Common Sense Advisory*: What Should You Localize?

Stockholm. Capital of  Sweden. Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken natively by about 9 million people in the Nordics, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland.

Stockholm. Capital of  Sweden. Swedish is a North Germanic language, spoken natively by about 9 million people in the Nordics, predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland.

International markets represent major revenue opportunities around the world, but most companies support just a fraction of the languages they need to reach prospective customers. CSA Research’s data shows that global marketers need 14 specific languages to reach 90% of the world’s online opportunity. 
Those languages include English, the major European tongues, Chinese, and Arabic. That list represents a sizable investment in translation and localization for companies that have, on average, localized their websites into just six languages. Many businesses struggle to manage even that, thus stunting their growth potential.
Look beyond that list and instead at emerging markets like Indonesia and Vietnam. Because most companies take a short-term view of the opportunity, their support for languages in emerging markets is sparse. Most ignore countries like Indonesia and its online population of 57 million. Few companies support Hindi, a language used by 70 million people online and more than 40% of India’s population in everyday life. Because many countries are joining the digital world on their phones, anyone wanting to reach them must add mobile delivery to their repertoire. Translating their websites into and creating mobile apps for these languages will give companies access to growing middle-class consumer populations around the world.

So why don’t companies simply localize their product information, packaging, owner’s manuals, websites, and mobile apps into all the languages they need to address the developed and developing world? 
Money, resources, and a sound business case conspire to limit the number of countries and languages that companies support. At the same time, volumes keep growing, thus requiring more content and code to be localized into more languages at much faster rates than in the past.
These factors lead localization managers to ask CSA Research’s analysts the following question ever more frequently: “How do we make the decision on which markets to target, which pieces of content to translate, and how deep into a website or product information should we go?”
Our research has demonstrated that many companies waste a lot of time searching for a magic wand to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, there is no “right” or “one- size-fits-all” response to the questions of which and how much content to translate or create for a given market. That’s because organizations creating the business case and dedicating resources to those markets means major discovery and planning. They must identify, categorize, balance, and prioritize their stakeholder expectations when they respond to requests for entering new markets or investing more in existing ones. How can you make the best decisions on where to spend your budget? 
*Guest post by: Don DePalma, Chief Strategist and Founder, CSA Research