What is Product Localization: A Comprehensive Guide
13 min. read
In an increasingly globalized market, product localization is the key to unlocking your business's true potential.
This article explores the crucial steps and considerations to effectively tailor your product for diverse audiences, fostering meaningful connections and securing a competitive edge in international markets.
Keep reading to find out:
Pro tip: Product localization involves adapting language, UI, graphics, features, and content to suit local preferences. To simplify the process, use a professional product localization platform – Centus. Learn more.
Product localization is the adaptation of a product to a target market's specific needs and cultural expectations. The goal of product localization is to create a seamless and engaging user experience that feels native to the intended local audience.
You can localize the following types of products:
Localization is a business decision and occurs when a product has a wide international appeal or multi-market potential. In some cases, however, product localization is mandated by law.
The key types of product localization are linguistic, website, software, multimedia, and cultural localization. Let’s explore them one by one.
Linguistic localization involves translating and adapting the text content of a product, including user interface, support documentation, and marketing materials. For example, Apple translates its product documentation and support materials into multiple languages to cater to its global customer base.
Website localization involves adapting a website's content, design, and functionality for a specific language or region. A well-known example is Amazon that has dozens of localized versions of its website for foreign markets like Japan and Germany.
Software localization (web and mobile apps)
Software localization is the modification of a software application for a specific language, culture, or region. It involves translating the user interface, support files, and documentation, as well as modifying code and ensuring compatibility with target operating systems. For instance, Spotify has localized its music streaming app for numerous countries and languages, providing a tailored experience for users around the world.
Multimedia localization focuses on tailoring content, such as audio, video, images, and animations, for the target audience. Netflix is a prime example of a company that has successfully localized its content by offering subtitles, dubbing, and even producing original shows for different regions.
Cultural localization, also known as culturalization, is the process of making a product suitable and appealing to the target culture. This goes beyond translation and includes modifying images, colors, symbols, and other elements to resonate with the local audience and comply with local norms and regulations.
McDonald's is a classic example of a brand that has successfully adapted the menu on its website to cater to local tastes in various countries. Specifically, it offers the McArabia in the Middle East, and the Teriyaki Burger in Japan.
As businesses expand internationally, they need to cater to diverse audiences with different languages, cultural norms, and expectations.
According to a study by CSA Research, 47% of online consumers require non-English content, and these languages hold 53.6% of the world’s GDP. Localization helps brands reach this potential market through a personalized and engaging user experience, which ultimately increases customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Other benefits of localization include:
1. Increased brand authority
Localizing products helps businesses establish a strong presence in international markets and build credibility with local consumers.
In Lilt’s 2021 State of Localization Report, 84% out of over 900 experts confirm that localization has a significant impact on brand image, while 91% agree that it plays an essential role in shaping customer experience. Clearly, when companies take their time to learn the cultural nuances of their customers, they encourage user engagement and position themselves as credible.
2. Improved user loyalty
Happy customers are loyal customers. Providing a localized experience tailored to customers' language and cultural preferences increases their satisfaction and likelihood of becoming loyal, repeat customers.
3. Bigger customer base
Localization enables businesses to tap into new markets and reach a broader audience.
A great example of this is Coca-Cola that has successfully localized its marketing campaigns and product packaging to gain a larger customer base and increase sales. The "Share a Coke" campaign, for example, replaced the Coca-Cola logo with popular names, phrases, and even emoticons in 80 countries to resonate with local consumers.
4. More revenue and sales
With a localized product, businesses can attract more customers and generate higher sales.
Uber, the worldwide ride-hailing service, is a great example of how adjusting services for local customers increases your bottom line. In India, Uber saw the need for low-cost, traffic-friendly transport, so they launched UberMOTO, a bike taxi service. This localization effort increased Uber's revenue and made them the top-contending ride-hailing service in India.
Here’s a short overview of the product localization process. Read on for a detailed explanation of each step.
Step 1: Create a localization strategy - Develop a plan that outlines your goals, target markets, budget, and scope.
Step 2: Perform market research - Understand local preferences, culture, and consumer behavior to tailor your product effectively.
