What Is Localisation?
Localisation is often confused with translation, but these terms actually mean two different things. Localisation is the entire process of adapting a product or content to a specific location or market, according to the Globalisation and Localisation Association.
The translation is the process of converting text from one language to another. The translation is one aspect of localisation, but localisation is more extensive.
Localisation also involves adapting other elements to a target market, including:
- Modifying graphics and design to properly display translated text
- Changing content to suit preferences
- Converting to local currencies and units of measurement
- Using proper formatting for elements like dates, addresses and phone numbers
- Addressing local regulations and legal requirements
In short, localisation gives something the look and feel expected by the target audience.
Who Needs Localisation?
Arriving at a website that wasn’t intended for you can feel a lot like travelling to a foreign country you hadn’t planned to visit. You don’t recognise the currency or know the exchange rate. You struggle to read the signs. You scan the landscape for something familiar, but nothing seems to be where you expect it to be.
If you’ve ever experienced this, you already understand the importance of localisation even if you’re not sure exactly what it means.
Localisation makes content more appealing, which as a result makes the audience more likely to buy. In fact, 75 per cent of consumers said they were more likely to purchase goods and services if the corresponding product information is in their native language, according to a 2014 Common Sense Advisory report.
By that logic, anyone who is trying to reach a global audience should consider localisation as well as translation. To truly expand your audience, however, you’ll need to localise more than just your website. Localisation should also include:
- Marketing materials, including TV, radio, and print ads
- Product manuals
- Training materials
- Online HELP
- User Interfaces
- Quick-start guides
- Service materials
- Product warranty materials
- Disclosure documents, such as terms and conditions
Localising your content allows your organisation to expand its reach to a new audience, build credibility, and increase sales. It also helps you build loyalty among existing customers. In another Common Sense Advisory survey, half of the senior executives said they believed localisation leads to profitability and growth.
Getting Started with Localisation
“But everybody speaks English!” seems to be a mantra in the business world nowadays. If that’s the case then one version of a website, software, or advertisement is enough. An English version, of course. So what’s the point of spending valuable resources on something so seemingly redundant as localisation?
First of all, we need to establish what exactly localisation is. According to Wikipedia:
“In computing, internationalisation and localisation (…) are means of adapting computer software to different languages, regional differences and technical requirements of a target market. Internationalisation is the process of designing a software application so that it can potentially be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes.”
However, cross-cultural digital media advisor, Dr. Nitish Singh, offers a more detailed definition (Definitive Guide to Website Translation):
“In an international marketing and advertising context, localisation pertains more specifically to adapting company offerings and communications to locale-specific expectations. Thus, marketing localisation is more specifically analysed in the context of the four Ps (product, placement, price, and promotion). But in terms of digital media, and more specifically the web, localisation entails adaptation based on cultural, linguistic, functional, technical, and other locale-specific requirements.”
So, it’s basically an adaptation to linguistic, cultural, and technical requirements. In what way could such a process translate into (pun intended) bigger sales? Furthermore, does data support the notion that English is really the lingua franca of the world?
1. Reach a Global Audience
According to Sheffield Hallam University, a shocking majority of the global population (75%!) doesn’t speak English at all. Out of the remaining 25%, many people may not speak English very well and won’t be able to understand marketing content accurately – not to mention catch the subtleties of cultural references and wordplay which are the foundation of many marketing campaigns.
All in all, the global population consists only of 6% of native English speakers. In such a context localisation can be the key to reaching a global audience, and hence – boosting your sales.
2. Expand Your Business with Localisation
As research by Gartner Inc. implies, by 2017, 268 billion downloads of mobile applications will generate more than $77 billion worth of revenue.
Additionally, a recent survey by Common Sense Advisory found that 84% of international customers claim they are more likely to buy products and services from websites that provide product information in their native language. Therefore, the best way to sell to global audiences and to cut a slice of the fast-growing mobile market is to localise your applications, software, websites, etc.
It’s also a great way to expand your business, as it allows you to introduce your brand to new markets. By giving your brand more exposure localisation helps you to reach a wider audience for your products and services. More exposure increases demand and thus boosts sales.
3. Improve Customer Satisfaction
By localising your content, you can show your customers that they are important to you, the reason being that you are ready to go the extra mile for them. Localisation allows you to embrace the target culture and deliver a personalised experience, consequently gaining the trust and increasing the engagement of your customers.
Since the holiday season is almost upon us it’s worth remembering that although around 45% of the world’s population celebrates Christmas, it would be a good idea to check if your customers belong to that 45%, before sending them a mailing full of Christmas trees. As a result, you will not only leave a good impression but also strengthen your brand and… boost your sales.
4. Cut Down Risk
Localisation may be very helpful when it comes to reducing the risk of copyright infringement or violation of local laws. Additionally, it can help you avoid serious marketing failures.
Even the biggest brands had to learn the hard way that not all of their product names are appropriate in a given culture. Here are some of the most mind-blowing examples of (mostly) car brands that obviously have not been properly localised:
- Ford: Fiera – “beast” in Spanish
- Ford: Pinto – “male genitalia” in Portuguese
- Daihatsu: Naked – this one goes without saying…
- Fiat: Uno – “stupid” in Finnish
- Opel: Ascona – “female genitalia” in Portuguese
- Mazda: Laputa – “whore” in Spanish
- Starbucks: Latte – “erection” in German slang
Steering clear of such mistakes may save your sales from some serious explaining 😉
5. Increase Marketing Effectiveness
Narrowing international campaigns to a number of local markets may help you in improving marketing effectiveness. Location targeting makes the investment much more cost-effective. What’s the point of paying for all of the marketing channels worldwide when the campaign you have just prepared may be effective in only one country?
Answering such questions before an actual launch may result in an increase in the campaign’s ROI (Return Over Investment). Moreover, localisation is very useful for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) as search results are heavily influenced by a physical location. The more effective your marketing is, the higher the sales.
6. Reduce Costs
Localisation may really help you save time and money. After all, it costs much less than development. If you have already spent thousands of dollars on writing an application, spending just a percentage of that cost on adapting the software to local markets, and hence creating a possibility of additional revenue, makes for a very good investment.
Moreover, you can make localisation much cheaper if you make it a part of the development process at an early stage (and not leave it for the end as trying to implement it too late never ends well for the project). Using appropriate tools such as style guides and TMs (translation memories) won’t hurt either.
Last, but not least, localisation means fewer costs for support and customer service, considering that software in your customers’ language makes navigation and configuration much more intuitive for them, resulting in fewer inquiries for your support department, fewer claims for refunds, better brand reputation and, consequently, more sales.
These are just a few ways in which localisation may help you boost your sales. Have you already started localising your products? What other profits have you gained because of this process? Share your thoughts in the comments below!