Best Practices

What Is a Localization Strategy?

There is a lot to consider when exploring a new market beyond the simple translation needed to connect with consumers.
Gabriel Fairman
2 min
Table of Contents

“What is a localization strategy?” is a very broad question. Its simplest definition is a strategy that encompasses what it takes to bring a business to a new market. It’s frequently connected to the overall globalization strategy, a higher-level question covering everything in the new market approach.

There is a lot to consider when exploring a new market beyond the simple translation needed to connect with consumers.

Determining if your product is a fit, what it will require to make it ready for launch, and how you will maximize your ROI will all be big questions to consider. That’s why when you’re trying to determine the localization strategy, you have to look beyond translation to explore how your product will perform on an international stage.

What Is a Localization Strategy?

Localization applies to a lot more than the simple product when considering strategies. It also covers all your marketing content, business communications, and media libraries. Anything consumers will use to learn about your product or use it to its fullest advantage must be considered. With a tight localization strategy in place, you can enjoy many different benefits, including:

Promote Cost-Efficiency

The goal of entering new markets is to expand sales. However, this can be lost if it’s not approached with clear cost control measures in mind. The right localization strategy will ensure you can roll out your product in new markets while staying within a budget.

Improve Processes

Localization includes many different departments and opinions. Managing these moving parts with old-fashioned, emailed documents and manual workflows will become overwhelming. Localization enabled by technology streamlines these processes.

Enhance Analytics

You should monitor the progress of your projects, check consumer responses, and identify where the opportunities to improve are. A robust program compiles all the data to allow you to make better business decisions based on empirical evidence.

Boost Scalability

If you have a strong localization process from the start, you’ll find it much easier to roll out into new markets later. All the legwork is complete, the issues are resolved, and you know what to expect. It’s possible to make the process predictable and repeatable, so you are continuously growing.Of course, you’re not likely to be successful with your localization project if you don’t have the cultural support within your company. For this, you need to understand how this process will fit into your organization.

Where Does Localization Fit Into the Organization?

One of the biggest problems in translation and overall localization is that companies don’t understand where it fits in their organization, causing the approach to be very reactive. The organization reaches a plateau in one area and decides to try and expand into another. Depending on who’s handling it, it’s either a technical or project management problem.Localization is a subset of almost all parts of an organization. It impacts the product design team, marketing departments, IT services, operations, and shared services within an organization. However, it’s usually siloed and treated as a small part of the product team.Localization doesn’t always drive decisions because so few people have a genuine understanding, showcasing a significant area of lost opportunity. That’s why companies must establish the proper infrastructure for managing their localization project. This strategy will allow them to incorporate it in their organization without creating silos that impact its performance.

Centralized vs. Decentralized Approaches in Localization

There are two overall localization strategies for organizations. The first is the centralized approach, where headquarters control the strategy. They make all the decisions and direct their various offices on what needs to be completed. Alternately, the decentralized strategy is where hubs and different locations all have their own localization team that will work on an area-specific plan. Both of these ideas have their risks and benefits.

Centralized Pros

  1. Consistency: A centralized approach ensures a consistent message across all languages and platforms.
  2. Control: Headquarters runs all decisions to ensure everyone follows the same requirements.
  3. Cost-effectiveness: Maintaining a single office is far less expensive than using a multi-market infrastructure.

Centralized Cons

  1. Delays: It can take a while for directives and new ideas to trickle into all the other markets with a top-down approach.
  2. Silos: Information silos are typical in a centralized structure where strategies may not reach workers for a while.
  3. Poor market fit: A one size fits all approach to every market may not work out well for the brand.

Decentralized Pros

  1. Adaptability: Smaller teams can quickly change course as needed.
  2. Market understanding: Each segment will have a deep knowledge of a specific culture to ensure alignment with the message.
  3. Speed: As they are in the market, they can rapidly roll out and test new ideas.

Decentralized Cons

  1. Cost: Maintaining multiple offices can get extremely expensive and hard to manage.
  2. Control: Multiple offices means multiple managers, all with different ideas and strategies.
  3. Consistency: There will be a different strategy in each locale, creating an inconsistent brand message.

Neither a decentralized or centralized strategy is perfect. Instead, an adaptable approach that allows companies to maintain control while ensuring deeper market understanding is best. This adaptable process combines a single point of contact at headquarters and a team on the ground to answer them and bring up suggestions. They should connect through a localization management platform that gives them the access and insight they need to make decisions.Asking what a localization strategy is will garner many answers, but it all breaks down to product readiness. Can you enter the market with what you have available? If the answer is “no,” you need to revise your strategy and create an infrastructure that will support your long-term growth regardless of venue.

Gabriel Fairman
Founder and CEO of Bureau Works, Gabriel Fairman is the father of three and a technologist at heart. Raised in a family that spoke three languages and having picked up another three over the course of his life, he has always been fascinated with the role language plays in identity and the creation of meaning. Gabriel loves to cook, play the guitar, tennis, soccer, and ski. As far as work goes, he enjoys being at the forefront of innovation and mobilizing people and teams together toward a mission. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, Gabriel was honored with the 2023 Innovator of the Year Award at LocWorld Silicon Valley.
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