Step 3: Conduct competitor research - Analyze your competitors' localization efforts and identify opportunities to differentiate your product.
Step 4: Internationalize your product - Prepare your product's code, design, and content for easy adaptation.
Step 5: Choose a product localization platform - Select a localization platform that offers comprehensive localization management features, machine translation integration, and data security.
Step 6: Conduct localization testing - Perform quality assurance tests to ensure your product meets local market expectations and identify areas for improvement.
Step 7: Promote your product - Market your localized product using channels and strategies that resonate with your target audience.
Step 8: Continue the product localization process - Update your product based on customer feedback, market trends, and performance metrics.
Step 1: Create a product localization strategy
Begin by setting a budget, determining the scope of your localization efforts, and selecting the target markets. Just as you would plan a road trip by determining your route, stops, and budget, a localization strategy helps you map out your journey to global success.
When planning your product localization strategy, be sure to do the following:
Define your objectives: Begin by outlining your business goals for localization. Are you targeting specific markets, increasing global reach, or enhancing user experience within your current region?
Set a budget: Assess the available financial resources for localization initiatives. Consider things like translation costs, technology investments, and marketing costs. Then, create a budget that balances quality and cost-effectiveness.
Establish timelines: Make a realistic schedule for the market analysis, translation, testing, and promotion phases of localization. Setting achievable milestones for each stage of your product localization process helps you track your team’s progress and ensure the timely completion of tasks.
Assess internal resources: Evaluate your organization's existing expertise and resources related to localization. Identify any skill gaps or areas that may require external support, such as translation services or localization technology.
Step 2: Perform market research
Select your target market and research its business and cultural climate. You can choose the markets to expand to based on several factors:
Industry trends and reports
Take your time to understand the local market, its culture, language, and customer preferences. This helps you plan for adjustments to your product's design, messaging, and user experience.
Step 3: Conduct competitor research
Study who your competitors are and what they’re doing in the target market. You can use resources like Ahrefs or SimilarWeb to analyze competitors' online presence and learn from their successes and failures. Other things to consider during competitor research include:
Competitors' products: Research competitors’ products and analyze their features, pricing, and overall user experience. Note any unique selling points or localized elements that may give them a competitive edge in the market.
Marketing strategies: How do competitors communicate with their target audience? Pay attention to their use of language, visual elements, and cultural references.
Customer feedback: Gather customer reviews, ratings, and testimonials to identify areas where competitors excel or fall short. Use this information to differentiate your product.
Localization gaps: Identify areas where competitors may have overlooked localization opportunities or failed to fully cater to local preferences. Capitalize on these gaps.
Step 4: Internationalize your product
Make your product adaptable for localization by incorporating localization-driven development (LDD) from the start. Collaborate with localization experts and design your product to be flexible. Some elements to internationalize include:
Language: Prepare your content for translation, ensuring that text is easily modifiable and separate from your code. Support right-to-left (RTL) languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew.
User interface: Your UI should accommodate text expansion or contraction, different character sets, and varying layout requirements.
Media: Be mindful of culturally sensitive images, symbols, colors, and design elements to avoid offending local audiences.
Date, time, and number formats: Adapt formats for dates, times, numbers, currencies, and units of measurement to align with local standards.
Legal and regulatory compliance: Ensure your product complies with local laws, regulations, and industry standards in each target market.
You might not know how important it is to build with localization in mind until it’s too late. So, make sure to accommodate future localization during your product development, and encourage collaboration between development, marketing, and localization teams.
Step 5: Choose a product localization platform
Select a platform that simplifies the localization process. When choosing a product localization platform, consider the following factors:
Translation memory and glossaries: Your platform should offer features like translation memory, glossary management, and support for various file formats to help your team with translation.
Collaboration tools: Look for features such as real-time editing, task assignment, and progress tracking. The features simplify collaboration for translators, project managers, and other localization stakeholders.
Integrations: Your product localization platform should integrate seamlessly with your tools and workflows, such as content management systems, version control systems, or graphic design platforms.
Scalability: Choose a localization platform that can meet your present needs while also scaling to suit future expansion, such as support for additional languages and markets.
