When you are preparing for global expansion, the pressure is on. Every new market brings its own challenges that call for their own solutions. The number of things to consider when entering a foreign market may seem overwhelming at first, but experience—especially coming from an expert localization partner—can help you develop a careful and efficient localization strategy.
The Main Things to Consider When Entering a Foreign Market
Here are some of the common issues that you may not be anticipating until you’re in the thick of localization:
1. Payment Systems
People in local markets around the world will expect to use specific payment methods that are prevalent in their region for an online purchase: credit cards, mobile payments, or bank wire, among other methods. Obviously, if they don’t have the viable payment options at their disposal, they can’t actually purchase your product. You need to meet these market expectations and make it as convenient as possible for individuals to complete orders.
2. Data Fields
Another very basic need is for the consumer to be able to enter their name and address correctly to be logged in your database. There are countries where the last name comes first, for example; and first and last names can be multiple. Addresses allow for even more variation that you need to be ready for. It’s essential to have data fields that are formatted correctly or that are flexible to accommodate differences in personal details.
3. Customer Support and Documentation
Consider carefully who your intended users are and what are their needs. Perhaps they are administrators who may be prepared to read documentation in English; or perhaps there is no doubt that they will need all essential materials in their own language. The nature of the software product determines the level of localization necessary. The same is true for supplemental materials like email, chat, and phone support. Consider each piece of content individually when developing a roadmap for localization. You may not need to translate everything in the way of support and documentation in order for foreign users to engage with your product, but you will want to localize the critical pieces that make engagement possible.
4. Content Automation and Agile Development
It takes a certain level of technical knowledge just to know where a data string is located in the workflow. Data may be located in complex file types such as JSON or YAML, and you need to have systems in place to manage all localizable files without a hitch. Especially if your organization is moving toward highly productive agile development, you need to take advantage of automation opportunities. This is one of those pain points that calls the loudest for expert assistance. Experienced localizers can help you to build a complex ecosystem that directs file traffic seamlessly and that manages assets such as translation memories and terminology databases for the ultimate cost and resource savings without any dent in content quality.
5. QA Testing
Quality assurance testing can be expensive, but it’s necessary to ensure that your efforts won’t fall flat at launch. It’s worth the spend to uncover bugs early because they’re easier to fix along the way than retroactively. With localization, quality management deals with both the technical and the linguistic details that can make the difference in your local market success. The good news is that those same localization experts who can save you time and money with just about everything else can help you save on quality management too. And a well-built localization ecosystem from the start will ensure much greater quality overall, putting less strain on the testing phase to begin with.
6. Language Selection
Choose carefully which languages you will target with localization as every language project multiplies your costs. If the projected return is worth it for any given language, then it’s worth it to move forward; and the data can help you determine what’s worth it. For example, the decision to localize your software into more than one Spanish version may mean the difference between users being able to interact with your product or it may be more of a marketing consideration than anything. If the latter is true—and Spanish-speaking users in the US, in Latin America, and in Spain would all be able to engage with the same version—then you’ll want to pick and choose the marketing content you localize but avoid multiple translations of the product itself.
Some products are built to provide a universal experience from the start. Accounting software is an example of this type: It might be enough to leave it in one universally understood version of the language. But in other cases, products may need to provide a hyperlocal experience, such as software for a food delivery service. In that case, it might be best to approach localization projects to meet prospective local users with regional variants of the language. This planning phase can be intensive, but it’s critical to ensure your success in the end and to avoid costly mistakes and wasted resources.
7. Key IDs
Key IDs are an issue for software localization and, particularly, app localization. A key ID is a unique identifier that marks a text string. And your localization process needs to be able to map translations to the right key ID. This critical marker can distinguish between two strings that may look identical but have different purposes or contexts and must result in different translations. Don’t underestimate the importance of shoring up this and other technical details; partner with someone who can confidently take responsibility.
8. Terminology and Translators
Your term base is a crucial resource for your translators because good terminology ensures a satisfying UI experience and your brand’s integrity. When the term is a command on a menu, the term itself is your product. You want translators to work in a transparent environment where they can see what they’re translating and have sufficient information to translate correctly. For example, they need to know if they are translating a command button; when they understand what’s at stake, they can take all relevant linguistic and cultural variables into account.
9. Code Repository Access
This may be a security consideration since many localization platforms will integrate with your code repository and monitor for change so that new projects can be launched. If you are particularly wary of giving a localization platform access to your repository, one option is to deploy a command line interface (CLI) so that you are fully in control of pushing new strings to the localization platform and pulling localized content. Some organizations will even build middleware to extract content from multiple code repos, perhaps preprocess these files, and then deliver to the localization platform. This is another of those technical steps that can solve a host of problems before they ever arise if you can implement it correctly.
10. Interface Language Choice
Don’t forget to consider how users will choose their language or how your product will default in certain locales. Perhaps you want to set the software to consider the user’s default browser setting and store the language preference as a cookie. Alternatively, you may need a route in place for users to choose their preferred language directly. For mobile apps, the language is often set based on the OS language the user has chosen.
11. User-Generated Content
Be ready to support any user-generated content as well. Any interactive marketing content, comments, reviews? You need to decide whether you will provide tools such as spell check for users. Be ready for language-specific issues, such as right-to-left (RTL) orientation for Hebrew and Arabic or sufficient screen real estate for German and other languages that generally take up a lot of space. Users may even need to manage multilingual content within your software, which requires built-in logic and data structures and a customer API to accommodate it. In turn, you need to decide if your backend data collection will encompass other languages too.
Metadata can help maintain consistency by labelling strings and giving critical instructions. Hence, metadata should be “locked” when the files are processed for localization. That way, translators cannot accidentally modify it or translate it—which would increase costs. An effective localization platform allows translators to see the metadata but not edit it.
Effective Management Requires Support
An automated, centralized platform can help you maintain order. Otherwise, all the things to consider when entering a foreign market can easily become an uncontrollable swirl of questions and problems. This centralized platform creates an ecosystem for your software localization that nurtures radical transparency and lines of communication among stakeholders, allowing questions to be answered and problems to be solved by the most appropriate parties. An experienced localization services provider is familiar with the issues that arise during localization and can guide you to set up continuous localization for your software with the greatest efficiency.
The Bureau Works localization platform provides centralized, automated localization solutions for software producers. CLI/API integration and advanced QA technology make it possible for our clients to manage ongoing localization and all relevant assets with ease and efficiency. Contact our team to learn more about how you can take control of your localization and translation as your organization expands on a global level.
Written by Aaron Schliem
Aaron is the chief marketing officer for Bureau Works. He also loves to tickle the ivories and is a wiz at designing cocktails.