Localization—the process of adapting a product or service for another market—is on the minds of many enterprises who are looking to expand globally. And selling products in multiple markets requires a well-defined localization strategy. Companies need to research and execute on all aspects of going global, including but certainly not limited to, globalizing their website, building a strategy for their social media presence, translating documentation and adapting their brand for each market.
But what are companies actually doing to execute their localization strategy? How far are they down the path?
Well, we asked. We invited select executives to participate in a survey titled Expansion Strategies for Global Enterprises.
Survey participants represent firms from a wide variety of industries, including business services (the majority at 34%), consumer services, financial services, healthcare, media, manufacturing, mining, retail, telecom services, transportation and utilities. The roles within these organizations are predominantly in sales, marketing and senior management: 16% are C-suite or VPs, 48% are Directors and 36% are Managers.
Their answers could provide a benchmark for you as you consider and implement your localization strategy.
Why do organizations need to localize in the first place?
Of those polled, nearly half say they want to grow in geographies where they are currently providing only English products and content. Forty-three percent (43%) have already taken their product to new markets, but say they need to expand their localization efforts to handle ever-increasing product support content.
Do they have a localization strategy in place?
Localization strategies are in place at 57% of the organizations, and another 24% are formulating localization ideas. It surprised us that 11% said that they had nothing in place.
What are or will they be localizing?
Two thirds of respondents are localizing their marketing collateral, and more than half are modifying websites (52%) and products (51%) to gain entry into foreign markets. Thirty-six percent (36%) of those surveyed say they are translating social media for local markets, while 32% are preparing localized versions of their technical and other external documents. Localized customer service and chat content both sit at 22%.
For which regions do they plan to localize?
While two thirds of organizations surveyed are localizing for the US or Canada, more than half are focused on Europe (56%) or Asia Pacific (54%). Latin America is not far behind with 40% of respondents localizing for those markets. And African countries are still emerging; only 13% are localizing for them.
How are or will they be sourcing translation?
Thirty-five percent (35%) of respondents are in-sourcing by hiring staff, and an equal percent are partnering with a language service provider (LSP) for translation services. Freelancers are used by 23%, while 19% are betting on free services like Google Translate to handle translations. And the lowest percentage, 16%, is investing in licensed translation management systems such as Memsource, Smartling or SDL WorldServer.
What are some of the translation challenges they’re experiencing or anticipating?
Nearly half (46%) of our respondents say maintaining high-quality translation is the top challenge, and 34% are struggling to determine what content should be prioritized for translation. High costs plague 29%. Other challenges include handling quickly expanding volumes, managing resources and meeting turnaround times.
What do they see as the business consequences of ineffective localization?
Brand damage concerns 65% of those surveyed. Not reaching sales targets affects 51%, and not being able to engage across channels (like social media and digital marketing) in local languages bothers 44%. Other consequences of poor localization include delayed product launches (26%) and a high number of customer complaints due to bugs (12%).
What would better support their localization strategy?
Fifty-nine percent (59%) feel they need to develop a scalable localization process to support their localization plans. A third each say that automation to speed up the process and/or a quality framework would help, as would resource management. Other answers were implementing tools such as Translation Memory and Machine Translation, cost-control measures and dashboards.
And lastly, for those who aren’t localizing yet (or have barely begun), we wondered how far along they were in implementing a localization strategy.
We found that all but 22% of respondents are moving forward to operationalize their localization strategy with actions such as starting to review solutions (6%), issuing an RFP/RFI (4%), reviewing vendors (3%) and engaging a vendor (18%). Eleven percent (11%) are thinking about it, but not sure where to start.
In this digital online world in which products can be released in multiple global markets at once, localizing to grow business is a no-brainer. With this in mind, we were surprised by the number of respondents who did not have a mature localization program in place. Sure, it’s easier said than done, and based on our experience with global businesses, no one has it perfectly managed just yet, but the benefits of establishing a proper localization function and strategy more than outweigh the time, cost and effort involved.
Were there any surprises for you in this survey? How do you stack up?
Don’t hesitate to contact us to talk about how to grow your business globally through localization.