Why Localization is Important in Business Strategy

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Localization isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a critical component for any business aiming for relevance and resonance in multiple markets. Here’s a look at the pivotal role it plays in crafting successful business strategies, and how you can harness its power to foster deeper connections with your target audiences.

The necessity for localization has become an integral part of most any business owner’s strategy in today’s marketplace. But how exactly does it interplay with international business ambitions? This post looks at why localization is important in business strategy, and what you should consider if you’re starting from square one.

Why You Should Localize as a Business Owner

At its core, localization means culturally and contextually adapting your business and offerings to meet the specific needs and preferences of a foreign market.

The power of localization lies in its ability to make your business more relatable and accessible to a foreign audience.

Consider a user experience that caters specifically to local traditions, languages, and tastes; such an approach is far more likely to garner loyalty and trust among your customer base because your product or content is speaking their language. Plus, you’re reducing the potential for cultural faux pas that could tarnish your brand’s reputation.

The Concept of Localization vs. Globalization and Standardization

While globalization seeks to expand a business's reach across international borders, often by promoting a universal brand appeal, localization goes a step further by adapting that global presence to fit local markets. Standardization, on the other hand, focuses on consistency across all markets, which, while efficient, can overlook the nuanced needs of diverse audiences.

Localization bridges this gap, ensuring that while a brand may have a global presence, it maintains a local essence.

5 Reasons Why Localization Is Important in Business Strategy

There are many good examples of multinationals who’ve been able to quite profoundly penetrate and thrive in diverse foreign markets with the help of impactful, scalable localization programs. Two that stand out from recent years include Spotify and Netflix. Neither might not have caught on like the wildfire they did if it hadn’t been for their holistic localization work that went so far (and still do) to include local productions, actors and artists.

You don’t have to have thousands of employees though to reap the benefits of developing a proper localization strategy. Whether you’re a solo developer, have a mid-sized agency, or run a series-A startup, your customer journey and reach are going to profit five key ways from investing in localization.

Enhanced Customer Experience and Satisfaction

When customers interact with products or services that feel familiar and respectful of their cultural context, it elevates their overall experience. Using the respective market’s language, adhering to cultural norms, and customizing content to reflect regional interests all significantly enhance user engagement and satisfaction.

Effective Market Penetration and Audience Connection

Localization enables businesses to simply communicate far more effectively with their target audience. This not only aids in breaking down language barriers but also in overcoming cultural differences that could otherwise impede market penetration.

Increased Competitive Advantage

In competitive markets, localization can serve as a key differentiator. Businesses that show respect for and understanding of local cultures stand out from competitors who take a more generic, global approach. Tailoring your strategy can lead to increased market share, as users generally prefer products and services that feel specifically designed for them.

Better SEO and Online Discoverability

By optimizing marketing content for local languages and cultural nuances, localized websites and digital assets tend to rank higher in search engine results within their respective markets, thus improving online visibility and discoverability.

Positioning as a Global Brand

Catering to multiple languages and local customers or users can position a business as a brand with global reach. By successfully navigating the complexities of various markets and demonstrating an ability to adapt and thrive in diverse cultural settings, you stand out as a versatile and resilient player in the international arena.

All of these benefits stack up and pose valid reasons why localization is important in business strategy. In short, localization is not just an added bonus in today’s global marketplace; it’s a strategic imperative. Businesses that recognize and act on the importance of localization in their strategic planning are more likely to thrive and grow in our increasingly interconnected world.

Integrating Localization in Your Strategy

So you’re clear on why localization is important in business strategy, but it seems like a lot to take on. Especially for small businesses and bootstrapped startups new to international markets. With a strategic approach though, it can be seamlessly integrated into your broader business strategy. Here’s how to begin.

Market Research and Target Demographics

Before diving into your localization roadmap, you want to get a firm grasp on the market you’re entering, so due diligence is in order.

Conduct your market research to identify key demographics, consumer behavior, cultural nuances, and the competitive landscape. Tools like surveys, focus groups, and market analysis reports can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of localized content. If you don’t have anyone on the ground or lack the budget to work with a consultant, online tools and resources like Data.ai (formerly AppAnnie), Internet World Stats and the Pew Research Center are good starting points.

This foundational step ensures your localization efforts will be well-targeted and more likely to resonate with your intended audience.

Aligning Your Localization Strategy with Business Goals

Once you’ve gathered insights about your target market, you can start developing a localization strategy that aligns with your overall business goals. It should cover multiple facets, including language translation, cultural adaptation, legal considerations, and feasible marketing tactics.

It’s also essential to start thinking early on how localization will fit into your product development, customer service, and sales strategies. Once you have a rough roadmap in place, you should set clear objectives and KPIs to measure the effectiveness of your localization efforts later on down the road. You’ll likely revisit and revise these once things pick up, but it’s a good idea to give them some thought at this stage.

Maximum Efficiency: Localization Tools and Technologies

Illustration of world globe

Leveraging the right tools and technologies can significantly streamline the localization process. Translation management systems (TMS), content management systems (CMS) with localization capabilities, and AI-powered translation services can enhance accuracy and efficiency.

