What Is a Localization Strategy and How to Build One Effortlessly

blog post thumbnail

Written by

Shreelekha Singh

Yerelleştirme stratejisi önemlidir.

Not the most effective opening, right?

That’s only because one should always speak their audience’s language.
To properly engage with your audience, localize your message.

To this end, you need to learn what is a localization strategy and then build one.

Luckily, you are halfway there.

Keep reading to get a localization strategy definition with examples and actionable guide on developing your own localization strategy.

Pro tip: No matter how thoroughly designed, most localization strategies fail at the execution stage. To ensure the success of your localization endeavors, use a professional translation management suite. Learn more.

What Is a Localization Strategy?

Localization strategy is a roadmap for customizing your brand identity and product for a target market. A successful localization strategy is underpinned by the understanding of the local culture, buyer behavior, and language.

No localization strategy definition would be complete without listing the core elements of localization:

  • UI/UX redesign of the website

  • Customization of software and hardware

  • Adjustment of the brand identity

  • Translation of marketing and support materials

  • Management of legal compliance

key elements of localization strategy

Why Your Business Needs a Localization Strategy

A localization strategy can make or break your international expansion plans. Done right, the localization strategy helps you reach customers who aren’t aware of your brand. And not only reach but deliver a more seamless customer experience by tailoring your product to the cultural expectations of a local market.

Another reason your business needs a localization plan is the brand recognition it can build for you. People will recognize and trust your brand when you speak to them in their language and customize the experience for their preferences.

To exemplify the importance of a solid localization strategy, consider Airbnb’s international expansion failure.

In 2018, Airbnb launched an ambitious international expansion plan and started translating its content with a one-size-fits-all approach. The result? Little to no customization for individual target markets and no visible ROI.

A year later, Airbnb’s marketing team changed gears and designed a solid localization strategy. Their efforts consolidated into the largest industry-wide language expansion project, earning Airbnb a place among the top three brands in Bytelevel’s Globalization Report of 150 companies.

Localization was the biggest driving factor behind Airbnb’s global expansion.

Airbnb’s global expansion

Is Translation the Same as Localization?

No. Although the terms translation and localization are often used interchangeably, they differ starkly.

Translation refers to translating every marketing asset into a local language.

Localization is adapting a company's entire customer experience to the nuances of the local markets.

Thus, translation is only a subset of localization.

translation vs localization

Let’s contextualize translation vs. localization with an example. Consider that you own a US-based product company and want to expand your business to new markets like France and Germany.

As a part of your localization efforts, you need to revamp your marketing materials for these countries. This includes your website, brochures, emails, social media, and ads, among others. On top of that, you also want to revamp your product and brand to accommodate cultural differences, languages, and customer behavior in France and Germany, respectively.

When adjusting the entire customer journey, you’ll have to translate your content from US English to French and German.

In this case, the language translation is only a small part of your localization strategy.

3-Stage Guide to Creating a Localization Strategy

Localizing your brand for a new market is daunting without a clear game plan to guide your efforts. This is why you need a comprehensive localization strategy to grow in the right direction and produce solid ROI.

To help you strategize your localization process, we’ve created the 3-stage guide. Let’s break it down.

Stage 1: Analysis

Perform market research to cover all bases

No two foreign markets are the same. Whether you’re working on your first localization campaign or have executed one before, you need to know the ins and outs of your target market.

Understanding the market will help you evaluate the demand for your product or service, pinpoint your target audience, and allocate resources strategically.

Here are a few methods to conduct in-depth market research:

  • Surveys: Send online surveys and distribute offline questionnaires to get a pulse of your target buyers. Keep your surveys short and focus on objective questions to collect quantitative data.

  • Interviews: Approach different stakeholders in the market—your potential customers, competitors, and others—to have 1:1 conversations. Interviews will provide you with qualitative information to supplement the survey data.

  • Observations: Understand customer behavior organically through observational research. Visit the places frequented by your target buyers to observe and analyze their decision-making habits.

  • Focus groups: Invite people to discuss or test your product and collect their responses. This goes beyond interviews to give you a collective view of your buyers.

Pro tip: Your market research should assess whether your brand is culturally relevant to your target audience. Identify what adjustments will help you achieve a great product-market fit in a local market and double down on it.

Dig deeper to accurately identify your audience

Researching your target market is just the tip of the iceberg. It only gives you an overview of where you’re headed. The real value is in identifying your true target audience—the focal point of your localization efforts.

Since you’re not targeting everyone in a particular market, narrow your strategy down to the most relevant buyers.

Once you’ve established your ideal customer profile (ICP), recognize their pain points, purchasing behavior, spending capacity, and other characteristics. This will make your marketing message more appealing and relatable to them.

