Around 90% of all startups fail.
If there’s a 9 out of 10 chance that your business venture is not going to make it then why even bother? That’s because it’s worth it. If your startup is included in the 10% that succeed, then the returns will more than makeup for the trouble.
Now, you want to make sure that your startup will be one of those that succeed. There are several things that you can do and that includes localization.
What Is Localization?
Localization is the practice of changing content so that it becomes a match for a new market. For example, if a company has developed a product for the United States and will be marketed in France, it will have to be developed first for the French market. Its packaging will have to be changed so it will be in French, and the marketing and promotion will have to be changed to match the sensibilities of the French.
In a nutshell, that is what localization is all about. It’s making a product, service, or company a better match for its new market.
Some people think that localization is just another term for translation but it’s not. There are fundamental differences. The translation is an essential part of localization but the latter is not limited to language. Also, there are instances when there are no translations involved with localization.
Take the example that we have cited. What if product X is also marketed to the United Kingdom? There will be no need to translate the content or the packaging but the marketing and the promotion will have to be changed for the British market.
If localization suddenly became more complicated than what you had supposed that’s because it is complex. It takes a lot of expertise and knowledge to do localization properly. That includes knowledge about language, society, psychology, and culture.
Localization for Startups
Startups are not typical companies or businesses. They stand out mainly by focusing on one product targeting a single pain point. In some ways, startups are disruptors and outliers. One way that your startup can exceed expectations (which is expected of startups) is to go international or even global immediately. Doing that will take you a step ahead of your competitors.
It’s easier said than done. Launching your startup in your local market is already a complicated and intensive task. Targeting other countries and the world will be a new level of difficulty, but if you do it right, your startup can become the next JUUL or ByteDance.
To successfully conquer foreign markets you need to do localization. Without it, your ventures into other countries will fall flat. Over 72% of consumers spend most of their time on websites written in their own language. Localization will also help you to tweak your brand and your products to match the sensibilities of the new market.
Remember, each new country you will venture into is a separate market and will require localization.
Aspects of Localization
It’s time to go through the various aspects of localization and how these can affect the efforts of a startup in expanding into other countries.
Language is perhaps the main aspect of localization. If a startup does not localize for language, then it’s not likely to make any headway at all. Let’s go back to the example that we had earlier. If product X is going to be launched in Thailand and its packaging or marketing will not be localized for that country, its success will be limited.
For sure, there will be people interested in the product because there are a lot of English speakers around the world now. However, it will not be as many if the product will be localized in Thailand.
Understandably, many are hesitant to do localization because of the cost but there are solutions to this. Utilizing machine translation, for example, is a great way to achieve localization without having to spend too much money. You can integrate machine translation into your localization workflow for example, just like what Zendesk has achieved.
It’s not easy to localize for currency as some might suppose. It’s not just a matter of computing the exchange rate. You cannot really charge on the same level for each country. For example, the price of a Big Mac in the U.S. is $3.99, McDonald’s cannot charge the same amount for a Big Mac in the Philippines because it would be too expensive. The price and the product will have to be localized.
When you start operating in another part of the world, you need to take into account that there is a different time zone there. You need to consider that when you are doing all of your planning. Meetings will have to be scheduled around the time zone difference.
Each country has its own set of holidays; just like the time zones, you must remember that when making your plans. Your staff for each country will have their own holidays to follow.
There is another reason why holidays are crucial for a startup. Holidays offer business opportunities. They can be the perfect time to sell products or to do marketing. But it’s important to know what each holiday means so you can adjust your messaging,
Colors and Images
Different cultures see colors and images in different ways. For example, the color red is perceived as signifying danger in the Middle East. In India, red is seen as a sign of purity, in the same way that Western cultures see white as pure. However, in countries that were formerly under the Soviet Union, red can be associated with authoritarianism and all the negative connotation that brings.
The same is true with images. Images that are seen as funny in Western eyes can be perceived as offensive in other cultures. There are also cases when images will not make sense in other cultures, like images of gigantic freeways filled with cars in the United States will not connect with someone who lives in a small country that does not rely on automobiles for mobility.
You need to be conscious of these crucial visual elements of your startup when localizing. Don’t just come up with designs for your promotions and social media without consulting someone who is knowledgeable in the culture of the new market.
Localization can be the route that you’re looking for to become part of the 10% of startups that make it. It’s not easy and you will need a lot of professional help to pull it off but there are a lot of tools available that include relying on machine translation to streamline your whole process.