Global Competitive Advantage
Jul 23, 2019
Localization strategies for successful global expansion
The time has come! Your new product or service has been successfully launched at home and you’re ready to expand to other global markets. But what’s the best way to approach this in order to avoid costly mistakes and create the maximum competitive advantage?
There are many aspects that need to be considered: which markets to target first, how to set up distribution and sales channels, how to ship goods, and determine salespricing for local markets. One key aspect that is often overlooked - or considered at a very late date - is the role that local language plays. With all the other aspects of a global launch to consider, you may think that you can rely on your English product information and website for a start and get around to translation at a later date. You may want to reconsider!
In many cases, the decision whether or not to translate your product and user information is not up to you: it is mandated by local government regulations.
For highly regulated industries, translation of specific information is generally mandated. For example, as we wrote in our March 2019 blog, the new European Union Medical Device Regulation requires that regulated medical device content must be available in all 24 official languages of the EU Member States where the devices are distributed. China and Japan have strict general translation requirements for foreign countries seeking to enter their markets. And as one of our clients recently discovered, Québec has specific requirements for Canadian French translations. To avoid last-minute stress and expense, it is important to check regulatory requirements regarding language when preparing your global product launch. Your Language Service Provider can help you with this.
Market Advantages of Website Localization
You may hope to save time and money during your global launch by waiting to localize your website at a later date. If so, you will be losing access to many new potential buyers.
English is still the most popular language online, but it represents only 25.4% of worldwide internet users. China has by far the most internet users (731 million as of March 2017), followed by India with over 462 million internet users. Although some of these users, as well as many other global internet users, understand English, studies have shown that the vast majority of consumers prefer to buy from websites that are in their own language. In 2014, a survey by Common Sense Advisory found that 56.2% of consumers say that finding information online in their own language is even more important than price. Think of all those customers you are potentially missing out on, just by not having your website available in local languages!
So how can you incorporate localization into your global launch strategy?
- Budget. When choosing target markets, including localization costs in your ROI analysis. Discuss your plans with your Language Service Provider to get their input on the appropriate localization processes and obtain accurate cost and time estimates.
- Research. For each target market, base your localization strategy not only on regulatory language requirements but also research on customer linguistic needs and cultural expectations. You don’t want to make decisions based on assumptions. As Common Sense Advisory recently stated: “Offering translated versions of products and services means little to local customers if your underlying assumptions and designs stray too far from their expectations. Why? Because smart local and regional competitors will benefit from your lack of diligence and either block you from the start or rush in to fill the void.”
- Planning. Include localization considerations in the global launch roadmaps of all stakeholder groups, for example:
- Marketing should address local branding and product names.
- Regulatory needs to complete submission packages in the local language.
- Technical Documentation needs to prepare existing content for translation: simplify syntax, grammar, and vocabulary, remove local idioms.
- Production needs to consider the placement of locale-specific safety warnings. Coordinate project schedules with your Language Service Provider to ensure efficient translation processes and reduce time to market.
- Translation. Have stakeholders collaborate with your Language Service Provider on the translation of product information and marketing material, and localization of software, websites, and apps. As appropriate, a good Language Service Provider will adapt content to the target market to create an authentic look and feel, avoid local cultural taboos and (for websites) incorporate locale-specific keywords used by search engines most popular in the targeted markets. A post-translation feedback loop, with verification or review of the translation by native-speaking stakeholders in the target market, will ensure that your content has been rendered appropriately.
- Post-launch customer support. Create a plan and a system for collecting and responding to customer-generated data or requests. This might include incorporating native-speakers in your call center, implementing simple machine translation for online inquiries or creating additional locale-specific user information in the target market language.
There’s a lot to think about when venturing into the global marketplace. You have specialists and experts to provide financial, technical and marketing support. A good Language Service Provider will be able to help you with language-related aspects.
OmniLingua would be glad to provide further information and discuss your plans in more detail. Just contact us. We look forward to talking with you!