To get closer to your audience, use these 3 methods:

  1. Connect with locals to get first-hand insights into their lifestyle and behavior.

  2. Follow local influencers and observe any patterns on how they impact buying decisions.

  3. Actively participate in industry-specific communities and public events to get direct access to your buyers’ stories and aspirations.

After conducting in-depth research, create multiple in-depth buyer personas to supercharge your localization and marketing efforts.

Here’s a quick example of how buyer preferences differ in France and Germany.

software buyer preferences in France and Germany

Source: Gartner

Stage 2: Planning

Define goals and allocate a budget for your strategy

Once you’ve done the legwork, it’s time to get your hands dirty and plan a localization process.

Start by setting the overall goals for your campaign. Brainstorm the results you want to achieve through this localization strategy and turn them into objectives. For example one of your localization objectives could be gaining deeper foreign market penetration

While outlining localization objectives, think about your budget as well.

Here are a few costs to consider for a good localization strategy:

  • Translation costs: the cost of all the translated content to convert your marketing messages in the target language

  • Development costs: the cost of hiring software developers for auditing and customizing your product/website for different markets

  • Quality assurance costs: the cost of testing and reviewing your localized assets before rolling them out for local consumers

Modify your goals according to your budget to strategically allocate resources for content localization.

Design guidelines and roadmap for implementation

Set up your localization team for success with a foolproof roadmap for implementing your localized marketing campaigns. Cover these key areas in your roadmap to equip your team with the right resources:

  • Selecting assets to localize: Decide the marketing assets you want to localize and arrange them in order of priority. This list will make life easy for your team and guide them on what to pick first.

  • Establishing timelines: Divide your marketing localization efforts into smaller milestones with fixed deadlines. Track progress and motivate your team to complete every milestone within the timeline.

  • Style guide: Create a style guide document to standardize your localized marketing strategy. This guide will include your preferences for design, vocabulary, terminology, and other aspects of your brand identity.

Work with a local partner to get critical insights you'll not find anywhere on the internet and prepare for more accurate and hands-on planning.

Assemble a team to execute your strategy

After you've finalized your goals, budget, and guidelines, you're all set to hire your localization team to take your brand to a global audience. You can create this team either as a part of your marketing department or as a standalone department.

Here are a few essential positions to include in your team:

Top management: These roles will supervise the entire process, design the strategy, and make necessary adjustments to maximize your international growth.

Roles: Product Manager, Localization Manager, Program Director

Production and development: These roles will perform the day-to-day responsibilities in your campaigns, like translation, software development, measurement, and more.

Roles: Translator, Software Developer, Localization Engineer

Quality assurance: These roles will monitor the quality and accuracy of your localization efforts.

Roles: Localization Tester, Quality Manager

how to build a localization team

Pro tip: Instead of hiring for multiple positions, stay lean and leverage a powerful localization platform Centus. Use the platform to effortlessly localize your product for multiple languages and markets. Learn more.

Stage 3: Implementation

Choose the ideal localization service/tool

The implementation process for your localized marketing strategy starts with choosing the ideal localization service. You can go for any of the following options:

  • Professional localization agency: Outsource your localization strategy to local experts who use machine and human translation to reduce turnaround time. Note, however, that working with an agency is the most expensive option.

  • Hire multilingual employees: If you’re targeting global audiences at a smaller scale, you can use the in-house expertise of any existing employees from specific regions. While this option doesn’t offer an end-to-end service, you can save costs and complete the project within your timelines.

  • Use a localization tool: The most cost-effective and balanced option to implement your strategy in new markets is a localization tool like Centus. Centus is an all-inclusive solution to translate web and mobile apps, documents, marketing materials, customer support resources, and much more. Scale on your own terms and deliver a personalized customer experience wherever you go.

Decide the right KPIs to track progress

Choose key performance indicators to evaluate your progress objectively and ensure you're on the right track. These KPIs will also reveal gaps, thereby helping you fail-proof your strategy.

Here are a few standard KPIs to measure your performance in global markets:

  • Customer experience: Calculate the customer satisfaction and net promoter scores (NPS) in every target market. The number of support tickets also indicates the quality of your customer experience in a local market.

  • Content engagement: Check your content performance with metrics like website traffic, click-through rates, social media engagement, average time on site, and bounce rate for every market. Compare this with your domestic market to see how you’re faring.

  • Growth: Track your net revenue and new customers coming from target markets. Measure the month-over-month customer retention rate and the number of active customers to check how your strategy works.

The bottom line: consistently monitor customer experience, content engagement, and growth to find the scope of improvement and maximize the effectiveness of your localization efforts.

