Main illustration: Tomekah George
For many companies, the word localization typically prompts two thoughts: it’s costly, and it’s time-consuming.
Localizing a product for international expansion means making all aspects of that product accessible to the market you’re looking to enter – from language translation and adapting product UX to offering multilingual customer support, and beyond. Because of this, localization can seem unattainable to many small and medium-sized businesses that may not have the capital to invest in localization – or the resources to maintain it.
However, while it might not be immediately apparent, the trade-off of not doing localization is guaranteed to be far more costly in the long run. And with the right tools, it’s accessible to companies of all sizes, opening a door to a world of opportunity for growth.
“Getting on the localization ladder is the first step in the process, and is the key to unlocking the growth opportunities modern companies need to scale – if not to simply survive”
What is localization?
At its core, localization is the process of adapting a product or service to meet the needs and expectations of consumers in a particular country or region. The process is typically equated with language translation – which is one of its core components – but in practice, it spans to include factors such as the tone and voice of your content, product pricing and tax models, and the legal considerations for entering and operating in that market.
While all of that might sound daunting, it doesn’t have to be implemented all at once. Getting on the localization ladder is the first step in the process, and is the key to unlocking the growth opportunities modern companies need to scale – if not to simply survive. Speaking on the Inside Intercom podcast about lessons learned from achieving 2,475% revenue growth, Ed Fry, Head of Growth at Paddle, shared that when it comes to international expansion and optimizing your product for a global audience, “Making small incremental improvements can make dramatic increases in topline revenue.”
“For localization to be most efficient, best practice dictates that it should be an ongoing process”
For localization to be most efficient, best practice dictates that it should be an ongoing process. Localization management platforms like Lokalise are an effective way to implement this process of ongoing localization, seamlessly integrating with your content management system to ensure that every time you make an update to a landing page or help doc, it kicks off the translation process and creates a single source of truth for all your localized content.
This approach to managing your localization efforts on an ongoing basis is referred to as continuous localization – much akin to continuous integration, which is a practice in software engineering where developers merge their work into a single code repository on a continuous basis, helping to enforce version control and create a single source of truth for their code.
The hidden costs of forgoing localization
“According to research, 75% of customers prefer to make buying decisions in their native language”
Unsurprisingly, consumers naturally veer towards content that’s written in their native language, which makes it crucial to look past the obvious costs of implementing localization – and towards the massive opportunity cost of never having done it at all.
1. Barrier to international expansion
Not having a multilingual product offering doesn’t necessarily prevent you from entering new markets – but it will determine whether or not you succeed. If we know anything, it’s that a one-size-fits-all approach to customer experience simply doesn’t work. The reality is that forgoing language translations in important areas of your business, like your help center, and customer support platform is going to cost you expansion opportunities on a global scale.
2. Low conversion rates
According to research, 75% of customers prefer to make buying decisions in their native language. By that logic, entering a new market with an unlocalized product means eliminating three-quarters of your potential pool of customers before you’ve even gotten started. For international expansion to be a successful lever for growth, localization is a critical precursory step.
3. Increased churn
There’s a reason the customer lifecycle is called just that: a lifecycle, because the journey doesn’t begin and end when a prospect converts to become a customer. Onboarding and nurturing customers are integral parts of the customer experience, so it stands to reason that if your onboarding and product language isn’t accessible, those customers will likely churn.
“For many companies, the reality is that hiring specialized, multilingual support agents to serve the global market isn’t a viable option”
Localizing at scale
For many companies, the reality is that hiring specialized, multilingual support agents to serve the global market isn’t a viable option. And while machine translation is often suited to live conversations due to the importance of responding in real-time, anything less than human translation for knowledge base articles and onboarding flows won’t make for a good customer experience – and will inevitably result in low engagement and adoption rates. With that in mind, our team of localization experts at Lokalise has built custom apps for both the Intercom Inbox and Articles, working with the Intercom team to make the cost of entry to international expansion far lower.
Combining the power of the Intercom API with Lokalise’s localization management software, Intercom customers can now leverage live chat translations to engage in real-time conversations with customers in any market through the Intercom Messenger.
Customers using Articles can also translate their knowledge base content into multiple languages by importing their articles into Lokalise and exporting the translated versions back to Intercom in just a few simple steps. With Lokalise operating as the centralized hub for the translated content, implementing a continuous localization workflow for your knowledge base can be done quickly and seamlessly.
From small steps to giant leaps
Complete product localization is a process that takes time, and a lot of care and attention. However, that’s not to say that taking small steps towards this goal can’t have a big impact on your business. The Lokalise custom apps for Intercom are foundational building blocks on the path to international expansion, helping you to build relationships with a global audience and supporting Intercom’s mission of making internet business personal – everywhere.