Localization is when your content matches a customer’s cultural expectations. It takes the element of context and applies it beyond just translating words. At its core, localization helps your customers connect with your brand on a deeper level and improves their likelihood to buy.
When we talk about entering new global markets, the first thing that might come to your mind is translating content. After all, it should be as simple as running your content through Google Translate and sending it off to customers on their journeys, right? Not so fast!
Translation is a complex process. While machine translations like Google Translate can churn through low-value content with relative ease, your high-value content deserves a more personalized touch — not only the words we use, but how we use them, matter. Otherwise, we’re holding a conversation without context, and customers won’t be able to build a relationship with you.
While the words matter, other elements of your presence in a new market matter as well. Consider your website: you might be displaying images that make sense to a North American audience. But would a customer in Asia understand the photograph? Could they see themselves as one of your customers?
This kind of thinking must be evident through every bit of your presence. Pictures and colors should match a customer’s cultural expectations. Prices should be shown in their local currency. The brand logos you display should be recognizable in-market. These elements all come together and tell your brand’s story to your customers in both a conscious and subliminal method.
Companies that understand localization are best suited to adapt their content to a customer’s culture, language and mannerisms. While translators are focused on the words of your content, localization also customizes currency, dates, units of measurement — the factors that seem small but add up into a truly welcoming experience for a global customer.
The need for localized content is growing in tandem with the expansion of global markets. The internet serves as the primary medium for reaching these new customers, because of all the internet users in the world, just 7.6% live in North America. For context, more than 50% live in Asia. If your content is only targeting North American buyers, then you’re missing out on most of the world’s internet traffic — and the customers it brings.
Customers are equally discerning about their purchases regardless of where they live. They expect the same personalized brand experience that North American customers would receive. When you localize content, that desire for a personalized experience should guide how you reformat and alter content to suit a new market’s culture and expectations.
You should be conducting research into cultural norms just as you would for any other part of your product or selling process. Did you know orange has a specific religious connotation in Northern Ireland? Or when you translate text from English to Finnish, the size of your content could expand up to 60%? Your global customers will expect you to not only know about these minute differences but also create content that capitalizes on it. They want to be impressed just like their English-speaking counterparts.
It falls upon marketers to create content that gives potential customers everything they need to make purchasing decisions. With an attentive eye toward researching a new culture, you can set up your brand to create memorable experiences with customers and build brand loyalty.
To build brand loyalty, you will of course need a hefty amount of content ready to localize to different markets. Depending on how much content you need, the amount of localization to do can grow very quickly. For example, if you have three buyer personas you plan to target with content, and you’re localizing content for five languages, you’re spending time and resources to prepare one piece of content in fifteen different ways.
Take that example and expand it to websites and other content media you’re using, and that number likely grows even higher. When you’re beginning to localize content, it pays to be smart about which pieces you localize first. Like your native language-based content, you know certain pieces perform much better than others, or provide a high amount of value to customers.
When you enter into a new market, consider that customers are going to follow the customer lifecycle model: discovery, education, purchase, post-purchase engagement and advocacy. Just like how you would guide a customer through the lifecycle in your native language, your global customers will also buy this way and expect a similar path to follow.
Since you’re producing content for each stage in the lifecycle already, that content is likely high-value content primed for localization.
Let’s review the content that will need localization in each stage of the customer lifecycle.
Customers are beginning to be made aware of your company and the products you offer. At this stage, your content is focused on creating brand awareness, with social media ads or introductions to your product offerings. Ensure content like product descriptions are translated properly and include the context of your new market. Many cultures find video content from brands to be appealing, so think about localizing video content with not only subtitles but also local imagery or showcasing products they would know.
Customers have been doing their research and want to know more about your brand and your products. For your native-language content, you likely have a knowledge base with articles or FAQs sharing more about your product offerings or presenting thought leadership. While much of the content in FAQs is repetitive and can be assisted mainly by machine translation, human translators can provide context for your written content. The human touch for localizing high-traffic blog posts can better educate customers in-language.
When your customer is ready to make their purchases, they should be given a seamless process that makes it easy to buy in-language. The seemingly small factors like using the payment platform that is most popular in that country can make a major difference in a customer completing a transaction.
Once your customer completes their purchase, you want to keep them engaged so they return and buy more at a later date. Content such as a thank you email or follow-up emails with content about new products should be localized in their language. Customer support is also a critical component of retaining customers, and both the self-service content of a knowledge base and interactions with customer support staff should reflect the needs of individual cultures.
Customers happy with your products will want to share their experiences. Their recommendations, ratings and reviews should all be in-language and include relevant context that will engage other customers in that market. Incorporating user feedback like reviews into your webpage, for example, should be a localized process. Reviews from in-country customers written in their native language will have a more effective impact on attracting other customers.
What is perhaps most critical is that every touchpoint you have with your customers should be in-language. Regardless of location, each of your customers should have a seamless experience within their own language. If your customers start jumping between languages during the customer lifecycle, they will seek out a competitor who can fulfill a seamless process.
As you’re translating your content as part of the localization process, human translators can help smooth over those potential jarring points and ensure an excellent experience for your customers. Whilst machine translation can process much of the bulk of your content, your human translators will find the gaps in context and fill in the nuances a global customer would otherwise notice.
People buy from people, and your content should already be written that way. Human translators help ensure that’s the case and provide extra creativity and cultural knowledge to accomplish that within your content. This process of “transcreation” actualizes the concept of localization by sharing the same message you would in other markets, but tailoring the content to fit in-language. With transcreation, you can breathe new life into your content and ensure it has the creativity and cultural knowledge needed to resonate with your new audiences.
Your content is an important part of your first impressions in a new market. Your potential customers will expect an in-language experience from the first day, and you should be prepared to offer it and be ready to adapt to changes in the marketplace and culture as they arise.
So when it comes to when you should localize content, you should be thinking about it from the very start. When you’re planning your website, for example, consider how you could templatize webpages to make the localization process easier for each new market. Each type of content can also be templatized in some fashion to simplify the process. When you produce a video, create a time-coded script to go along with it. When you need to translate the text for subtitles, you’ll have what you need to do it as efficiently as possible.
When your company is preparing to expand into global markets, that is the right time to focus on localizing content. With proper research into your markets’ cultures and content prepared for every stage of the customer lifecycle, you can create those critical in-market first impressions and begin building brand loyalty with new customers around the world.
Originally published Jun 12, 2020 4:00:00 AM, updated June 12 2020