Why Localize?

Why should a company localize its products and services? There is plenty of evidence that offerings adapted to local language, requirements, and tastes are much more successful:

  • 56.2 percent of consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price. (Common Sense Advisory, Can't Read, Won't Buy:  Why Language Matters on Global Websites, 2006)
     
  • 74 percent of multinational enterprises believe it is either important or most important to achieve increased revenues from global operations. (California State University at Chico, 2007)  
     
  • 65 percent of multinational enterprises believe localization is either important or very important for achieving higher company revenues. (California State University at Chico, 2007)  
     
  • 71 percent of North American executives expect revenues from foreign operations, sales and/or imports to increase. (Chubb, 2008, Multinational Risk Survey)   
     
  • 95 percent of Chinese online consumers indicate greater comfort level with websites in their language. (Forrester Research, Translation and Localization of Retail Web Sites, 2009)
     
  • A critical success factor for cross-border merger and acquisition deals is the ability to communicate information clearly and accurately in multiple languages. (Merrill Corporation, How to do Better Multinational M&A Deals, 2008)   
     

Tips for optimizing localization

  • Ensure high quality source content with messages that can be adapted for international markets. Avoid messages that are word-crafted purely for the domestic market, especially using slang and colloquialisms. Writing simple, active-voice sentences works best.   
     
  • Do not assume that your own local market characteristics apply globally. History, culture, taste, propriety, and language usage vary greatly across the world.  
     
  • Ensure your design concept is internationalized. Whether content is displayed in a software interface, on a website, or in print, the product design must make allowances for the target market requirements. This applies equally to product design, packaging, promotion, documentation, and more.
     
  • Make sure your design accommodates displaying characters beyond your alphabet (such as diacritical markets and non-Western letters), as well as double-byte languages. Allow room for text to expand (as is typical when translating from English into most European languages for instance) or contract (as can happen when translating into many Asian languages).   
     
  • Think about localization as much as possible during the development of the original content. Consistency and conciseness in the original mean faster localization, less cost, and greater potential for reuse. 
     
  • Once you begin the localization process, avoid making changes to the source material. Changes to either the design or content ripple through the localization process in every language, causing delays and increased cost. A single word change in your source can mean many, many changes to cover all the target languages.