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The idea of going global by being local is a very common one in the localization world. Businesses wanting to expand their activities beyond their geographic borders have to build a customized local presence into the individual locations they want to penetrate to. Although the concept is familiar, there are many different factors to think about, that cannot easily be perceived from the beginning. In order to convey their messaging and make their presence known in different locations, businesses should consider many aspects, such as cultural nuances, consumer habits, purchasing behaviors, different lifestyles and much more. The interaction experience with the targeted audience should feel familiar but also unique, keeping at the same time the brand messaging and main idea intact and consistent – this is the basis for a business to build a distinguishable presence, strong enough to stand out in the competition.
This is where localization strategy comes into play. New technologies make the achievement of a global presence much simpler but a powerful localization strategy is the key to success. However, in order to be able to build a localization strategy, a globalization strategy should have been set before, so that it has identified if and how a localization plan would make sense.
A business with a view to expand globally, should start from a thorough market research. They should first investigate if their products or services would appeal to local people. After this step, the target groups are identified – this is where localization planning takes place in the sense it is widely known in the industry.
When target groups are specified, the selection of the appropriate communication channels to reach them is the next necessary step. This is decided based on the characteristics of the target groups – age range, educational level, lifestyle and much more. This entails the consideration of different browsers, devices, social media, etc., but also of even smaller things, such as the wording or even the tone of communication – keeping at the same time the brand messaging unaltered. This should always be a trusted reference point, that also helps preserve the brand’s reliability.
Marketing materials and SEO content are two of the most important examples where an effective local adaptation can make the difference in the local presence of a business. In the case of marketing materials, localization should resonate with the heart of people, and generate reactions – content that is just understandable can’t lead to tangible results. Regarding SEO, it is crucial to get into the mindset of the local people and try to figure out how they would search for a given idea, product or service, than just translating any keywords that are provided in the source content. This is very important in order to achieve what we call “brand awareness”.
Another important factor to consider is the fine-tuning of the provided information. Redundant information could make the searching process tiresome when people would have to skip products or suggestions that don’t apply to their local market. If this happens, potential clients will easily switch to a competitor’s site or information, with better structured communications. This is still in the scope of the localization strategy to identify the exact content that could guide potential clients through the right path to client acquisition. We should always keep in mind that any mishandlings in the localization process can harm a brand’s reputation and maybe have a negative impact on sales – especially if this is the first “contact” of the target audiences with a specific business.
This is only at this point that translation takes the driver’s seat. The distinction between translation and localization is often ambiguous and the two terms are commonly used interchangeably. However, based on the above, it is probably obvious that translation is only one of multiple components involved in the localization process.
When the source content to be used is identified and finalized, translation can start. The selection of the appropriate vendor should then follow – with a thoughtful consideration of a Single Language Vendor (SLV) versus a Multi Language Vendor (MLV) being an important stage before this decision. Many different factors are to be evaluated here too: it is always valuable to work with a local partner in order to deeply understand the needs and the particularities of a new market, which means multiple SLVs in the case of many different languages or locations. On the other hand, an MLV would eliminate the project management burden, being at the same time responsible for the selection of the best vendors in each language and location.
During the next stages, when the translation flow starts running, the localization strategy should always intervene in order to coordinate any particular aspects of the process. Here are some of the main pain points a localization strategy would have to moderate:
- Market experts should provide their knowledge any time it is needed during the process, so that the final result is more locally targeted
- Technical experts should be available to act promptly in order to fix any technical discrepancies that make local adaptation impossible, such as date formats or structures based on different grammar and syntax patterns
- The end client should integrate localization into their main workflows and be ready to provide feedback and information that would clarify the intended purpose of a given product or service
Of course, we shouldn’t forget the testing stage at the end of the translation flow, as this is our chance to see how the translation effort has been implemented in the final format!
This discussion could certainly be much longer… And there are still so many interesting small details to be approached as a whole in the localization process! However, there is a valid conclusion that seems to be a common ground in all cases: translation is more and more dependent to a broader localization ecosystem and there is less and less space to consider it as a separate and independent task in the localization industry. A powerful localization strategy seems to be the only way for an effective adaptation of our content to more cultures and languages…