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Strategic Content Localization for Global Business Expansion

Content Localization

The international marketplace is extremely diverse and nuanced. 

It constitutes countless multilingual and multicultural “local” markets. 

Each local market has its own unique language and cultural preferences that your brand must comply with and respect for effective marketing, for a successful localization strategy.

Here are some interesting stats for you:

A 2020 research study showed that 65% of customers relate more positively to products and services offered to them in their first language. The research also showed that 40% of prospective customers completely ignore brands whose content feels foreign or imported. 

The stats above show how hard it can be for businesses to grow globally when using marketing or branding content that “local” international customers consider foreign. That’s what makes content localization with a defined localization strategy key to global business expansion and a successful target market breakthrough.

What is content localization?

Content localization is the process of adapting and optimizing your brand message to different “local” cultural and lingual contexts using a localization strategy to appeal to a target audience within the wider context of a multilingual and multicultural global market.

Is content localization necessary? 

Absolutely! Suppose, for example, your US-based business has all its content (social media posts, website, blog, product or service descriptions, etc.) in American English. Only about 1.5 billion people worldwide can understand your value proposition, which means your brand is invisible and inaccessible to over 80% of the global population. That’s not forgetting that English is a second language to a significant chunk of the 1.5 billion people—and you’d better appeal to them in their primary language.

Furthermore, there are many fundamental cultural and lingual differences among native English speakers. Through market research, you can understand that British and Australian customers, for example, may not be fully comfortable with American English. Having American-English-only content, therefore, can exclude almost 90% of the world’s population. Content localization will pave the way for your brand to access and appeal to this huge population.

Is content localization the same thing as translation? No, it isn’t. Translation is only the basic part of content localization. Translation is when you convert your content from a source language to a second language while preserving each word’s exact meaning in both languages.

On the other hand, content localization means finding the most appropriate words and phrases to convey a message in a new language. Localization doesn’t necessarily preserve each word’s exact meaning. It focuses on conveying your brand message (both text and visual) and marketing material accurately in a culturally sensitive and legally compliant fashion within the context of an international “local” market.

This ensures that the content is not only translated accurately but also culturally appropriate and legally compliant. This is important for businesses that want to expand their reach globally and communicate effectively with their target audience in different regions. By localizing their content, businesses can connect with their customers on a deeper level and build stronger relationships with them.

The three types of content localization

As you plan your global expansion proper localization strategy now, it’s important to understand and pay attention to the three types of localization available in the market today before you start creating localized content. They include:

  • Content translation: This type of localization involves converting your already-existing social posts, web content, podcasts, and other content to a new language. Translation aims to appeal to a new audience in a new language with the same content that has worked previously with a different audience and in a different language.
  • Transcription: This is a form of content localization where language experts convert audio files (recordings and podcasts), manuscripts, written PDFs, or film audio tracks into readable text, either written or electronic. It may also involve extracting text from brochures to create a more streamlined, simplified text-only layout.
  • Interpretation: Interpreters paraphrase a speaker’s message in real time to a multilingual audience. Interpretation is applicable in business conferences or meetings as well as job interviews when hiring a multinational workforce. Translation deals with written text. Interpretation deals with real time spoken language.
Importance of content localization with stats

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How can content localization with market research benefit your business?

Let’s use two hypothetical scenarios for better understanding . . .

Scenario one: 

Your New York-based company has started entering the Japanese market. You already have a landing page, social media page, brochures, and a whole range of content in English. But none of that will work for the Japanese audience because most of them don’t speak English. You will need to translate all that content into Japanese so that ‌locals can understand your company’s value proposition. You’ll also need to use images, brand colors, currencies, and brand slogans that resonate with ‌local audiences.

That’s what makes localization—and not just translation—important for global success.

Scenario two: 

Your business has two locations, one in Chicago and the other one in Orlando. Let’s say you’re hosting two separate marketing conferences, one in each location. You may have the same message for both conferences, but to succeed in both, the styles and modes of delivery should vary.

The color themes, the images, the promotion methods, and the speakers you choose for each conference may need to be different too. You may not need translation services in this scenario (because both conferences are in the US), but you will have to localize the content to address the regional and cultural differences between the two audiences.

