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“It’s very easy to be different but very difficult to be better”, says Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer, Apple.
And in a global economy and a fully connected world, ‘better’ should know no limits, and it does not. If you’ve built something good, word travels and customers emerge from different corners of the globe. But it’s no easy feat to enter a new market and the costs for doing so should be meticulously planned and carefully allocated.
During planning, the focus usually falls on the regulatory landscape, the setup costs, and talent acquisition. Unfortunately, language access and support is usually overlooked over more tangible challenges, but if you consider that failing to address your new audience in their language would basically trump every other investment you are making, then maybe you would reconsider.
65% of consumers prefer content in their own language and 40% of consumers will not buy in other languages. Source: Can’t Read, Won’t Buy – B2C, CSA Research
Language access and support is relevant to pretty much every content an enterprise is going to make use in its expansion plans, from product to marketing to legal etc., but the approach should not be identical and horizontal.
There are many options to optimize the localization and translation costs when targeting foreign market segments, and here are some of them.
1. Haste makes waste – localization must not be a last-mile-delivery task
Of course the priority is going to be on the product, but if you think about it, this might not be the first content your targeted new audience is going to be in touch with when being introduced to your brand, could it?
It is important therefore, even at market research level, to identify all the content for translation and map it in your customer journey; this will help you prioritize content for localization depending on the impact it has on customer acquisition and product adoption.
Prioritization can relate to two aspects:
This means that content that is high visibility & impact and comes in early in the customer journey, such as your landing page or website, could be allocated higher budget and could need more planning ahead as it will require more time before it reaches the quality level you feel comfortable with.
Another item you will need to include in your international expansion to-do list is identify your localization partner or partners. While most companies will try to save budget through a DIY approach, especially at early stages, moving past one country and towards a true global reach will require know-how and capacity that internal staff simply don’t have.
Selecting a localization partner from the beginning is not only a way to ensure a sound local market strategy, but it could also be a great lever to cost saving when entering new markets.
What are the aspects you need to look for in a localization partner?
- tech stack that can support yours including integrations; the abundance of platforms and tools for every different function of an organization, let alone the plurality of systems that deal with creation, authoring, design, management, publishing and re-use of content is already making content management challenging for organizations. If you integrate your localization workflow with your systems it will save you so much more than time and hence cost, it will save you face if you consider versioning and repurposing of content.
- industry expertise and a broad service portfolio to support different content types and workflows; the handling of content localization may depend on numerous factors, such as its intent, its impact on the business goal, its location/use, user statistics etc. Going back to the prioritization of content, having a partner that can suggest different approaches to different content type is important when budget is limited and you need to do more with less thus instead of lowering costs compromising for lower quality levels, you can smartly reallocate budget to what matters most at each step of journey.
- in-depth knowledge to consult you for local preferences, as in certain content types localization can really elevate or trump your brand (see the recent IKEA gaffe, and this is only one of the many such examples).
- potential for other target languages and locales to enable you to support your entry to other markets and countries in a uniform way; when your international expansion strategy grows to include more than a couple of markets, then centralizing your localization approach for all target markets and languages will contribute a great deal to lowering the costs and the timelines for new market entry as you will be re-using what you have already set up and you will only be re-calibrating your market entry approach.
Tip: don’t consume your evaluation process in test translations as they will not really tell you much about the capabilities of your partner. Instead test your partner in a minimum viable process to iron out any kinks, and incentivize interaction between stakeholders of your team and your partner’s team.
