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How to Expand Your International Footprint Through Localization

To succeed, a company must be physically, linguistically, and culturally accessible in every market in which it operates. Localization, or tailoring a business, service, or product to a specific market or area, makes this possible by transcending cultural and linguistic barriers and driving consumer and stakeholder adoption.

Localization is an essential tool both for companies ready to make their first move into an international market, and multinational companies extending their global reach into yet another new market.

Why Should Your Business Expand Internationally?

International expansion is a significant decision. Seizing the opportunity – and doing so successfully – requires careful planning.

You’ve already evaluated the potential return on investment and whether your possible upside falls within an acceptable range of risk. Additionally, you’ve assessed the resources and infrastructure necessary for success in your chosen international market. These include the following: technical and physical operations, how to access and produce a product, how to ship items to consumers, and the best way to connect with digital initiatives central to the company’s mission in a market with different electricity grids and methods for accessing the internet.

Your due diligence with respect to government regulations and compliance is now done. You have a contingency plan in place in case poor results require you to pivot quickly.

Your conclusion: the time is right. Multiple industries – including healthcare, legal, consulting, global finance, and many others – have significant benefits to gain from international expansion, including:

  • Sales expansion through a more extensive customer base
  • Access to local resources, such as talent and technology
  • Greater supply chain efficiency, as product or service can be locally sourced
  • Improved resiliency through economic downturns, as risk is spread over several financial markets
  • Competitive advantage, as the business can expand brand awareness and convert more customers

International expansion, of course, also presents its challenges – including legal compliance in the new market and language and cultural barriers – all of which can be successfully addressed through localization.

What Are the Elements of Localization?

Localization is a multi-element strategy with a clear goal: achieve local market adoption of products or services as “its own.” It is not simply translating communication materials into the local dialect. That doesn’t work. Yes, breaking down language barriers is an essential task, but it’s just one part of the process. Localization must include:

  • Linguistic accessibility
  • Cultural relevance and appropriateness

Both of these items should form part of your localization strategy. They need to work together to create a positive experience for your potential clients and customers. 

Considerations When Expanding Through Localization 

Localization enables companies to drive growth by removing barriers and fostering acceptance. It dismantles challenges that prevent the rapid and sustained adoption of a product, service, or brand in a new market.

An enterprise must prioritize localization. Without a sound localization plan, a business risks making a vague first impression, failing to differentiate itself from the competition, and not capturing sales and profits in its expansion strategy. Or even worse, damaging the brand through cultural insensitivity or offense. 

Here are a few tips to refer to when developing your localization plan:

Tip #1: Don’t Just Check a Box. Develop Trust.

  • Simple translation checks a box
  • Providing linguistic accessibility develops trust within your new market

The second option is the one that works. Yes, it is essential to translate company materials into the local language, but linguistic accessibility doesn’t end there. Public-facing communications should mirror the tone and vernacular of the local area and industry. 

Product descriptions and written materials should use local spellings, fonts, and typeface placement that accurately conform to regional preferences.

That is especially true when the product or service is professional expertise. In many instances, the business must communicate in a way that reflects the norms of the local region. 

Linguistic accuracy drives multiple positive outcomes, including the following:

  • It creates trust between the business and its customers
  • It ensures business communications conform with legal regulations, especially if the enterprise operates in a regulated industry such as law, finance, healthcare, or business consulting 
  • It improves the shopping experience for online consumers
  • It elevates the local impression of the brand, which may be receiving its first exposure outside of its home territory

Of course, linguistic accessibility works hand-in-hand with developing a culturally relevant public face as part of localization. 

Tip #2: Align Your Values With the Local Culture

Localization strategies work when they touch, connect and reflect the values of specific regions. Your company has values that you want to communicate and share. Your target market has cultural norms. 

Bringing the two together is essential, but your values need to be relevant to the local market.

Cultural relevance and appropriateness may require consulting via market research or with local experts on what is accepted as well as expected from businesses in the area. Often, enterprises may unintentionally slip up by using words, images, or even colors that mean different things to different populations. 

Speak with local consultants about the public-facing images of your business. Ask them to flag anything that is culturally inappropriate. Rely on local partners to drive initiatives in communicating with the local population, in all aspects, from customer service to product development. 

Localization, therefore, means seeing the business through the lens of the local community. Ideally, it should mean they can’t distinguish a foreign company from one of their own – even if they look closely. 

Tip #3: Go Back and Review Your Checklist

Brochures, ads, signage. You’ve put all of them on your checklist, so you’re feeling pretty good about the completeness of your program.

But, odds are you’ve forgotten something.

Go back to your checklist and make sure you’ve included everything such as software, testing that software, checking screen sizes (especially for mobile apps), that may be affected by translations. And of course, be sure you’ve also included end-user testing.

It’s a big job because it’s total localization, not just translating a few documents. But the benefits are big, too.

a partner in localization strategies 

International expansion has potential benefits for enterprises in a wide range of industries. Expansion should follow a strategy of localization, where the norms and values of individual regions are understood, respected, elevated, and reflected in public-facing communications.

Language services are a core component of this process and BIG Language Solutions can help. We have assembled a portfolio of high-performing and complementary language service providers (LSPs). Collectively, we navigate the complex nature of language services for our customers so they can achieve global success.

We have decades of experience in the translation management industry, with a particular focus on localization. We offer a secure, technologically-advanced, end-to-end platform for all of your language services needs. 

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