Globalization is the inevitable culmination of economic growth. Even though this phenomenon has been in full force for nearly five decades, there is no end in sight. According to data from the KOF globalization index, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Belgium were the most globalized nations in the world as of December 2018. Meanwhile, the United States measured at #23—meaning there’s compelling room for expansion.
As businesses are becoming more global, content is becoming more digital. The compounding of these two unstoppable trends means that global content is in your company’s future—and in the future of almost every other business. We’re entering the Wild West of global content expansion. It’s open season for every company willing to examine the market data and take the time to connect with local markets in meaningful ways. Digital content localization is the keystone process that makes this entire endeavor possible.
If universal globalization isn’t enough of a reason for you to get started on localization, here are four more:
4 Reasons Why Digital Content Localization Is Paramount
1 – Target markets are changing
When the localization industry was in its infancy, US companies tended to follow the same patterns of expansion. Canadian French and Spanish were safe, conservative language choices for companies wanting to expand quickly and easily. If you wanted to go bigger, you’d expand into the French, German, Italian, and Spanish markets. Japanese and Chinese were added to this cliché list of markets in particularly ambitious cases.
Today, thanks to social media and sentiment analysis, companies of all sizes are able to diversify their market choices even further. It’s not uncommon to see a tech firm requesting content localization services for Poland, Germany, and Portugal. Indonesia and Turkey are both particularly strong localization targets for the video game industry. These are still major markets on the world stage, but they’re definitely not the traditional markets we would have targeted even five years ago.
2 – Industries are digitizing
We already know that the internet has completely changed the way we view global commerce. As soon as a company has an online presence, they’ve essentially gone global—in many cases, without even realizing it—because of how many consumers around the world are already seeing their content. But even industries that have nothing to do with the tech world are seeing the effects of the internet-driven digital revolution.
Take traditional industries like agriculture or grocery. A tractor company selling to farmers in the Midwest might not see the need for digital content localization—that is, until their tractors run on software and a user interface that non-English speakers won’t be able to access. The most modern application of localization is taking a digital user interface and translating it so that someone who does not speak the local language can access that experience.
User interfaces are becoming ubiquitous regardless of industry. Grocery stores employ digital self-checkout stations. Restaurants let you order on digital screens. Even dishwashers have gone digital. In another few years, every industry is going to be using some sort of digital interface, and all of that software content will need to be translated at some point. That’s the reality we’re facing. There’s really no point in trying to deny the digitization of everything. Software and technology are becoming fundamental for all kinds of businesses, even those that don’t yet have digital content on a website that needs to be translated.
3 – Expansion patterns are shifting
In the good ol’ days, local companies expanded in concentric circles that radiated outward from their headquarters. This standard expansion pattern made the most sense due to factors such as production, infrastructure, and buying power. But those limitations no longer exist. Digitization allows for immediate access to markets around the world, including developing markets that may lack the traditional infrastructure we used to depend on. And we need digital content localization in order to access these markets.
For many kinds of content, the barriers to entry have vanished. A gaming company can expand directly from Tokyo to Turkey without any difficulty as long as consumers have a fast enough internet connection. A local donut shop in Portland can open their first satellite location in Taipei. Today’s expansion patterns look more like darts on a world map than ripples on a lake—because we now have the freedom to expand wherever the data tells us to go.
4 – Domestic markets are diversifying
Finally, localization isn’t just necessary for global and international expansion. It’s crucial because of the internal diversification of local markets themselves. Linguistic diversity is expanding in countries around the world—and companies need to be prepared to localize content to reach those target audiences. Even for domestic companies that assume they have no need to be multilingual, digital content localization is a concrete possibility.
The United States is a perfect example of this phenomenon. An insurance company serving the US market might assume they’re “not one of those companies” that needs to localize an app for international use. But we can all but guarantee that this company will eventually need to translate into Spanish or Chinese—to name just two major language segments—in order to reach customers right here in the United States.
Optimizing Your Digital Content Localization Engine
Taking your product global requires a certain level of intentionality—especially in light of the major changes discussed here. The entire world is at your fingertips. Being intentional with your global marketing strategy and market research will ensure that you target the right markets at the right time, for the right price. And if you’re going to approach globalization with that purpose, then it only makes sense to approach localization with the same intention.
Digital content localization can be accomplished through a wide array of strategies. You could hire an entirely in-house team of translators and reviewers and internationalize your own software. You could outsource part of the process to single language vendors or big box LSPs. Or you could hire a comprehensive localization platform with managed back-end services. Either way, you’ll want to be intentional with your localization strategy and make well-informed decisions about where to invest your time and money. With the right team in place, you’ll be ready to efficiently localize content and earn market share in locales around the world.
At Bureau Works, we’ve seen firsthand how traditional barriers to entry have fallen away to make room for a fully globalized economy. Why continue letting language be a barrier to your own business? If you choose to work with our localization platform, the technology, services, and expertise you receive will make localization the least of your worries. Contact our team to learn more about our unique approach to localization and get one step closer to global expansion.
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.