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Going global: How to implement a product localization strategy

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Product localization strategy is the process of adapting a product to satisfy the language and cultural needs of customers in new markets. It can be done through translating text, altering packaging, or modifying content on websites so that it is appropriate for international customers.

There are many benefits that come with implementing a good product localization strategy including increased customer satisfaction, an expanded customer base, and making transitions to new markets easier. Despite the benefits, many companies still do not implement a proper product localization strategy.

In this article, we will discuss what product localization is, why it’s important, and how to implement this strategy in your business.

What is a product localization strategy?

A product localization strategy involves making a few changes here and there so that people in different countries feel like they’re purchasing something familiar yet unique to their culture. This may include changing colour schemes, swapping out names for well-known brands, or even adding additional features based on regional needs.

What are the main types of product localization?

There are three major types of product localization: linguistic localization, cultural adaptation, and software/hardware customization:

Linguistic localization is the process of translating your product’s text and images into your target language. This can be as simple as translating an instruction manual or may require reworking entire user interfaces to better fit with local expectations, especially with more complicated products like software programs or apps.

Cultural adaptation is when you make changes to a product so that it fits better with specific cultural expectations. For example, certain colours may have different associations in other countries. If the colour scheme is an important aspect of your product, you will need to take those new colour associations into account during cultural adaptation.

Software and hardware customization is the process of modifying your product to improve both its functionality and ease of use. This may mean something as simple as changing the type of plug on an electrical product, or can also include making changes to software programs or apps so that they work well on different countries’ operating systems.

Why is product localization Important?

Increased customer satisfaction

At its most simple, localization is important because it makes customers happy, and when they are happy, they are more likely to buy your products and recommend them to their friends and family. Localization is key to maximizing customer satisfaction because it helps deliver an experience customized for each market (perhaps best demonstrated by Netflix’s incredibly successful localization strategy). The trick to successful product localization is to create new versions that don’t feel like translations or adaptations, but which feel every but like an original, unique product experience.

Discover more insights on maximising customer satisfaction in this write up of a talk at #mtpcon How to make products that people love. 

An expanded customer base

An effective localization strategy will help your product to reach a wider audience in new target markets. This is important because the larger (and more varied) your customer base, the greater number of sales you can expect. Localization helps to make this happen by giving people in other countries a chance to learn about and experience what your product has to offer—they get access not only via their native tongues but also in terms of cultural and geographical specifics that may be particular to certain markets. For example, while some items are globally popular (Coca-Cola sells two billion drinks a year without changing the recipe!), others do better when localized so that they meet local tastes and preferences.

Product expansion made easier

The process of localization will help ensure that expansions into different markets go as smoothly as possible without disturbing existing users too much.  This is important because it means that when you do expand, your existing customers are not affected significantly. In general with localization, the core product will remain unchanged to make sure that you don’t alienate existing users while new markets receive a more tailored version that takes into account their specific preferences and needs.

How to implement a product localization strategy that works

1. Conduct market research

The first step in product localization strategy is to research your target market. You need to understand who you will be targeting, where they are located, what their language preferences are for audio/visual content and any cultural considerations that need to be made. This last point is very important because there may be things that are offensive in other cultures that you haven’t considered and the last thing you want to do is alienate potential new customers by making a cultural faux pas. In Japan, for example, belittling your competitors is frowned upon, so Apple refrained from using its Mac VS PC marketing campaign when it expanded into the Japanese market.

2. Build your product localization team

Depending on your company’s size and resources, you may need a small team or a multi-department set up to ensure effective localization, but all companies’ localization teams will usually need a project manager, translators, and product developers.

The project manager will be in charge of keeping the localization team organized and on-task throughout the process. They should be fluent or near-fluent in all languages that you plan to localize for, have extensive experience managing projects like this one, and will need strong communication skills as well as excellent attention to detail.

Translators are responsible for converting your product into another language from start to finish; they must therefore be native speakers of both the source and target language. The more translators you have working on your product, the better, as different people may find different creative solutions and proofread each others’ work as they are going along.

Product developers work closely with localization teams throughout the process. Their duties usually include identifying any technical issues before translating begins, building tools that make it easier for translators to do their jobs, testing new versions of translations on existing devices when necessary, rolling out updates as needed, reviewing finished translations for accuracy, and consistency across different platforms or locales.

Take Netflix, for example. While they outsource most of their translation capabilities to external vendors, all of these tasks are executed by in-house Directors of Localization, Localization Project Managers, Language Managers and Product Developers.

3. Make use of relevant software and expertise

One of the most important steps in a product localization strategy is to use relevant software and expertise. Localizing your content for each specific market takes time, so you need to make sure that it’s being done correctly by experts who know how to localize effectively for both search engines and users. The right software will offer a variety of services that can help businesses with limited resources or inexperienced translators.

Read this case study on how to end cooperation with a software house or contractor.

4. Localize for each specific market

When it comes to localization, you can’t simply use a one-size-fits-all approach. What works in the U.S. won’t necessarily work for Germany and vice versa. Be sure to target your product’s localization according to each market’s interests and needs.

5. Test the product localization results

Once the localization process is complete, it’s time to test how well your product has been localized. Test on real people so you can get a feel for what issues they may run into and then fix them before launch. Just make sure that you are testing with customers from your new target market so that you can draw relevant conclusions about what is working and what isn’t.

The takeaway

In our global world, the best products are those that have crossed borders and boundaries and found international success. But achieving this success requires careful and comprehensive localization. Make sure you follow this guide and get in touch with localization experts. Doing so will enable you to take your product worldwide.

