Marketing Localisation: The golden ticket to Global Audience Reach?

Posted: 8 Fév 2024
Marketing Localisation Main Image

Globalisation and the ecommerce revolution has transformed the way we shop and given businesses big and small seemingly unlimited access to a whole new world of customers.

In fact, a colossal 2.3 billion people bought goods or services online in 2023* – that’s more than a quarter of the planet’s population!

So, with such huge audiences ready and willing to buy, how do you make sure your business is getting a decent slice of the global pie?

 While easier access to markets has somewhat levelled the playing field, and brands no longer need the marketing might of McDonald’s®, the pedigree of, well… Pedigree®, or the legacy of Lego® to make an international impact, access alone is no guarantee of success.

 So, what is…

 …or rather, what can brands who want to reach global audiences do to increase their chances of success? 

Well, for starters, it’s worth noting that 40% of people won’t even consider buying a product or service unless it’s offered to them in their native tongue**, and 65% prefer to read content written in their own language** – a strong indicator that some level of translation is the very least that needs to be done on the road to global glory!

But, in this article we’ll be going way beyond translation and looking at the merits of Marketing Localisation, an international marketing strategy that helps brands break into new markets, reach global audiences, make meaningful connections, and drive international growth.

What exactly is Marketing Localisation, and why is it crucial for global business?

Put simply, localisation is the process of taking content that’s been developed for one region and adapting it so that it’s relevant for another.

Its goal is to make sure messaging resonates with all target consumers, regardless of where they live, their culture, language, or presentation preferences. It goes beyond just the words.

What about translation, isn’t that enough?

Brands often make the mistake of taking a basic translation approach, using a target market’s native language and hoping it’s enough for customers to understand them, make a connection, and buy into their product.

But, to properly attract and engage diverse audiences, effective global communication through a well-executed localisation strategy is key. Just producing multilingual marketing, with simple word-for-word translations is often inadequate and can sometimes even be detrimental to a brand’s reputation.

Without tailormade, localised campaigns that work on a cultural and regional level, even the most carefully crafted content is highly unlikely to appeal, or connect in a meaningful way, with any specific global audience. 

Marketing localisation takes on board the basic marketing mantras of: 

  • Get to know your customers,
  • Talk to them in a way they understand, and
  • Understand the market(s) you’re operating in

After all, you wouldn’t launch anything new on home turf without first doing your research. And when you’re dealing with the complete unknowns of new geographies and new consumer groups, it becomes even more important to gain in-depth knowledge of your audience and commercial environment.

So, for businesses looking to break into new markets and expand global reach, localising marketing content so it packs the same punch over there, as it does over here, isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s an essential.

That’s why marketing localisation services are proven to be ROI gold for businesses that want to go global or increase international market influence.

Let’s look at the top ten reasons that make localisation an essential part of the marketing mix and the benefits it brings to global business:


1. Cultural Sensitivities:

No one wants to kick off a marketing campaign with anything an audience could deem inappropriate! Different countries have distinct cultures, values, and customs, so it’s vital to look closely at your target audiences and make cultural adaptations to original material where it might not make sense, or worse – offend.

Benefits: Localisation ensures messaging is culturally sensitive and resonates with the local audience, avoiding unintentional cultural misunderstandings and mishaps.


 2. Clear Communication:

Language is a powerful tool for communication, but each has its own nuances that can sometimes lead to confusion and ineffective communication – despite seemingly correct translation.

Stemming from factors such as cultural context, regional difference, or the use of specific words or phrases, nuances can be subtle, where even slight variations in tone or expression within a language can make a world of difference to meaning and understanding.

 Benefits: When content is localised, it goes above and beyond translation by adapting it to the linguistic nuances of each target market, ensuring clear and effective communication with local consumers.


 3. Enhanced Customer Engagement and Relevance:

If your messaging has a kind of a one-size-fits-all vibe, you aren’t digging down to the roots of your specific customers’ values, and you won’t meet today’s high customer expectations – crucial for the success and sustainability of global business. 

Benefits: Localised, well-researched regional marketing material truly connects and engages customers.


 4. Alignment with Local Preferences:

It wouldn’t be wise to try and sell-in certain products or services to certain regions, perhaps due to religious beliefs, differences of need, climate, or simply because an area’s demographic might not be a good fit for you.

In short, local markets often have unique preferences and behaviours. 

Benefits: Localisation allows businesses to tailor their products, services, and marketing strategies to meet specific preferences, increasing the likelihood of success.


 5. Establishes Trust and Credibility:

Localised content creates a positive brand perception; if you’ve taken the time and effort to undertake localised, cross-cultural marketing, you’re telling your audience you understand and respect their cultures and customs. 

