Nowadays, we count on unprecedented technology to facilitate international communication and exchange. Web 3.0 makes it easier than ever for small and medium-sized companies to expand beyond their home markets. However, this doesn’t mean that international expansion doesn’t carry any challenges. Today, we’ll look at the concept of product localization, how it’s carried out, and a few examples of it amongst some of the biggest global brands.
Engaging new audiences is always a complex multidisciplinary effort that relies on research and testing, trial and error. And it’s even more difficult if a language barrier keeps potential customers from understanding your brand’s message. Even if you’ve found an unbeatable solution to a clear market gap, failing to communicate with new audiences can set your product up for failure. To make yourself understood, you must speak your new customers’ language. But even language might not be enough.
For instance, we also need to make sure we meet local regulations. And, if we’re working on a digital product, we need to make sure it can run smoothly on our users’ devices without them having to put much thought into interacting with it. And we don’t want to perfectly translate a message that might come across as offensive or hard to understand. So, we need to culturally adapt our product beyond mere translation. Every last detail, from color combinations to date formatting should be revised and adapted. The process of tailoring your product or service to enter new markets is called product localization.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at product localization, sharing some exemplary cases and key tips for a successful localization process.
For a more extensive introduction to the discipline, as well as some processes and best practices, feel free to check out our ultimate guide to localization.
Product Localization Makes Expansion Easier
Launching a successful product is about understanding user needs. And putting yourself in your new customers’ shoes is at the heart of localization. The process’s true goal is making foreign users feel as if the product was designed for them to begin with.
Localizing your offer reduces the risks and uncertainty of expanding to new markets, by ensuring that your product will be ready for adoption. This facilitates the following tasks of commercialization, logistics, and marketing.
It’s also worth noting that localization goes hand in hand with a careful, data-driven and highly-targeted expansion process. When we decide that our business is financially and operationally ready for expansion, it’s too easy to set goals that are too broad. We might want to expand everywhere at once and as soon as possible. But global success is just local success across several regions.
Who’s Behind the Localization Process?
The localization process often relies on multidisciplinary teams. These teams often include developers (in the case of a digital product), and designers. Of course, translation professionals play an indispensable role, as well as marketers. We need an impeccable translation of the brand’s source material, upon which we’ll make creative decisions based on a profound knowledge of the target market in terms of competitors, prices, habits, and consumer trends.
McDonald’s takes it a step further. When assembling their teams for regional business and communications, they tend to count on natives from that region, who can provide insider knowledge into their foreign audience.
All industry-leading companies operating at an international scale rely on product localization. Let’s take a look at two cases:
“Share a Coke”
There are many reasons why 2014’s “Share a Coke” campaign was such a success for Coca-Cola. One of them was localization. The campaign consisted of filling up the shelves with cans and bottles that featured a series of names. Each label read “Share a Coke with…” and a name. Of course, Coca-Cola, an industry giant operating at an international scale knew that they couldn’t use the same name list everywhere. The campaign’s charm was in the possibility of buying a bottle or can with your name or a loved one’s name and sharing it on social media.
Each region has its own list of names. Making sure “Алексей” was an option for Russian consumers and that Coca-Cola cans with the name “Fernando” were available in Latin American supermarkets was a localization effort.
Through localization is a linguistic and cultural process, it’s a business decision. As we covered in a previous article, Netflix has implemented outstanding design and development processes to make sure its platform offers a flawless UX across languages. But Netflix went beyond the mere minimum of localization. In order to compete with local content platforms, Netflix made it part of its expansion strategy to ally with local content creators and produce Netflix originals for every region they’ve expanded to.
At the end of the day, that is localization is: Adapting what we have to offer to meet the demands of a new market.
Localization for Growing Businesses
Citing billion-dollar companies as case studies can make localization seem a little daunting. How about startups? How about businesses that don’t have the reach or budget of Netflix, Coca-Cola or Starbucks, but that have the potential to expand by growing internationally? Localization is still possible.
Especially because localization is about cautious expansion and scalability. It’s a slow process of understanding, building relationships and providing for a new audience, locale by locale. Any healthy operating business can do it with enough knowledge of the target market, the right budget allocation, and the help of a cross-cultural expert.