Want to make your company’s name and product known across borders? We thought you might. After all, 58 percent of small businesses already have customers abroad.
But before striving for international success, you have to understand – your brand will only be able to grow globally if your product and content fit that specific market you’re aiming for.
This is where localization, or the process of adapting your product to the target culture and location, comes in.
The question is – how do you know when the moment is ripe? When exactly should you be starting to consider localization as the next step in your business journey?
Here are 10 signs you need to keep an eye out for!
1. You’ve outgrown your domestic market
When your home ground gets too crowded for you and you’ve saturated the demand for your product (or even see a decrease in it), it’s a clear sign there are bigger fish to fry – and larger markets to conquer.
That said, if you want to successfully expand your business overseas, localization is not a choice, but a necessity that can have a huge impact on how well your company performs in an international market.
Working out a localization strategy with a professional language service partner, or LSP, will help your business overcome cross-border differences and successfully reach target areas, as well as build a bond with your future customers with less effort.
2. You’ve hit a sales plateau
Most small businesses experience phenomenal growth in the first 3 to 5 years of operating. However, this initial expansion cannot last indefinitely. What you can do is – extend the sales life of existing products and services by finding new markets to sell them in.
Keep in mind, however, that 84% of international customers would be more likely to buy products and services if they could do so in their native language. And there it is – yet another sign that your business should consider localization if you’re thinking of conquering new territories to push through a sales plateau or boost sales overall.
Here’s an example of what we mean. When the computer game called Defender’s Quest was released, it was localized in 6 languages. This significantly increased the game’s sales in non-English speaking countries (the sales share of the Russian version increased from 5% to over 11%).
3. You want to enter a difficult market
Japan, India, Mexico, Thailand – what do all these countries have in common? They are all difficult markets with a specific mentality, new conditions, and regulations you have to deal with if you want to establish your brand there.
Truth be told – any market that is geographically and culturally distant from your domestic market will have barriers that need to be overcome.
You have to consider the political environment, the socio-cultural and demographic environment, as well as the technological development of that market.
Luckily, localization can prevent mistakes on your part and help to avoid serious marketing fails that even big brands are known to have faced. For example, Ford’s Pinto didn’t penetrate the market in Brazil because not many people would buy a car that means “male genitals” in Brazilian slang.
To avoid misrepresenting your product in a foreign country, learn from others’ mistakes – localize your product prior to entering a difficult market.
4. Customer/download rate is at a standstill or even dropping
Your app might have done well when it first appeared on the app store. But lately, you’ve noticed that the download figures have come to a standstill.
Sure, you could create a social media ad campaign or add new features to give the app a little boost. However, it might just be a sign that it’s time to reach out to users elsewhere.
Define your new target user groups and adjust your app to their language, culture, navigation pattern, and change other necessary preferences.
Mobile game Abe the Dragon is a great example and success story. Before localization, their download number stood at 3000. After localizing the app, the figure rose to 23000 downloads – a whopping 767% increase! All of a sudden, they were getting traffic from France, Italy, Russian, Japan, and China – all thanks to localizing the app’s keywords.
5. Increasing numbers from users abroad
It’s very likely that your app or your product website is available in one language – most likely in English, as it’s spoken by 20 percent of the whole world’s population.
Even then, you might start to notice your users are located in different countries and regions, with some areas particularly more active than others.
If you notice such trends, it might be your queue to jump on the localization wagon and translate your product, software or app to improve their user experience and reach customers who don’t speak English.
And there will be lots of them! Even the countries with English as their official language (think the US and UK) have polyglot cultures with many Chinese and Spanish-speaking citizens. And according to research, 72 percent of them would rather spend most of their time on websites in their own language.
So, pay attention to the location of your customers or app users to track where the highest purchase or download activity comes from. Then, adjust your localization strategy to target these areas.
6. Receiving reviews in local languages
Good news! If you’re receiving reviews from other languages than the one your product or app supports, you already have some foreign audience.
The bad news, however, is that these customers might eventually grow unhappy if they can’t use your product or app in their native language or cannot fully benefit from it due to the language and cultural hurdles.
Try to notice if there’s a growing number of negative remarks from users located in a specific region. If there’s a pattern, it might be time to localize your app to meet their needs and expand your business.
7. Customer inquiries from local languages
Some customers might have a dire need for your product. But if they simply cannot figure out how to use it because they don’t speak the language – well, this can cause many technical issues for them and plenty of work for your customer support team getting all the inquiries answered.
When you start to notice customer inquiries from local languages, it’s a clear sign you should consider localization. Adapting your product and the website correctly in several languages (or at least the one most of your inquiries are written in) will help your customers understand the product better. This, in return, will ensure better customer experience right from the get-go and reduce customer support costs as there will be fewer issues to solve.
8. Higher website bounce-back rates
If you’re trying to enter international markets and notice that your website visitors are quickly leaving after viewing only one page on your site, it’s yet another red flag you should consider localization. Here’s why:
Your website might be working fine for an English-speaking audience. But if you plan to attract international customers, you need to adjust your page according to their needs. This means – localizing the content to their language and their cultural background, prices displayed in their currency, correct weight measurements, and local date and time setting.
Otherwise, a website that’s not localized or is localized poorly will appear funny and even annoying to your customers. They won’t really feel like staying on the website and will leave empty-handed.
9. Your competition is doing it
As the importance of localization grows, it is very likely that your competitors have already been planning several steps ahead and have localized their website and product. After all, 74% of multinational enterprises believe that localization is either important or most important if you want to increase global revenue.
Therefore, if you want to keep up with the pace of your rivals and not lag behind, translating your website and adapting the product to the target market is a must to maintain a competitive edge. Otherwise, someone else will take that market share instead.
10. Your industry is growing
It is more likely your business can grow locally as well as globally if the industry you’re operating in is growing itself. Check out industry trends and if your market is on the rise, it might be the perfect timing to localize your product and website to expand your business overseas.
For example, app-based ride-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft, have blown up the taxi and limousine industry and their revenue in the US had more than doubled to .5 billion by 2017. To expand in the greater Middle East, Uber even acquired Careem, the leading car booking app in the Middle East and North Africa region, to expand their platform around the world.
If your industry is also peaking, it might be your company’s chance to go along the ride.
What are the signs telling you?
Take a closer look at your company and consider if any (or several) of these signals apply to your business. If they do, it might be time to localize and reach new markets.
And don’t leave localization until the very last moment! It’s better to start early rather than late, as you’ll be building an infrastructure to support global traffic where every additional customer will add value and make your product more ingrained.