Benefits: Localisation helps build trust and integrity in your brand, which in turn builds loyalty across your targeted consumer groups.


 6. Enables Compliance with Local Regulations:

No two countries will operate under the same legal and regulatory structure; and these can even change across regions, or states, within a country.

It might be the type of advertising that’s allowed, or language restrictions that are in place, or variations around when and where products or services can be sold. 

Benefits: Careful localisation keeps marketing campaigns accurate, and in accordance with local laws, standards, and regulations, helping businesses to safeguard their reputation.


 7. Helps Gain a Competitive Edge

The language and style of your business might be English, but that isn’t always what your customers want to see or hear. To be relevant, and to stay up with, or ahead of, the competition, it’s important to speak to your customers in the language and style they understand and can relate to.

Benefits: Localisation allows you to stand out, stay in tune with local trends, adapt to changing consumer demands, and respond to regional competition quickly and effectively.


8. Optimises User Experience

Extending beyond language and direct marketing, localisation of user interfaces, website design, and overall user experience results in many more satisfied customers!

Benefits: Adapting ecommerce elements to local preferences enhances the usability of products and services for target audiences.


9. Global Consistency with Local Adaptation

As important as it is to keep branding strong and as consistent as possible, adapting content to local markets is essential.

Benefits: Localisation allows businesses to customise messaging and strategies to align with local market dynamics ­– a balance that ensures consistency on a global scale while being sensitive to local nuances.


10. Increases Market Penetration and Stronger ROI

Campaigns tailored to specific markets impact effectiveness and can increase the amount of product sold in a particular area through an increase in market penetration. 

Benefits: Localised marketing is far more likely to capture the attention of consumers than a universal campaign and should improve ROI on global marketing campaigns.


Now we know the benefits, it’s time to focus on the strategies needed for Marketing Localisation success.

As with all types of marketing, having a fit-for-purpose plan is essential; and for international marketing, many of the same techniques apply as for closer-to-home campaigns.

We’ve detailed our super seven strategy suggestions for successful localisation:

1. Research the market:

It might be marketing 101, but it’s even more important in completely new territories. Gaining a deep understanding of local cultures, consumer behaviours and market trends will pay dividends and form the foundation for creating the strong content that’s needed to really resonate with target audiences.


 2. Customise complete campaigns:

It’s not just language content that needs cultural adaptation; your research might discover specific visual needs and preferences of your local audiences. For example, certain colours or shapes may work better than others, while some should be avoided altogether.

You may need to use transcreation services and adjust images, messaging, and even the overall marketing approach to align with local tastes. A blend of translation and content creation, transcreation recreates all elements of a marketing campaign and aims to retain its original tone and intent while still connecting on culturally relevant terms too.


 3. Be digitally diligent

It pays to make your online offering as user friendly as possible. This may involve adapting websites and social media for greater engagement and interaction with local audiences. Remember, 40% of global consumers won’t buy from ecommerce websites that aren’t written in their native language*. So, be sure to include language, imagery, and user interface elements in your online audit.


4. Choose the right marketing and social channels

Favoured social media platforms and apps, as well as the most effective advertising techniques, may vary from place to place, so adapt your output and channels accordingly. Platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are used all around the world, whereas WeChat and Line tend to dominate in specific Asian markets.


 5. Make use of local expertise

Locals know the lay of the land better than anyone! Collaborate with local experts, local translators, and cultural consultants; they can offer valuable insights, like upcoming trends and oddities in the market, and ensure your marketing efforts are culturally on song, efficient, and effective.


 6. Go local with SEO

Keywords and phrases that lead to your website in one country won’t necessarily have the same effect in another. It’s vital to optimise content for local search engines to improve your rankings and visibility locally.


 7. Offer local language support:

Providing pre- and post-sale support in the local language sends the signal that your business really cares about its customers. You’re more likely to get word of mouth recommendations and build loyalty.

It’s pretty evident that carrying out effective Marketing Localisation can generate plenty of time-consuming challenges! So, let’s take a look at some of them, and see how teaming up with professional language service providers, like Comtec, helps businesses steer clear of the common pitfalls, which include:

#1 Falling foul of idioms, metaphors, and colloquialisms

Often specific to certain regions, using them in global marketing can easily go wrong!

For example, tell any non-English person that the best way to get somewhere is by shanks’ pony and you’ll get a blank look – similarly, you’ll probably get a blank look from anyone English born after 1960 with that one.

So, it’s not just cultural difference; age and demographic make-up can come into play too.

Similarly, formality, politeness, and respect expectations vary around the world and a simple error in etiquette can easily cause offence.

