Content Localization 101: 9 Tips for Delivering the Right Message to a Global Market
It is ironic that the Covid-19 outbreak has been bringing the world together, and at the same time, it is keeping us apart. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is more critical than ever as the world works together, yet keeps its distance. Remote global communication continues to grow as we find ways to work with everyone, no matter where they are or what language they speak. Making sure that we are getting the right message across is critical in this new era. The following article explains how content localization is key to delivering the right message in the right way to a global audience.
In 1987, Braniff Airlines added luxurious leather seats to their plans. In the United States, they promoted this new change with the slogan “Fly in leather.” But when the campaign was translated to Spanish for their international flights, their slogan fell flat. That’s because, in Mexico, the Spanish translation said: "Fly naked," which was not what the airline was going for.
Languages are complex, ever-changing, and impacted heavily by local culture. For companies looking to reach a global market, translation alone is not enough. Instead, brands need to create a scalable content localization process.
Content Localization: What It Means and Why You Need It
Content localization is the strategy of customizing translated content to a specific geographical audience in a way that ensures that it is correct, culturally sensitive, and easy for the intended audience to understand and relate to. Bruno Herrmann, director of globalization for Nielsen in Brussels, Belgium describes content localization in this manner:
“It involves adapting content for customers effectively enough so that they think it was created just for them. And it can go above and beyond by covering a number of customer groups in the most appropriate granular way in the form of hyper localization.”
Content translation is a crucial part of the content localization process, but it’s only the first step. Translation alone doesn’t bridge cultural differences between content and the end readers. Other factors of content localization include context, idioms and slang, cultural association with certain words, local currency, fashion preferences, and religious differences. The process may include collaborating with local experts, adapting pricing, and adding local images.
Take, for example, translating a sales page designed for users in the U.S. to appeal to a Mexican audience. While you’ll translate the page to Spanish, you’ll also want to list prices in Mexican pesos and ensure the translation does not use slang terms that convey an unintended meaning.
Why Localized Content Matters
Regardless of what field you’re in, customer satisfaction is critical to success. Content localization helps ensure customers feel welcomed by your content. It may be even more important than pricing.
In one study, 56 percent of consumers said the ability to obtain information in their language was more important to them than cost. But you wouldn’t just take your existing content and simply translate into another language. You’d also need to update the images customers might see, adjust the pricing, and address any other issues unique to the new culture.
Content localization does more than make customers feel good; it can also help give your company a competitive edge, expand your market, and help you establish a successful brand worldwide. A study by Appia found that 86 percent of localized campaigns outperformed their English versions in both click-throughs and conversions.
9 Steps to Creating a Content Localization Strategy
To reap the benefits of content localization, businesses need to create a streamlined, scalable strategy that addresses stumbling blocks before they become PR nightmares. So before launching a site or product in a new country, implement the following steps.
1. Set realistic timelines.
Taking on the global market is a complex, time-consuming task. Accurately localizing your content and offers may take weeks or even months. When building a timeline, consider the resources required, how long tasks may take, and consider how holidays or time zone differences may impact the final project. Then, create a realistic timeline based on the full scope of the project.
2. Round out your locally relevant content.
While translation is necessary, it is only the first step. Create a plan for making your content locally relevant by adding local images, referencing local culture, and providing content local customers will find useful. These adjustments help users know they are in the right place as well as send signals to search engines to increase your brand’s visibility in the local area.
3. Collaborate with local experts.
No one understands the culture of your target market better than the people who live there. Local experts can provide a unique perspective and ensure your content, navigation, and other decisions will resonate with the local audience.
If you think back to Braniff Airlines’ failed slogan, you’ll realize that while a translation can be technically correct, it may use words or phrases that a native speaker would not. A local expert can also provide insight into successful marketing strategies in the area.
4. Don’t neglect your landing pages.
Creating local content is a great start, but don’t forget to adapt your mixed-media landing pages to local preferences. Address local pricing, adjust holiday sales, and consider the way the local audience interacts with businesses. For example, you may consider whether locals are more likely to want to reach out by phone or via a platform like WhatsApp.
5. Address technical differences.
Beyond cultural differences, businesses should also consider how tech differs across regions. For example, a majority of internet users in India are mobile-only, meaning they do not use desktop computers but rather mobile devices to access the internet. Can all tasks on your site be completed via a mobile device? If not, you may need to make adjustments. Or you might find that translating content from English to German results in content spilling into margins due to long words and phrases. Make sure your timeline accounts for these challenges.
6. Adapt your offerings for the local market.
Many companies assume their pricing and product features will easily carry over to a new market. That is not always the case. Be sure to research the local market to determine if your pricing is competitive and if the features you offer will be successful. For instance, you might find that local companies offer a similar product or service for much less, making your offering less competitive.
7. Identify the right marketing channels.
What are the most successful marketing channels in your current market? U.S.-based companies often focus on Google, Facebook, and Instagram. However, not every country or region uses the same social media platforms and search engines.
Just like you wouldn't use the same marketing strategy to reach 16-year-olds and 60-year-olds, you can't assume current strategies will work with an entirely new audience. Before building a marketing strategy, research the best way to reach your target audience in the new country.
8. Measure your success.
Reporting on localized campaigns can be challenging due to the differences in key performance indicators (KPIs) between countries. It may not be effective, for example, to compare revenue across geographical locations because different products may be popular in different locations, and market sizes can vary wildly. Consider what metrics you can compare between different locations, and set goals based on individual data.
9. Use technology to automate tasks and increase efficiency.
Going global is no small task. Depending on the scope of your project, it could require juggling hundreds of pieces of content that have to go through dozens of people, all working on different deadlines. To work more efficiently, consider using localization automation tools such as computer-assisted translation and bug tracking platforms that can help speed up and automate parts of the process.
A headless content management system enables you to plug translation tools right into your content creation and distribution process via application programming interfaces (APIs). It can also be a powerful addition to your content localization workflow.
And if you do go headless, be sure to choose a platform with marketing-friendly collaboration tools that enable versioning and rollback, access controls, approval workflows, and even remote publishing to reduce human errors while boosting your time to market.
Creating successful localized content is about more than just recycling the same tired old message in a new language to earn more money. It’s all about building relationships with the audiences with whom you love to work. You have to tap into what is important to them, who they look up to, what dreams you can help them achieve, and beyond. Aim to get to know the people, the culture, and the language, and you’ll find your content localization efforts becoming more successful than you ever could have imagined.
Brent Heslop is a content strategist at Contentstack, a content experience platform provider. Prior to Contentstack, Heslop worked for over 15 years as a senior web technologist at TIBCO Software. He has authored 15 popular computing books that have been translated into several languages. He has also taught HTML and web programming at UC Santa Cruz Extension and has held numerous corporate seminars on web publishing and programming.