What you gain by planning:
- A comprehensive layout of the content requiring localization which you can share with your potential localization partner for accurate cost and timeline estimates, and as a basis for content prioritization and sequencing
- Testing and setting-up the process once, but being able to use it for all markets in your future growth strategy while optimizing it
- Time for team training and stakeholder bonding
What you ditch:
- Missing critical content for translation and compromising on either cost or quality to have it translated last minute; whatever implications this might have depending on content type
- The manual work for content transferring back and forth, quality assurance or local review
- The uncertainty for future markets and languages, the struggle to set up another process with a different team times the target locales
2. First mover advantage or differentiation strategy?
Time to market (TTM) is crucial until it is not 😉. Depending on the industry you belong to, the adjectives describing TTM might mean different things. In verticals that are high quality and products have longer lifecycles, such as in the Life Sciences and software, long TTMs are the norm – mainly because the implications of anything else could be severe. Translation thus can follow the same flow. In verticals where moderate quality levels offset for shorter lifecycles, such as the e-commerce space and internal communications, shorter TTMs increase your competitive advantage.
In both cases, language support is crucial and should be viewed as a revenue enabler. However, focus shifts on different content types depending on the sales targets. For example, if you are in tech or SaaS, then customer base growth and user adoption are your number one priorities to achieve market share, and this starts with a good product, hence you can prioritize product localization.
However, if you are targeting a depressed economy or a saturated market with little differentiation margin, then your market entry depends highly on branding. It is marketing and messaging that will help you establish identity and solidify market share. In this case, the localization budget should be targeted to marketing content and your messaging, and should ideally include more than just content translation. For example, by performing local SEO, you can better understand the digital landscape in your target market, and by implementing A/B testing in different localized copies, you can optimize your ad budget to gain the best return on your marketing budget for the target locale.
What you gain identifying the needs:
- A targeted investment and optimized localization spend to boost your new market entry while keeping costs under control
- Alignment between your localization strategy and your business goals
What you ditch:
- Wasting localization budget on content which does not ultimately reach target users while leaving behind the localization of important content that will lead to the required conversions
3. Put your target users in the loop; give voice to the ultimate judges
Quality levels should be tiered according to content types and intended use. Therefore, moving away from localization metrics that focus on linguistic accuracy and correctness, or on time delivery, will save you time and face. Building your localization metrics around your target users and making it possible to measure it will provide meaningful feedback that will allow you to adjust your published content and retain customer satisfaction and user experience based on their expectations.
How can you gather and evaluate user feedback
- Run A/B testing for your marketing campaigns using localized copy versus English copy, or even two different versions of localized copy
- Implement heat maps on your web app or website to map user journey and see how well localized sites perform compared to the respective English one
- Send user surveys where you would actually ask your customers or users to explicitly share input for the language support you are providing
And these are just some ideas, but there are numerous other options you can try.
Besides gathering the data, another important thing is to create a feedback loop that starts with target audience and ends to your localization partner. This will help your partner validate user feedback, update their assets and integrate it in future translations, thus increasing customer satisfaction and lowering costs for local review and rework.
What you gain by leveraging your users’ input:
- Meaningful metrics that prove localization ROI and actually support your market entry, while also helping you better identify future markets and opportunities
- Engaging users and customers in a way that delivers value to them, thus increasing customer loyalty
What you ditch:
- Meaningless processes that add to your workflow in time and money, eg. out of context linguistic quality assessments and in-country review by non-qualified staff that ultimately do not add value to your localization program and increase your costs
- Slow user adoption or even waste of your localization investment, if for example for a certain content type English is favored against localized versions by users
Ultimately, the cost for entering a new market is not so easy to accurately calculate as there are many hidden costs that are not readily visible from a first look.
Key takeaways to reducing your localization costs
When it comes to reducing your localization costs when entering a new country, it ultimately boils down to:
- Smart content organization & prioritization for smart budget allocation
- Translation technology for reuse of translations down the line; lower costs and consistent brand image, hence user experience
- Integrated workflows for elimination of manual work; cost optimization through automation
- Centralized processes for reuse in subsequent markets & minimal team onboarding
- User feedback in the localization loop and smart metrics focused on UX
There are ways and there are options – you just need to know which these are and make the most fitting one.
Entering a new market and need help with your localization strategy? Contact our friendly team today!