4 Ways to Save on Localization when Expanding into Foreign Markets
June 24, 2020 by Sonja
It’s impossible to predict what the global economy will look like in a couple of weeks, nevermind a few months. It’s no wonder, then, that in these financially trying times, many software companies are prioritizing certain initiatives and making cuts to others – including the money they spend on having their software localized. In the third article of our series on localization and cost-effectiveness, we’re taking a closer look at the issue of target market analysis. With the aid of some specific examples, we’ll provide you with the decision-making criteria you’ll need to best allocate your translation budget.
Rely on hard data for choosing where to localize – and not just your gut instinct
Our first and most important piece of advice is to plan your budget fully in line with the data you have at your fingertips. This will allow you to react faster to external changes and optimize your expenditure to achieve both short-term and long-term goals. We’ve put together two case studies to illustrate what exactly that means for your translation budget:
1. Analyze user data
Simple data analyses often show you where you’re getting the most bang for your buck. One of our clients – who had the online help for its digital marketing platform translated from English into German, French, Italian, and Spanish – was able to identify how it could save costs by means of this approach.
Several months after each of these translations was delivered, the company analyzed how often its documentation was actually accessed in each language. They found that while the German and English online help pages were highly frequented, the Spanish and Italian versions were much less frequently accessed by users. It turned out that its customers in these countries primarily relied on the original texts in English. In light of these figures, the customer came to the decision that it would refrain from having the less popular languages translated in the future.
2. Analyze website traffic
Much too often, conventional measuring tools from the marketing and sales are not used enough in translation budget planning.
In an ideal world, a website would be translated into every conceivable language as a company expanded into foreign markets. However, if money is tight, you’re better off weighing up which content will reach the most consumers. A granular analysis of your website traffic will provide you with invaluable insights into which product groups are in particularly high demand – in which countries – and which online content is of particular interest to your target market. You can learn more about KPIs for translated content here.
"If money is tight, you’re better off weighing up which content will reach the most consumers"
What foreign language skills do your end users have and what languages really need to be translated?
One obvious solution to reducing costs is to go without translating into specific target languages if your users are well-versed in the original language of your content. Corporate giants like Microsoft and IBM frequently leave marketing collaterals like technical whitepapers in English – after all, the majority of IT experts are more familiar with the English terminology than the corresponding terms in their native language.
To highlight another example from our day-to-day business: a software client of Milengo that was expanding into India decided not to have its software in English translated into Hindi – something which is quite understandable in light of the fact that Indians tend to be fluent in English and the cost-benefit ratio spoke in favor of this strategy.
Avoid skating onto cultural thin ice and cut localization costs
Even if your company finds itself pushed to forgo certain technical translations in financially difficult times, you should always remember to be culturally sensitive. This is especially pertinent in the following cases:
- When users prefer content in their native language: It’s crucial to evaluate the extent to which users in certain target markets favor texts in their native language. This was the case for a German provider of workspace management solutions that tasked Milengo with translating material for internal training.
A translation into French was explicitly requested alongside the obligatory translation into English for different target markets. As people in the French-speaking world famously have a strong affinity with their language – and this brings with it a lot of cultural baggage – clients are generally better off having their content translated into French.
- If regional language variants exist: One typical example here would be Belgium, where Dutch is spoken in the Flemish Region and French is spoken in the Walloon Region. Yet the variety of Dutch used in Flanders differs considerably from how the language is spoken in the Netherlands in terms of pronunciation, intonation, everyday words, and even syntax. If all you need is for the content to be understood, then you can probably just use a translation that was originally intended for the Dutch market. But if the Belgian market enjoys top priority at your company, then you’re better off adapting the translation you have to the language variety used in Belgium
Leaping into unknown waters
Another concept that could end up saving you money is the Blue Ocean Strategy. This proposes that in some cases, it may actually be much more profitable to tap into new markets (the “blue ocean”) instead of continuously trying to gain traction on markets with a high degree of competitive pressure (the “red ocean”) that offer few prospects for profits and growth. This also applies to how you approach having content translated: by focusing on markets that are not as saturated, you can achieve greater cost-effectiveness while blowing competitors out of the water. As a result, you stand to benefit from lower costs and a higher degree of differentiation.
Milengo recommends that you carefully examine the target markets you’ve set your sights on before commissioning any translations. It’s only when you familiarize yourself with the behavior of your international customers and target groups – and back up your business decisions with data analyses and intercultural expertise – that you will truly be successful. When faced with a tight budget, these findings will help you to cut translation costs where it will have the least impact on your company’s success.