By creating style guides and glossaries for each of our clients we help them develop a language style and tone that’s consistent with their brand’s voice and which we can adapt for each market’s cultural fit. These guides can be continuously updated and used across future campaigns.

#2 Inconsistencies and variable quality across regions:

Even when material needs to be adapted to address cultural and language differences across regions, it’s important to stay consistent with brand message and identity.

Localisation carried out by too many individuals, or local teams, rather than from a central hub can cause disparities and lead to inaccuracies, lower quality, and brand degradation.

At Comtec, we have ISO 9001 and 17100 quality standards certifications, and our robust quality control and revision processes ensure translation accuracy, and consistency.

Every project goes through a quality assurance process, and we assess content based on key linguistic criteria, including spelling, syntax, vocabulary, and technical terminology.

Proofreading by a second specialist, native-speaking translator, for a review of style, tone and terminology might also be appropriate.

#3 Lack of understanding of regional regulations and product safety protocol:

Handling sensitive or regulated content, such as FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), healthcare, or beauty and hygiene products requires robust compliance checks across a range of customer-facing material including:

–      General packaging

–      Labelling and allergen labelling

–      Recycling messaging

–      Recipes

–      Product information

Engaging with local expertise to highlight local market trading standards and to decipher legal jargon helps business to localise accordingly.

Our experienced network of over 4,000 language experts across more than 250 languages, supports clients to do just this. We do a lot of work within the food and beverage industry around compliance checks, flagging legislation changes, and providing new copy for affected regions.


#4 Inability to respond to feedback and make continuous improvement:

In-country market reviews can be a huge asset to translation and localisation projects. If you, or your client, have colleagues working in the region you’re translating for, they can provide valuable on-the-ground insight and feedback. It’s also a great way to build a sense of ownership and unison between different markets for translations.

However, establishing review frameworks and updating glossaries, while making sure everyone’s in the loop can be extremely time consuming, so we work with clients, either directly with their in-country teams or behind the scenes to streamline this often complicated, but always necessary, process.

#5 Accurately working out the ROI of Marketing Localisation

Localisation is generally regarded as a worthy investment for company growth, but measuring returns, although obviously necessary, is not easily done.

That’s because it’s tricky to measure against vague intangible concepts such as customer satisfaction and engagement.

That said, there are ways and means to measure the likely returns on Marketing Localisation investment across different industry and media types. We can help advise on the strategic planning of projects to make sure clients are doing the right thing in the right markets on the localisation front!

From goal setting to KPI tracking and ROI measurement, we’re commercially savvy and can help you pick and choose the right localisation investments for your company.

So, now that we know what it is, what benefits it brings, and the common pitfalls, what does the future hold for marketing localisation and what trends should we expect to see?

As companies continue to expand global reach, localised marketing strategies are needed more than ever. Coupled with a worldwide trajectory towards more and more content, global marketers are under increasing pressure to supply a never-ending stream of engaging, localised material to keep up with the competition and grow their brands.

Key trends and growth areas to watch out for:

  • Developments in voice search and conversational AI technology
  • Augmented and Virtual Reality becoming more mainstream
  • Growth in Global Influencer Marketing
  • Greater focus on Data Privacy and Compliance
  • Real-time localisation

Customers now expect to see personalised, high-quality, entertaining, and informative content across all manner of channels from websites and social media to apps, e-books and video.

And as such, marketing localisation service providers are expanding their bandwidth, to meet these current and emerging trends, from taking account of regional variations, to creating individual customer profiles, the scope goes far beyond translation!

When you’re weighing up the pros and cons of investing in Marketing Localisation, it’s worth remembering that a well-planned strategy can help you realise the vast potential of: 

  • Talking directly and relevantly to customers
  • Being culturally correct and avoiding any costly mistakes
  • Establishing brand trust and credibility
  • Aligning with local preferences
  • Staying within local regulations and standards
  • Keeping SEO relevant to local markets
  • Being reactive to local trends

But just in case you’re in any doubt about the merits of Marketing Localisation, here are four final stats from CSA and Rest of the World surveys:

65% of people prefer content to be in their language.

55.6% of the internet is in English, despite only 4.7% of the world being native English speakers.

And even in Europe, where there’s a high degree of multilingualism, 1 in 5 people will never browse content in a foreign language.

76% of shoppers, given the choice of two similar products, would choose the one with a description in their language. For those who don’t speak English, this number jumps to 89%.

Convinced that Marketing Localisation is the way to go?

Working with professional language service providers, like us, can help you manage the inevitable increase in localised content, produce quantity and quality, stay on top of trends, measure and monitor, and improve your ROI.

Get in touch and we’ll tell you how Comtec can help your business go local, to go global!

 * Forbes Advisor E-Commerce stats

** CSA Research