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Localization in Business: The Ultimate Guide to Winning Global Markets

Localization in Business: The Ultimate Guide to Winning Global Markets
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Updated on
May 14, 2024

Business localization is the process of adapting products, services, and content to an international audience. Brands need to be aware of the different cultural nuances found in their intended market in order to attract new consumers.  

Successful localization seeks to improve the user experience, increase market share, and build a local presence. An increasingly globalized economy means markets are more competitive than ever. Brands that personalize their services give themselves the best chance of success, but no strategy is without its challenges.

Our comprehensive guide to localization in business will help you navigate cultural complexities and build a business model to succeed in global markets. We’ll also take a look at how some of the largest global enterprises found success through effective localization.

Benefits of Effective Localization

When entering global markets, localization provides a distinct advantage. Let’s break this down into the key benefits that businesses stand to gain from adopting a successful localization strategy:

Boosting Market Share and Profits

By respecting and integrating local languages and customs, a business can personalize its product and service offerings. Understanding and meeting customer needs through localized content increases the likelihood of conversions, helping to expand your overseas customer base.

Improving Customer Satisfaction and Engagement

Effective localization involves catering to the needs of your intended audience. You’ll be solving local customers’ unique pain points and potentially filling gaps in the market.

Providing a culturally and linguistically relevant website results in an excellent user experience. Businesses that achieve this are able to communicate with local users and position themselves as go-to brands. A good user experience can lead to positive reviews and word-of-mouth referrals.

Consumers are far more likely to engage with brands they identify with, and continued satisfaction leads to loyalty and retention. In turn, this builds a foundation for growth and further business expansion.

Gaining a Competitive Edge in the Global Marketplace

Thanks to the internet, brand competition is fiercer than ever. Companies that enter an emerging market with the right localization strategy will find it easier to establish a customer base there. A deeply localized marketing campaign can be a differentiating point between a business and its competitors.

Challenges in Implementing Localization Strategy

While the benefits of localization are clear, implementing an effective strategy is never straightforward. Navigating these potential difficulties is just as important as having a solid plan in place.

Overcoming Cultural and Linguistic Barriers

Given the complexities of language, even the largest brands can get things wrong. Multiple languages may be used within a single country, and words can have different meanings from one region to another. Business localization must understand different communication styles, consumer habits, religious sensibilities, symbols, imagery, and even body language.

For example, America’s ‘O for okay’ sign – made using one’s thumb and forefinger – symbolizes money in Japa and a private body part in Brazil. A polite gesture in one part of the world can easily cause offense elsewhere.

Using software for straightforward translation is not always enough when entering a new market. Partnering with localization experts and native speakers can help a brand navigate its way through such challenges, as these experts are aware of the correct terms to use when trying to appeal to a specific audience.

Managing Localization Costs

Given the scale of the task, localization in business can be costly. Acquiring software, hiring language experts, and conducting market research all add up. Careful expenditure planning is needed when putting together a strategy.

Take a gradual, phased approach by prioritizing the elements likely to deliver the biggest impact. This could mean investing in software to ensure your website is fully translated and only then hiring experts to refine the language used.

In the long term, measure Return on Investment (ROI). You can weigh up benefits such as your increased customer base and overseas sales figures against the costs of your new venture.

Building a Localization Blueprint: 5 Key Steps to Global Expansion

Building a localization blueprint takes careful planning. Follow our 5 key steps to localize your own service offering and give your business the best chance of success.

1. Assess Market Potential and Target Audience

Attracting new consumers means getting to know their wants, needs, and pain points. Conducting detailed market research can help you discover what consumers are looking for. You’ll need to learn cultural and linguistic trends, browsing behaviors, and shopping patterns.

Utilizing analytics can help you understand market size, buying trends, and the potential for growth. Study all available sources of information, from local market surveys to business news sites and statistics. Research competitor approaches and learn from their successes and failures. Read industry forums and communicate directly with your intended audience wherever possible.

Engaging with local experts can accelerate your research. They’ll be aware of current trends and audience needs and understand local regulations and compliance. Getting this right at the beginning can save time and costs in the long run.

2. Translate and Localize Your Website and Other Brand Messaging

All potential consumer touch points with your brand need to be effectively translated and localized. Brand messaging needs to be consistent across all channels and be adapted to local sensitivities.

Be aware that direct translations can emit different meanings in other languages. When the American Dairy Association attempted to expand into Spanish-speaking countries, its hugely successful slogan ‘Got Milk?’ was directly translated into ‘Are You Lactating?’. Localization partners can offer advice on whether your brand’s messaging is in keeping with local sensibilities.

Adopting the right translation and localization tools can help reduce timelines and assist with project management. Tools such as Weglot can translate entire websites in a single click, allowing human translators to focus on refining specific phrases in line with local preferences.

Weglot translation software

For a comprehensive overview of the key elements a business needs to focus on, read our guides to localized marketing and content localization.

3. Adapt Your Products and Services for Local Audiences

Localizing marketing materials and brand messaging is rarely enough – you’ll likely have to adapt your product range as well.

This doesn’t mean a complete overhaul, but you may need to remove elements from your range that don’t align with the needs of your targeted audience. In some cases, extending your range to match consumer preferences may be required.