Localization Strategy Tips to Boost ROI

Below are a few proven localization tips to get the best ROI from your strategy:

  • Conduct in-depth market research to understand your competitors and audience

  • Build your ideal customer profile (ICP) and work with local experts to learn about it

  • Establish your strategic goals and work with a well-planned budget to ensure you’re not going overboard

  • Create style guidelines and set the timelines to stay on track and give your team the resources they need

  • Put together a team of localization experts and train them well to create a well-functioning unit

  • Pick an effective localization tool to execute your strategy with precision

  • Choose the right KPIs to effectively measure your localization progress

5 Examples of Localization to Inspire Your Strategy

Before you start outlining your localization strategy, take a look at these five successful examples of localization.


H&M follows a hyper-localization approach where they use customer data across different regions to arrange customized inventory for every location. The retail brand analyzes store receipts and loyalty cards to identify customer preferences and maintain full stocks of the most popular items.

For example, if H&M pants are popular in location A, but skirts sell out faster in location B, they'll adjust inventory in both locations to better cater to these demands.

H&M store

Source: Fashion United


Netflix started its international expansion in 2010 with a new target audience in Canada. This simple expansion campaign gave them the necessary experience to create a successful localization strategy for more challenging locations. Soon enough, Netflix reaped massive success in culturally diverse countries like Japan, India, and Korea.

Netflix’s localization plan hinged on three main factors:

  • Translation: Netflix translates all subtitles in multiple languages and dubs voiceovers for each locale. The OTT brand runs A/B tests to optimize its translation for maximum customer satisfaction.

  • Transcreation: Producing original content in local languages gave Netflix a competitive advantage. Many of its foreign-language shows, like Dark, Squid Game, and Money Heist, have boosted the company's bottom line and popularity globally.

  • UX design: Netflix follows a “pseudo localization” tactic to create a personalized user experience for new markets from scratch and deliver a seamless user experience.

Netflix Japan

Source: Flixed


Domino's is the most successful global brand among all major fast food chains like Pizza Hut, Mcdonald's, KFC, and Subway. Their localization strategy went deeper than just changing website copy and overall content. Domino’s localized their menu to offer local buyers a more welcoming experience.

For example, when Domino's started expanding across India, they created fusion pizzas with locally popular dishes to become a fan favorite. Instead of asking people to try western pizzas, they blended into the local culture to give people what they wanted.

Indian Domino’s menu

Source: Dineout


Nintendo's launch and gradual popularity in the US market is another classic case study for localization success. In the 1980s, Nintendo's Japanese games faced heavy censorship in the US because of sexual references and foul language. But the company turned the tables by designing more culturally appropriate games based on American themes.

Nintendo also localized some of their top-ranking Japanese games, like Mortal Kombat and MOTHER 2, by removing excessive visualization of violence and sexually explicit graphics. What’s more, the game dialogue was translated to appease the more conservative American audience.

Mortal Kombat localization

Source: Legends of Localization


TripAdvisor’s Chinese market foray shows how to ace the localization strategy. After 60 million website visits from Chinese-speaking users, TripAdvisor launched a dedicated app for Chinese travelers worldwide.

TripAdvisor customized the user experience for three types of users from Mainland China, Taiwan, and overseas Chinese people. This unique strategy covered every user persona's travel-related needs by giving them a more familiar interface and chat in their own language.

TripAdvisor’s Chinese interface

Source: TripAdvisor

Parting Thoughts

Localizing your brand is an essential part of your international expansion plans. You can't conquer new markets without first adapting to their cultural norms and local flavors.

To increase your chances of success in new markets, follow our localization strategy-building guide. And once the strategy is ready, implement it using a reliable localization platform — Centus.


To improve your understanding of the localization process, consider these frequently asked questions:

How do you create a localization strategy?

Follow these steps to create a localization strategy:

  • Perform market research to cover all bases

  • Dig deeper to accurately identify your audience

  • Define goals and allocate a budget for your strategy

  • Design guidelines and roadmap for implementation

  • Assemble a team to execute your strategy

  • Choose the ideal localization service/tool

  • Decide the right KPIs to track progress

What is the concept of localization?

Localization is the processof preparing your product and company’s identity for a foreign market by modifying branding, marketing assets, and support materials, among others.

Who uses a localization strategy?

Businesses planning to expand internationally and enter a new market use a localization strategy to prepare their brand for the local audience.

More to explore
What is Software Localization: Everything You Need to Know!

Software localization allows you to launch your software in new markets and multiply your users. Read our guide to software localization to do it the right way.
Market Penetration Examples: Strategies to Scale Your Business

Market penetration is about increasing the sales of your existing product or service in the existing markets. Want to learn how to boost it for your product?
What Is Market Expansion Strategy and How to Expand Your Company? + Examples

A market expansion strategy focuses on growing the customer base in new and existing markets. Want to learn how to build a strategy for your expansion? Read on!