Discover more content on Product Strategy. 

Product localization strategy is the process of adapting a product to satisfy the language and cultural needs of customers in new markets. It can be done through translating text, altering packaging, or modifying content on websites so that it is appropriate for international customers. There are many benefits that come with implementing a good product localization strategy including increased customer satisfaction, an expanded customer base, and making transitions to new markets easier. Despite the benefits, many companies still do not implement a proper product localization strategy. In this article, we will discuss what product localization is, why it's important, and how to implement this strategy in your business.

What is a product localization strategy?

A product localization strategy involves making a few changes here and there so that people in different countries feel like they're purchasing something familiar yet unique to their culture. This may include changing colour schemes, swapping out names for well-known brands, or even adding additional features based on regional needs.

What are the main types of product localization?

There are three major types of product localization: linguistic localization, cultural adaptation, and software/hardware customization: Linguistic localization is the process of translating your product's text and images into your target language. This can be as simple as translating an instruction manual or may require reworking entire user interfaces to better fit with local expectations, especially with more complicated products like software programs or apps. Cultural adaptation is when you make changes to a product so that it fits better with specific cultural expectations. For example, certain colours may have different associations in other countries. If the colour scheme is an important aspect of your product, you will need to take those new colour associations into account during cultural adaptation. Software and hardware customization is the process of modifying your product to improve both its functionality and ease of use. This may mean something as simple as changing the type of plug on an electrical product, or can also include making changes to software programs or apps so that they work well on different countries' operating systems.

Why is product localization Important?

Increased customer satisfaction

At its most simple, localization is important because it makes customers happy, and when they are happy, they are more likely to buy your products and recommend them to their friends and family. Localization is key to maximizing customer satisfaction because it helps deliver an experience customized for each market (perhaps best demonstrated by Netflix’s incredibly successful localization strategy). The trick to successful product localization is to create new versions that don't feel like translations or adaptations, but which feel every but like an original, unique product experience.

Discover more insights on maximising customer satisfaction in this write up of a talk at #mtpcon How to make products that people love. 

An expanded customer base

An effective localization strategy will help your product to reach a wider audience in new target markets. This is important because the larger (and more varied) your customer base, the greater number of sales you can expect. Localization helps to make this happen by giving people in other countries a chance to learn about and experience what your product has to offer—they get access not only via their native tongues but also in terms of cultural and geographical specifics that may be particular to certain markets. For example, while some items are globally popular (Coca-Cola sells two billion drinks a year without changing the recipe!), others do better when localized so that they meet local tastes and preferences.

Product expansion made easier

The process of localization will help ensure that expansions into different markets go as smoothly as possible without disturbing existing users too much.  This is important because it means that when you do expand, your existing customers are not affected significantly. In general with localization, the core product will remain unchanged to make sure that you don't alienate existing users while new markets receive a more tailored version that takes into account their specific preferences and needs.

How to implement a product localization strategy that works

1. Conduct market research

The first step in product localization strategy is to research your target market. You need to understand who you will be targeting, where they are located, what their language preferences are for audio/visual content and any cultural considerations that need to be made. This last point is very important because there may be things that are offensive in other cultures that you haven't considered and the last thing you want to do is alienate potential new customers by making a cultural faux pas. In Japan, for example, belittling your competitors is frowned upon, so Apple refrained from using its Mac VS PC marketing campaign when it expanded into the Japanese market.

2. Build your product localization team

Depending on your company's size and resources, you may need a small team or a multi-department set up to ensure effective localization, but all companies' localization teams will usually need a project manager, translators, and product developers. The project manager will be in charge of keeping the localization team organized and on-task throughout the process. They should be fluent or near-fluent in all languages that you plan to localize for, have extensive experience managing projects like this one, and will need strong communication skills as well as excellent attention to detail. Translators are responsible for converting your product into another language from start to finish; they must therefore be native speakers of both the source and target language. The more translators you have working on your product, the better, as different people may find different creative solutions and proofread each others' work as they are going along. Product developers work closely with localization teams throughout the process. Their duties usually include identifying any technical issues before translating begins, building tools that make it easier for translators to do their jobs, testing new versions of translations on existing devices when necessary, rolling out updates as needed, reviewing finished translations for accuracy, and consistency across different platforms or locales. Take Netflix, for example. While they outsource most of their translation capabilities to external vendors, all of these tasks are executed by in-house Directors of Localization, Localization Project Managers, Language Managers and Product Developers.

3. Make use of relevant software and expertise

One of the most important steps in a product localization strategy is to use relevant software and expertise. Localizing your content for each specific market takes time, so you need to make sure that it's being done correctly by experts who know how to localize effectively for both search engines and users. The right software will offer a variety of services that can help businesses with limited resources or inexperienced translators.

Read this case study on how to end cooperation with a software house or contractor.

4. Localize for each specific market

When it comes to localization, you can't simply use a one-size-fits-all approach. What works in the U.S. won’t necessarily work for Germany and vice versa. Be sure to target your product's localization according to each market's interests and needs.

5. Test the product localization results

Once the localization process is complete, it's time to test how well your product has been localized. Test on real people so you can get a feel for what issues they may run into and then fix them before launch. Just make sure that you are testing with customers from your new target market so that you can draw relevant conclusions about what is working and what isn't.

The takeaway

In our global world, the best products are those that have crossed borders and boundaries and found international success. But achieving this success requires careful and comprehensive localization. Make sure you follow this guide and get in touch with localization experts. Doing so will enable you to take your product worldwide. Discover more content on Product Strategy. 

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