Quality assurance: Your chosen platform should offer quality assurance (QA) features, such as automated checks for consistency, terminology, and formatting, to maintain high-quality translations.
A localization platform to consider is Centus.
Centus is an all-in-one tool for product localization that's easy to use and adapt to your needs. It features machine translation for fast, budget-friendly results and keeps your product up-to-date with continuous localization. Centus is also affordable and secure, making it a trusted choice for businesses looking for a simple and efficient localization solution.
Step 6: Conduct localization testing
Perform internal QA tests and beta tests to ensure your localized product meets local market expectations.
Internal tests: This involves checking the localized product in-house before its launch. These tests should cover linguistic accuracy, formats, cultural appropriateness, and technical functionality.
Beta tests: Beta tests involve a select group of users from the target market who provide valuable feedback on the product's usability, functionality, and overall appeal before the final release.
By conducting thorough localization tests and addressing pricing discrepancies, you can ensure a successful product launch that caters to the unique needs of each target market.
Step 7: Promote your product
Use locally popular platforms and channels to market your product.
To successfully connect with potential customers through your marketing strategy, consider these simple tips:
Localize marketing materials: Make sure your marketing materials, like website content, ads, and social media posts, match the language and culture of your target audience. Don’t just translate word-for-word, transcreate instead. This means wording the core marketing message in a culturally relevant manner.
Work with local influencers: Partner with local influencers, celebrities, or businesses to promote your product and gain credibility with local consumers.
Use regional platforms: Learn about popular social media platforms and communication channels in the target market, and adapt your promotional efforts to these platforms. For example, popular Western platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are blocked in China. Instead, promote your product on WeChat, Sina Weibo, Youku Tudou, or Douyin.
Conduct SEO for local search: Improve your website and marketing content for local search engines and popular keywords in your target market to attract more potential customers.
Connect with cultural events: Plan your promotional campaigns around local events, holidays, or festivals to create a strong connection with your audience.
Monitor and adapt: Keep track of your marketing performance and adjust your strategies based on feedback and results.
Step 8: Continue the product localization process
Stay up-to-date with market trends, customer preferences, and technological advancements to maintain relevance and continue expanding into new markets. To ensure continuous localization success, consider the following points:
Regularly update content
Gather customer feedback
Monitor market trends
Collaborate with local partners
Track performance metrics
Adapt to changing regulations
By focusing on these key aspects of ongoing localization, you can ensure your product remains competitive and appealing to different target audiences.
Netflix's product localization strategy focuses on providing a customized user experience in each region it serves. This includes offering subtitles/dubbing in local languages, and producing region-specific content.
Netflix also reverse localizes by offering popular non-American shows in Western countries. For instance, the South Korean production Squid Game, was Netflix’s biggest hit in 2021, amassing a whopping 1.65 billion streaming hours in the 28 days following its release.
Coca-Cola, a global beverage giant, operates in over 200 countries and has localized its website into more than 40 languages, including less widely spoken ones like Latvian, Lithuanian, Albanian, and Greek.
The company's "Share a Coke" campaign exemplifies its localization efforts, with personalized bottle labels tailored to local markets. For instance, in Ireland, Coca-Cola featured Irish names, while in China, it used terms like "close friend" and "classmate" due to cultural norms . In India, the campaign focused on "mom," "father," and "sister" instead.
This attention to detail in understanding and adapting to diverse markets has helped Coca-Cola maintain its position as a leading global brand.
What does L10n stand for?
L10n stands for localization. L10n is derived from the first and last letters of the word "localization," as well as the number of letters in between. L10n is modifying a product or service to satisfy the language, cultural, and market needs of a specific target audience.
What factors affect localization?
Several factors can affect localization, including:
Differences in language and dialect
Legal and regulatory requirements
Currency and pricing variations
Differences in measurement systems (e.g., metric vs. imperial)
Time and date formats
Local market expectations
What is product localization vs standardization?
Localization takes into account regional tastes, languages, and cultural sensitivities, allowing businesses to better resonate with local customers. In contrast, standardization simplifies operations and reduces costs by maintaining uniformity in product offerings. It may not cater to the unique needs of diverse markets.
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