When the coffee chain Starbucks extended into China – a country with a strong tea-drinking culture – it adapted its menu to include a variety of green-tea-based drinks. These were specifically developed to appeal to local consumers. The brand also introduced Chinese design elements into their stores so local visitors would feel more at home.

Starbucks’ advertising  in China

4. Optimize for Local Searches and User Experience

For overseas users to find your website, localized Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a must. Initial research should establish preferred search engines in your country of expansion.

While Google and Bing hold much of the market share in the US and Europe, Yandex is popular in Russia, and Baidu in China. If you’re looking to compete through Google alternatives, it’s worth checking out our guides on Baidu SEO and Yandex SEO to give you a head start in optimizing your website content for these search engines.

Next up, conduct keyword research in whatever language your customers will be using. Optimize your website’s content with these terms, and be sure to implement hreflang tags. These are HTML elements that pick up the region a user is searching from. They enable websites to serve content in a user’s preferred language, increasing the chances of engagement.

Weglot automatically implements hreflang tagging for you, saving time spent coding. It also provides a built-in language switcher, perfect for sites serving content to regions where multiple languages are spoken, enabling users to select their preferred language.

To ensure that your site looks professional regardless of the user’s chosen language, you can take advantage of the platform’s visual editor to ensure that design elements appear as intended when viewed in different languages.

Be sure to check out our guides on multilingual SEO and UX principles for more information.

Weglot’s visual editor

5. Embrace Continuous Improvement and Adaptation

No localization business strategy is ever complete. Progress should be continually monitored, and your strategy will need revision in order to consistently match audience needs.

Using Google Analytics and Search Console can help you track the performance of your localized content. You’ll be able to monitor overseas traffic and conversions and see how users interact with your website.

Gather consumer feedback and use it to identify areas needing improvement. If you’re an ecommerce site, enable customers to leave reviews and offer surveys through email newsletters. Engage with your social media visitors and visit industry forums to see how your brand is being perceived.

Real-world Examples: How Localization Propels Market Success

Let’s take a look at how some of the world’s most successful brands managed to go global. Hint: Their strategies had absolutely everything to do with getting localization right!

ASOS

Fashion brand ASOS achieved international growth despite not having a physical store anywhere in the world. ASOS serves its website in multiple languages and offers localization for granular details, including different currencies and sizing preferences.

Spain’s ASOS website

Local fashion trends are also reflected on their landing pages, depending on a user’s geographical location. The brand’s range looks instantly familiar, no matter where you are in the world.

Taking things a step further, ASOS collaborates with local influencers and ties promotions in with region-specific events and holidays.

Domino’s

Domino’s has managed to take the American version of a pizza to over 90 international destinations. The brand achieved this by adapting their range to suit differing taste buds.

When expanding overseas, the brand realized that American favorites don’t necessarily appeal to people raised on other cuisines. In India, you can enjoy a tandoori paneer or chicken tikka pizza. In Kenya, you can find a kachumbari (spicy tomato and onion) topping, and in Iceland, one with dates and spinach.

Items from Domino’s Indian menu‍

The food chain also operates using a franchise system. Local people are employed to manage and run Domino’s restaurants across the world, giving them a personal incentive to invest in the brand.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is a drink available almost everywhere in the world, and it’ll taste the same no matter where you drink it. The company has managed to become a global phenomenon by taking on localized elements wherever it does business.

The brand’s website is available in countless languages, and you’ll see local actors featured in its advertising campaigns. Coca-Cola also offers slightly different product ranges in different countries, in order to appeal to local tastes. But perhaps the brand’s most successful localization efforts can be found in its Share a Coke marketing campaign.

In the West, this meant personalizing bottles with the slogan: Share a Coke with (Tom/Julie/Michelle, etc). Given that names aren’t universal, the brand used local alternatives wherever possible. And in regions such as Vietnam – where age-related terms are preferred to first names – options included sharing a Coke with ‘Mum’ or ‘Grandma’ instead.

Share a Coke in Vietnam

Take the Next Step in Global Expansion With Effective Localization

As we’ve seen, localization is a linchpin when it comes to launching a global marketing campaign. Businesses that adapt their products and content marketing to reflect different cultural nuances are able to deliver an enhanced user experience. Personalized campaigns serve to meet the needs of your intended consumers and enforce a positive perception of your brand.

Effective localization gives a business a strategic advantage in the marketplace. Increased customer engagement boosts sales and enables a brand to establish itself overseas. Regular analysis and strategy refinement ensure a business can remain relevant and in step with its target audience.

Manageable localization business strategies are made easier with Weglot. A comprehensive translation and localization solution, the platform is easy to use and brings efficiency to any campaign.

Weglot automatically detects and translates all content on your website, including any new content you add or updates you make to existing content. It also provides comprehensive multilingual SEO support by taking care of metadata translation and hreflang tag implementation. Furthermore, Weglot creates dedicated language URLs to allow for indexing by search engines. A translation glossary ensures that cultural preferences are met, and a visual editor allows designs to incorporate different language text.

If you’re looking to take the next step towards effective localization, try Weglot on your website for free!

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