What Is Localisation and Why Is It So Important For Your Marketing Campaigns?

By Natali Lekka, Worlds of Words on

Ask anyone in the marketing world to explain what localisation is and you’ll get a blank look. 

For many, localisation is just another, ‘fancy’ word for translation but this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Simply put, localisation is copywriting in another language.

Localisation is not just about language only either. It concerns every aspect of the customer experience from using the correct language formality and visuals in your copy, in line with cultural sensitivities, to localising payment methods or displaying recognisable trust badges.

Did you know for example that PayPal is not used that often in Belgium? Your localisation team is not only responsible for translating the contents of your sales page, they are also responsible for suggesting alternative methods of payment used in their respective market. If PayPal is the only payment option you offer to your customers in Belgium, then that market will simply not buy from you.

Localisation allows businesses to expand by selling services and products to customers across borders. With global e-commerce revenue projected to pass the USD 4 trillion threshold in 2020, which company wouldn’t want a slice of the global pie? But here’s the catch. According to a recent report by Nimdzi Insights*, 90% of consumers will ignore your product if it’s not in their native language. In an era, where we turn to the internet for most of our activities and online purchases are soaring, you could be leaving serious money on the table by not investing in localisation.

Although localisation seems like the obvious next step to incorporate in your marketing campaign, it is, unfortunately, very easy to get wrong, if you don’t know how to approach it correctly.

We’ve all heard about international marketing campaigns that have gone terribly awry because the brand’s visuals didn’t translate well in a certain target market. Pampers’ image of a stork delivering a baby was completely lost on Japanese parents, with sales tanking, until Pampers was informed that in Japan, it is giant peaches that deliver babies, not storks. 

We’ve heard of product names which sounded hilarious or even offensive in another market like the Ford Pinto, which did not do very well in Brazil, until Ford found out that pinto is slang for male genitals. We’ve equally seen apps with hundreds of negative comments in the Apple store because the user interface was not user friendly at all. Many languages are a lot “wordier” than English, so designing a CTA button without taking into consideration character limitations in another language is a big mistake. To give you an example, the simple On/Off command is translated as: Ενεργοποιημένο / Απενεργοποιημένο in Greek. Try fitting that if you can!

In all the above examples, it is the localisation teams’ job to suggest alternative options that work well in their respective markets. Depending on your project’s needs, your localisation teams may also need to liaise with your design, product, development, QA and tech departments too.

Localisation of content - globe by laptop

How should you approach localisation?

I started this article by saying that localisation is NOT the same thing as translation, and this is how you should start as well. By choosing to work with a team that specialises in localisation rather than with anyone who offers translation services.

It also bears reminding that localisation is copywriting in another language, so your multilingual team should be treated the same way as your copywriters. Share all your briefs with your localisation teams. The same briefs you have shared with your copywriters. Localisation professionals need the same context your copywriters are getting, if not more, to perform well at their job.

Think about it for a minute. You’ve spent so much time developing a service or product with your local market in mind. International marketing, on the other hand, is always an afterthought and your localisation teams do not have the same context your copywriters did when they created your marketing campaign. They will therefore need all the help they can get to develop equally successful campaigns for their markets. 

Involve them in the creative process from start to finish. Set up Zoom calls between your copywriters, other interested departments and your multilingual teams to discuss your rationale behind choosing a certain slogan, designing a UI or putting together a campaign.

Don’t hesitate to share with them your less successful choices too, i.e. headlines that didn’t make the cut. Just because a certain slogan didn’t work well in English, it doesn’t mean it could not spark some creative ideas for a successful campaign in another language.

LinkedIn is a great resource for finding localisation professionals. You will recognise them immediately from their headlines. They are marketing translators, localisation or transcreation specialists. Some companies choose to work with localisation agencies and that’s ok too, as long as you can have direct access to your multilingual team for all aforementioned reasons.

Localisation just like copywriting is a highly specialised job and it needs to be paid as such. Localisation projects are paid by the hour and can start from 100GBP/hour upwards.

How to stand out from the online crowd

Localisation can do wonders for your customer journey experience. In the awareness stage, most customers turn to the web to look for information. It is at this stage that you need to attract them with your perfectly localised copy – from well-crafted informative blog posts and web content to UX microcopy.

In the consideration stage, customers are in comparison mode. Whether they decide to stay with you or go with your competitors will depend on how seamless their experience with your company is, from localising customer service phone numbers to curating a local social media presence.

At the decision stage, your customers are ready to buy but which product features you will emphasize will also depend on your local market.

Ultimately, great localisation is all about trust and relationship building. It is about finding the correct balance between global information and local relevance and providing excellent customer service.

Don’t underestimate what localisation can do for you and your company. Getting it right could spell the difference between thriving in a global economy and limiting yourself within the confines of your own borders. 

Natali Lekka is an English into Greek marketing translator, localisation specialist and bilingual content writer. 

*Project Underwear came out 21 June 2020

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