Difference between translation and localization

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In summary, the most notable benefits of content localization include the following:

  • Adjusting marketing messages, product names, and brand identity to overcome cultural barriers in new markets.
  • Enhancing your brand messaging consistency across the world, all while satisfying the varied interests and preferences of local customers in different foreign markets.
  • Managing brand reputation by ensuring no aspect of your business is mistranslated or misunderstood overseas. Localization also ensures that nothing in your content is offensive, confusing, or inappropriate in any of your target markets. Refer to the infamous KFC blunder in China.
  • Showing your brand’s respect for other cultures. This is an effective way of building brand credibility and trust. This will lead to increased brand trust, customer engagement, loyalty, satisfaction, and retention.
  • Localized content speaks to the hearts of local customers. They don’t struggle to decipher the context or understand the meaning of your marketing message. This helps you build authentic connections with them, which in turn boosts conversion rates and sales and also lowers bounce rates.
  • Better segmentation and customization. Localization means communicating with different global markets with their regional customer needs in mind. You get to target and speak directly to local audiences.

What types of content should you localize for your target market?

The role of content localization is primarily to tailor your brand’s content to the needs and interests of specified target markets. You may also use content localization internally to improve communication with a multilingual, multicultural workforce.

When it comes to content localization, there are several types of content that you should consider localizing in order to reach your target market effectively. These may include your website, social media content, marketing materials, product descriptions, and any other content that your audience interacts with, for example, if you are an online school, localizing e-learning content would be of great importance to reach an international audience. By localizing these types of content, you can better engage with your target audience and build a stronger connection with them.

Additionally, if you have a multilingual workforce, you may also consider localizing internal communication materials to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can effectively collaborate with one another.

With that in mind, what types of content should you focus your localization strategies on?

i. Multimedia content

Multimedia content is a critical part of any marketing strategy. It includes podcasts, marketing videos, training videos, product presentations, eLearning videos/audio, etc. It involves the translation, subtitling, and/or captioning of script files in a source language into the target language.

We need to emphasize the need for professional eLearning and localization services because some businesses fail to recognize their importance. The last thing you want is to create confusion within your workforce by, for example, mistranslating your training materials. A confused workforce is unproductive, inefficient, and susceptible to costly errors.

That’s why you need to enlist professional eLearning localization services from a reputable eLearning localization partner. A good localization partner will ensure that all your eLearning resources are not only accurate but also reflect and respect local customs, traditions, and cultural beliefs.

ii. Website content

Your website should accommodate the local language, spelling conventions, date formats, currencies, and cultural preferences of local users in each target international market. You will create a stronger brand connection with target audiences when your website respects a foreign market’s social norms, consumer behaviors, and cultural nuances.

Website translation example

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The website content that you need to prioritize during localization includes:

  • Brand content: product pages, about us, and landing pages
  • Marketing information: product descriptions and blog posts
  • Technical content: user guides, FAQs, and testimonials
  • Payment and checkout information, e.g. currencies
  • Contact info
  • Operating days and hours, including date formats
  • Page layout: you may need to accommodate Arabic speakers, for example, who read from right to left

iii. Marketing content 

Your marketing content should capture the target audience’s language, needs, behavior, cultural norms and customs, and imagery. Marketing localization involves adapting your marketing and sales emails, blog posts, brochures, customer service, and search engine optimization (SEO) to specific international markets. Utilizing brochure templates tailored to each market can significantly enhance your localized marketing efforts.

This enhances brand visibility and engagement from foreign markets since it is an important process that businesses must undertake when they are looking to expand their operations into international markets.

By taking the time to localize your marketing content, you can ensure that your brand is more visible and engaging to foreign markets. This can help you to build trust and rapport with your target audience, which in turn can lead to increased sales and revenue. So, if you are looking to expand your business into new international markets, investing in marketing localization is a smart move that can pay dividends in the long run.

How to build content localization strategies

A content localization strategy is an essential plan that businesses use to reach different target audiences. It involves adapting content to suit the cultural, linguistic, and other unique preferences of different markets. The strategy outlines the markets in which the business will expand, the goals for each market, and the localization partners that the business will work with.

Here are 6 key tips for building a successful content localization strategy:

Tap into local experts

The first step in developing a content localization strategy is to identify the target markets and analyze the specific content needs of each market. This includes determining the language, format, and style of the content that will best resonate with the audience. Once the content needs are identified, the strategy should outline the specific goals for each market.

Work with local translation and localization experts or agencies to design your localization strategy in each specific market beforehand. No one understands the local market’s culture, competitors, consumer preferences, marketing strategies, and promotion strategies better than a local localization agency or expert.

Research is key

With the help of local experts, research as many insights as you can into local customers, legal landscape, best marketing practices, and competition before starting your localization process.

