Localization – or making your website appeal local to people in different parts of the world – is an expensive proposition. Not only will you have to translate your site, but you’ll have to bring in people who understand the culture that you’re trying to appeal to.
That can be expensive – the more places you’re trying to localize to, the more expensive it can be. So is it actually worth it? Should you localize if you’re a small business with a small budget for these kinds of things? After all, though localization boosts your sales numbers, will it be enough to compensate for the extra costs?
Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Localization grows your market
This is truer of some products than of others. If, for example, you’re selling English books then you’re mainly interested in the English market and so, localizing won’t win you that much (though giving prices in pounds and Australian dollars might still be worth the effort).
In other situations, however, localization can be hugely beneficial For example, if you sell to customers who are unlikely to speak additional languages, having your website available in their native language can double or triple your market.
For example, Latin Americans are notorious for speaking poor English. And so, if you want to export your products to them, then you need to have a Spanish website.
Similarly, if you offer translation services. Then telling them here are some website translation services that you may want to consider in a language that is not their own will probably mean you don’t end up getting a great many customers from countries other than the ones that already speak the language you’re offering.
It’s not just about the language
Translating everything on your site is already a lot of work. This is particularly true if you’re doing content marketing or anything similar, as you’ll have to translate all your content across from one platform to another.
That means that every additional language you’ve got on your site doubles the work you’ve got. And that can get expensive fast.
But really, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Because you can’t just translate the stuff you’ve got and hope it’s okay. Often, different cultures have different preferences, different ideas, different interest and different focuses.
So, if you’re writing content that’s aimed at the North American market and the Latin American market, then writing up a guide to LA will only satisfy half of your market. Often, that means you’ll have double the work providing content for both of your different markets.
And that’s only part of it, because you’ll also need to take into account cultural considerations as things that are considered perfectly acceptable in one place might not be in another. There are plenty of examples of poorly chosen names for companies. Still, you don’t want to find yourself added to that list because you didn’t know the name that sounded completely innocuous in your own country meant something vulgar somewhere else.
So it worth it?
Well, there is no blanket statement in that regard. For some companies ‘yes’, for some companies ‘no’. Yes, that is a bit of a cop out. So instead of ending it there, here are some of the things you’ll want to consider before you decide if you want to localize in another location.
- Will expanding into another market make you more or less money than trying to win more market share in the market you’re in?
This is a big one. And obviously, it’s hard to answer. But that doesn’t make it impossible. After all, market research will reveal what the competition is like in the country or region that you’re considering entering. And the truth is that English-language companies have more online experience and for that reason can often win out from the local competition.
Really, it comes down to whether you think the local competition will be easier to beat than the people back home. If so, then making a play by localizing might be right for you.
- How much work will it be?
The more content you’ve got on your site and the more customer reach out to you to ask questions, the more work it will be and the more profit you’ll need to make for it to be interesting. Also, the more work it will be, the better you yourself have to understand the culture that you’re moving in to.
Otherwise you’ve got to trust other people. And that can be dangerous if you’re not exactly sure what they’re telling your customers.
- How much of the market you’re considering is already perfectly capable of using your current website?
If they all speak perfect English and were already able to buy products from you online, then there really isn’t that much benefit in taking the effort to expand into their market. For example, you might not want to set up a Dutch or a Danish website as the people in this country already all speak English.
- How big is the market?
Finally, how big is the potential market that you’re considering and how much of it can you realistically corner? Latin America, for example, at 639 million people, is huge. So at first blush, it might be a really exciting market to get into.
At the same time, internet penetration, internet shopping and incomes are still low there, which means that the market you’d have access to is smaller than you might initially believe.
And then you jump (or not)
So there you have it. For small businesses localization can be incredibly interesting. It can give you access to markets and customers who otherwise would not have known you existed. The only problem is that in order to get access to them, you need to weigh up the extra costs that will be waiting for you.
Only if you can swallow those – even if the venture were to take of slow or potentially not take off at all – is it safe for you to pursue this path. If not, then it might be better to try to make another play for the people in your own back yard.