be difficult to translate across different markets.
Your brand name could have different meanings in other languages and your logo could invoke different feelings. Establish early on what your identity will be in the new market as it may be beneficial to change it up.
Embrace the Local Community
Stay up to date on the specific region you’re expanding in. This is more than just knowing the language and culture but actually following the news and shifts in societal expectations. Being creative but sensible as well to decide when to make a statement on certain events or commemorations will make your business known as a more trustworthy and reliable business for people to purchase from and invest in.
Don’t just be a bystander always attempting to make a profit off the community. Make genuine connections, support your local employees and make donations when natural disasters or other current events affect the area. This will help to make your consumers and your employees feel like more than just a number or price tag for your business to make a profit from.
This will show your clients and employees that you are genuinely committed to that region and making a difference in their lives.
As mentioned before, certain platforms serve certain regions. Certain countries like China, use entirely different platforms than those used in the US. The platform Weibo is the platform preferred by users in China. This application is a cross between Twitter and Facebook. Just as you need local translators for your content, you need local guides that know how to properly utilize these platforms in other countries.
It is completely necessary to research which platforms are most used by the region you are expanding to. It would be a complete waste of money to attempt to use a platform like Facebook to advertise to a country like China. Rather, investing in Weibo content that users in that market would enjoy would bring a much better return on investment to your company.
Ensure you are advertising on the best platform possible before expanding your advertising efforts to other areas.
What are the Benefits?
Expanded Customer Base
By focusing on the localization of a specific region or for your customer base, you are ensuring that base will expand. The more users feel they can rely on and trust your brand or company, the more they will share it with others and help it to expand. Without localizations, this would be very difficult to achieve.
Following a localization strategy makes your business more accessible, user friendly, and gives more customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction will evolve into customers referring your business to more users. This essentially is a form of marketing in its own right. This will also help you with repeat customers that will believe in a brand loyalty to your company for fulfilling all their needs.
By expanding into a new, emerging market, your business has the opportunity to see some serious growth.
Improve brand image
Sometimes, businesses slip up and we are all left thinking did they even read the room? Without correct, local translators, it can be very easy for businesses to slip up and cause negative publicity or controversy. This is why it is so necessary to localize language to a specific region and not rely on translator tools.
Pepsi was once advertising in China and used a slogan that was supposed to mean “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi generation” Instead, this translated to “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” This very obviously was not the message Pepsi wanted consumers to get and because of that, the advertising slogan flopped in that specific region. In other cases, the mistranslation can cause very negative publicity. When Nokia launched their Lumia collection they had no idea the translation for the collection name was “prostitute” for some Spanish speaking countries. This resulted in very negative publicity for the company,
Using high quality translators and local Chinese tutors to assist in your localization will make it easy to communicate in the correct ways with your customer base.
Proper preparation and investment in the necessary areas of localization will make it possible to save money down the line. Though it may cost time and money to localize your business, a larger consumer base does mean larger profits for your company. It will allow for a sizable return on investment.
Localizing your operation and product before the product even is available will give better growth than scrambling to do it all at the same time. Localization of resources and the use of local translators will put your company ahead when it comes time to launch and sell the product. Additionally, localization provides your consumers with a reliable company to return to time and time again, increasing your return on investment every time they come back.
Your product deserves a quality space to sell from and the sooner the focus is on localization, the more high quality time your product will get. Localization provides long lasting benefits that will make it easier for your company to break into the new market with every new product you have.
You can even utilize subcontractors that live in the new market and already know what localizations that region may prefer. This will increase jobs in the area and show that your company has a genuine interest in connecting with that specific market’s population.
If you hope for your business to go global, you have to focus on specific localizations first. It is going to be difficult to rapidly grow and expand to markets if you cannot get your message across or provide their preferences. This global expansion will give you a stable global presence that gives you an edge over your competitors. Your global presence then gives you more quality leads to your company and higher sales.
To fully expand, it’s necessary to take the time to understand and cater to specific regions as you go. Otherwise, your product, brand, message or slogan could be lost on your target audience.
Investing in your localization will not only be advantageous to your business and expanding it across the globe, but also ensures that your customer is left feeling like they can trust your business and rely on it to get what they need. Through quality translation, focus on current events and hiring local contractors for assistance, your company will prove to that market that they truly want to connect and be a part of that community.
There are a variety of softwares that are available to help with the localization process and some of the solutions can make a big difference. Use of office management softwares can help your global team to feel more connected and make it easier to track progress in the localization process. Some applications, like Slack, allow for your company to work in combination with another company.
For example, address validation can help your business avoid shipping errors that could end up costing you down the line. By using a comprehensive localization software, you can turn your focus back to the quality of your product or services.
Localization gives you the ease to enter new markets with a competitive edge. You will make the new consumer base feel more comfortable and reliant on your trustworthy brand. Breaking into new emerging markets will only make it easier to know what to do when you break into the next available market.
Businesses that don’t localize are less likely to succeed or grow to the same level as those that do. Your customers are also more likely to be satisfied and trust your business to return or make repeat purchases with.
Brand loyalty is not easy to come by, especially when your business seems to be an outsider that doesn’t fully get their message across, like Pepsi did in China. Localization will help you to avoid making similar mistakes as you enter new markets.
Most of all, your business will see increased revenue due to the expansion and loyalty of customers. Customers that feel they can trust and rely on your company or brand will not only return, but are also more likely to recommend your products to another customer. This allows for a more rapid expansion than you could ever imagine staying in one market.
By effectively marketing your products through localization, there is no question that you will see a return on your investment. People can only meet you as far as you meet them, so accessibility and catering to their needs will mean they’ll count on you as a reliable brand. If they are able to purchase in their usual methods and you are able to market to them on their usual platforms, they will feel more confident in the services you are providing. Catering to all their needs will make them feel comfortable to come back as repeat customers and also recommend to others to do the same.
Proper localization will mean a decrease in your time to market due to an increase in the efficiency of how your software or website have been localized.
If your business is ready to make the jump to a new market, then it’s time to turn your focus to localization of specific markets. Not only will you be able to break into an emerging market, but you’ll be able to create jobs, form new connections, and increase your global presence, giving you a competitive edge over other brands that aren’t doing the same. Your consumers will appreciate your desire for accessibility and your overall brand identity and image will be one that people can rely on around the world.
It may be beneficial to first breach markets that are most similar to the ones you are already in. This will save time and give you an advantage if you are already able to get an understanding of what your customer base will want.