Master multichannel content marketing

Mastering multichannel content marketing gives you a clear outline of the type of content to create for a multilingual, multicultural, and diverse target market.

Multichannel marketing

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Set your priorities straight

You probably have tons of marketing content that works currently or has previously worked tremendously well within your home market. When you decide to expand to a new market, you may not have the time or resources to localize all that content in one go.

You will need to prioritize key factors. As a rule of thumb, business-critical content should be the priority. This includes content around sales, customer satisfaction, brand awareness, online marketing, etc.

Optimize for multilingual SEO

Has SEO worked for you in your home market? If yes, you know how important it is to impress Google with your web content. Your website localization strategy should prioritize localized keywords, a localized backlinking strategy, dedicated localized URLs, and localized hreflang website attributes. Proper international SEO will help your content rank highly in international markets.

Become a local

Localizing your content can only take your brand so far. You need to entice the local community into integrating your brand and its products into the community. You can do that by supporting local community initiatives, hiring local talents and treating them well, and keeping local audiences abreast of prevailing community events, culture, and traditions.

Don’t forget the socials

Your localization and marketing efforts should also extend to social networks. Research to know which platforms are most popular within your target audience and localize appropriately. You may, for example, need to optimize Qzone in China as opposed to Twitter or Facebook. Social media localization involves using images and videos and leveraging social trends that appeal the most to the target customers.

Examples of content localization done right

Content localization isn’t a straightforward endeavor, and success isn’t always guaranteed. Remember the KFC blunder in China? You have to localize properly and work with the right localization team for specific markets for the best results. Here are some interesting examples of brands that got their localization game right:

i. Square 

The financial services company Square has successfully used a genius website localization strategy since 2018. The company uses machine translation software tools to complement human localization professionals for effective translation management systems and linguistic adjustments for 200 languages and dialects around the world. The company also localized currencies on its website to show, for example, Canadian dollars and Japanese Yen for Japanese and Canadian customers respectively.

Square homepage in japanese language

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ii. Netflix

The content giant Netflix decided to localize their content by investing in local original movies and series. The company doesn’t force American creations down everyone’s throat anymore. In India, for example, the company has shows such as Sacred Games set in Mumbai, in Hindi language, and with tons of authentic Indian cultural references. This strategy has worked like magic for Netflix around the world.

Netflix Sacred Games in Hinidi language

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iii. Nescafé 

The instant coffee brand Nescafé utilizes customized layouts and designs for each market. Their official website is fully translated and localized for each market. The homepage on the Japanese Nescafé website, for example, isn’t as simplistic as the American design. Because it’s a foreign market, it’s filled with descriptions and images to reflect ‌Japanese culture that emphasizes more attention to detail.

Nescafé Japan product image

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It also leverages Nestle’s logo (Nescafé’s parent company) to appeal to Japanese audiences—because of this market research and a smart localization process, Nestle is quite popular in Asia and they’ve successfully reached their target audience in a foreign market.

Best content localization tools in 2024 and beyond

Successful multinational companies integrate AI into their content marketing and localization strategies for added efficiency. They, for example, use localization tools to complement human localization professionals and, in turn, expedite global expansion and localization. Localization tools will make your localization strategy more efficient and less expensive to implement.

Among other tools, you should leverage the following AI tools for effective content localization:

  • Image localization software such as Adobe Photoshop.
  • Self-translation tools such as Google Translate and DeepL Translator.
  • Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools. For example, SDL Trados Studio will expedite your translation process by keeping a memory of previously translated words and phrases. CAT tools use their stored translation memory to automate the translation of future similar content. 
  • SEO tools, e.g. Moz or SEMrush. These will help you find location-based keywords in multiple languages easily. 
  • SEO plugins, such as Yoast SEO. These plugins automate the translation of your website’s SEO metadata.

Conclusion

Customers prefer to consume information, think, act, and make purchase decisions in their native local language. They want brands to be aware and sensitive to their cultural norms and beliefs. 

Content, on the other hand, is an integral part of today’s customer experience. These facts underscore the importance of optimizing your content for international audiences. If you’re ambitious and committed to international expansion and global audience growth, content localization has to be at the top of your expansion strategy.

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Cassandra Rosas

Cass is the Head of SEO Outreach and Link-Building at Omniscient Digital, she loves writing about topics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content operations, e-commerce, and social media marketing. In her spare time she likes listening to music, doing oil painting and watching SciFi movies.