Get Localization Right the First Time

“Get it right the first time, that’s the main thing. Can’t afford to let it pass.” – Billy Joel


Of course, Billy Joel wasn’t talking about localization when he said, “get it right the first time, that’s the main thing.” No, he was likely talking about pursuing a romantic interest, but the same message absolutely applies to localization. Getting localization right from the very start increases your chances of success whether your goal is to increase online traffic or increase revenue.

No matter what service or product you offer your customers, you might be missing out on a whole sea of hungry consumers if you fail to localize or if you only haphazardly attempt localization. Let’s face it, if you are advertising your business online, you have already gone global. And if you assume that potential customers in different parts of the globe are receiving the same level of experience with your advertisements as those close to home, well, you know how the saying goes about those who assume – and we know you’re not a donkey.

Localization is your ticket to reaching a wider audience, but it requires thought. It requires attention to detail, and it certainly requires investment. In a recent Google survey, almost 175,000 Internet users were asked whether or not translation was a problem when they shopped online. 41 percent of those surveyed said that not having content translated or poorly translated content posed a significant problem for them.

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The research speaks for itself, and the word is localization. In 2014, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (KPCB) reported that over 86 percent of users of the top 10 global websites resided outside of the United States, and companies like Airbnb, Coca-Cola, and Netflix have continued to increase their global presence by focusing directly on ensuring that their customers’ cultural, regional, and linguistic differences are respected.

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Customization is out, and localization is in

As consumer communities become more diverse in terms of geography, nationality, style of living, values, and wealth, so must our marketing efforts. One size no longer fits all as was the motto of the customization approach. Those in the know are beginning to customize their offerings to local markets. They are rolling out different product lines and developing alternative approaches to reach a growing audience. Whether your business focuses on technology, retail, healthcare, education, manufacturing, entertainment, or virtually any other business sector known to man, customization is out, and localization is in.

Perhaps one clear example of a company that got localization right is Autodesk, an American multinational software corporation. Over three decades ago, Autodesk released a desktop app known as AutoCAD which ran on microcomputers and offered internal graphics controllers. Three decades later, AutoCAD WS was released, providing users with the ability to view, edit, and share CAD files from their mobile device or web browser. In 2013, Autocad WS reported having more than 10 million users – and just under 9 million of those users did not speak English as their first language. By investing in localization, the company almost tripled their download rate in just six months. For AutoCAD WS, it started with localizing their product page.

Localization means a LOT more than mere translation – it means connecting personally with local markets

But AutoCAD WS didn’t stop there. They not only localized the measurement units, text labels, maps and images of their app, but they then decided to reach out to other app entrepreneurs and bloggers in localized regions. They asked them what content got the most attention and they listened carefully to the responses they received. Surprisingly – or maybe not surprisingly at all – the content that received the most attention wasn’t even written in English. Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese mobile blogs were the most popular. So, AutoCAD WS decided to do the same. They contacted bloggers who wrote in different languages. They asked what subjects generated the most traffic and the response was unanimous every time – content that was the most relevant to their local market generated the most interest.

AutoCAD WS also invested in video localization, something definitely worth considering. If part of your advertisement campaign involves videos, you might want to research voice over production and subtitling for localization. Video localization doesn’t necessarily have to burn a hole in your pocket, but it does have the potential to significantly increase your ROI. Following AutoCAD WS’s lead by localizing newsletters, promotions, policies, and services will likely help you to strengthen the consumer experience for your company’s localized markets.

As we all know, localization means a LOT more than mere translation – it means connecting personally with local markets. AutoCAD WS shared with bloggers, how many downloads they had received from that particular country in an attempt to connect on a more localized level and generate further interest. But perhaps the most intriguing marketing move by AutoCAD WS was sharing with the bloggers, local success stories that focused on how a user or a company from their own country was using their app. Smart move.

How much should I invest in localization?

The answer to this question isn’t so easy. While some entrepreneurs argue that low-end translation isn’t so bad for startup companies and those with tight budgets, insisting that at the very least they will reach more users, others stress the importance of investing in quality localization right from the start. Users can be instantly turned off of your product or service if your content translation is poor or you fail to consider how your brand and voice impacts on their culture or values.

Whether you decide to invest heavily or simply test the localization waters, connecting to the global market by investing in localization is definitely a step in the right direction.


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