A word of warning here. Everybody is going to want to sell you something, and there are a lot of different tools out there. It’s going to take some time to vet your options and make a choice. You might very well wind up migrating a couple of years in, as you outgrow your first choice. It happens to the best of us.

To get this off your plate and help narrow down your best options, you might want to consider partnering with a local consultant like me, or a localization service provider who can offer valuable insights and expertise. 

Data, Data, Data

As with any business strategy, it’s vital to monitor the performance of your localization efforts and make adjustments as necessary. Analyze your customer feedback, sales data, and market trends to assess the impact of your localization initiatives. Be prepared to iterate on your strategy, making improvements based on what’s working and what’s not. This continuous improvement mindset is key to maximizing the benefits of localization over time.

Localization requires careful planning, but the potential rewards in terms of customer engagement, market penetration, and business growth are well worth the effort. By following this rough outline and adopting an agile approach, you can effectively integrate localization into your business strategy to get a foot in the international door.

Overcoming Challenges in Integrating Localization in Your Business Strategy

While the benefits of localization are numerous, integrating it into a business strategy is not without its challenges. From language barriers to cultural nuances, businesses must navigate a complex landscape to succeed. However, with strategic planning and a proactive approach, these hurdles can be effectively managed.

Addressing Language and Cultural Barriers

Language is often the most apparent challenge in localization. We’re not just talking about translating content; it’s about ensuring the translation respects local idioms, slang, and cultural context. Working with native translators or localization experts is the most obvious solution. It significantly enhances the quality and effectiveness of your translations.

Graphical illustration of an international website mockup, representing why localization is important in business strategy

Cultural differences also extend beyond language to include values, aesthetics, and consumer behavior. Understanding these subtleties requires thorough research and, ideally, insights from local experts or a culturalization consultant. Tailoring your approach to respect and reflect these cultural nuances definitely helps avoid missteps that could alienate your target audience.

Ensuring Consistency Across All Platforms and Channels

Maintaining brand consistency while adapting to local markets is another delicate balancing act. You want your core brand message and identity to remain intact, even as you make adjustments to suit local preferences.

This can be achieved through comprehensive brand guidelines that specify what aspects of the brand can be localized and which elements need to (or must) remain consistent across all markets. Don’t leave your international brand guidelines entirely up to your marketing lead or head of design. Your localization director needs to have a seat at that table, so these guidelines should be an intradepartmental effort.

Overcoming Technical Hurdles

Technological challenges like adapting websites, apps, and digital platforms for different languages and regions, can also pose significant challenges. There have been many advancements in technology over the past ten years though, so oftentimes you can have your pick of readymade solutions.

For instance, CMS platforms with built-in localization features like WordPress can simplify the process of creating and managing multilingual content. Additionally, adopting responsive design ensures that your digital presence is accessible and user-friendly across diverse devices and regions.

Building a Skilled Localization Team

One of the most effective strategies to overcome localization challenges is to build a dedicated team that’s focused solely on localization and language operations. This team should include individuals with expertise in translation, cultural adaptation, marketing, and legal considerations specific to each target market. By centralizing localization efforts, businesses can ensure a cohesive and strategic approach to entering new markets.

The obvious caveat to this is its cost, which is why it’s usually not an option for a young startup or small business. You can, however, do what I did at Tumblr in its early stage: I built a team of dedicated contractors, consisting largely of professional freelance translators who came with an affinity to the platform and also had journalism and publishing experience under their belt.

This was far more cost effective than crowdsourcing. At the time, my counterpart at Facebook was spending a low seven-figure sum per annum to iron out the mess of community translations they had been trying to use. It turned out to be more costly than if they had just outsourced to begin with.

A dedicated agency, in turn, would never have been able to consistently capture Tumblr’s rather quirky voice, because agencies subcontract orders to a wide range of freelancers with highly different levels of expertise and qualifications, resulting in what I like to call a patchwork effect. I wanted a team who “got it,” with no interchangeable parts. So this pseudo in-house solution was the perfect fit for us, and it’s still the route I recommend to most startups to this day.

Staying Flexible and Adaptable

Finally, it’s essential to remain flexible and responsive to feedback from local markets. I never tire of saying that localization isn’t a “set it and forget it” strategy; it requires ongoing attention and adjustment based on real-world performance and user feedback.

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Being open to change and willing to iterate on your approach definitely help refine your localization strategy over time, and ensure it remains effective and resonant with your target audience.

In short, integrating localization into your business strategy can be challenging and if you’re at an early stage, you might feel as if it’s a heavy additional burden on your product roadmap. It’s worth the effort though. And with the right approach, these challenges can be transformed into opportunities for growth and expansion.

Jenna Brinning Avatar

Author

A localization consultant, writer, editor, and content publisher with over two decades of experience in tech and language, Jenna holds an M.A. in journalism and communication science from Freie Universität Berlin, and is a certified PSPO and PSM who loves helping startups and small businesses reach international users.

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