In today’s global economy, it’s almost a given that most companies hope that a product will be sold both domestically and internationally. The Internet has made it deceptively easy to reach a global audience, especially when tools such as Google Translate allow for a rough website translation with the click of a button.
A true global strategy, though, requires far more comprehensive planning. With research showing that 75 percent of customers prefer to purchase products in their own language, an accurate translation is paramount to a successful multinational product launch. However, translation is only one piece of a much larger puzzle. The pre-launch phase, cultural nuances and much more have to be taken into account.
Here are four key terms that can help businesses navigate a successful product launch in another market:
1. Internationalization is the art of planning and takes place during the design phase before any version of the product is released to market, including the domestic one. If companies want to create an international strategy, that strategy starts before any kind of launch. Why? Because the product’s technical back-end has to be separated from the consumer-facing front-end.
For example, if your company is developing software, the software programmers should identify all the elements of the product that are related to the country -- such as the user interface, the cultural themes and the appearance -- and separate that content from the source code.
If internationalization doesn’t take place during the design phase, businesses may have to start a product from scratch to localize it for a market. Designers will have to go back and recreate both the front and back-ends of the product, making for a lot more wasted time and money during an international launch.
If the back-end source code, files or prototype is country-neutral, that drastically simplifies the process.
2. Translation. If three-quarters of customers say they want to browse products and learn about a company in their own language, it’s up to businesses to provide translated copy. Some companies can fall for the ease-of-use that Google Translate offers, but anyone who’s used the tool or a similar one knows that these solutions have their shortcomings.
A poorly translated website or manual can look unprofessional and make consumers far less willing to try your product. That’s why copy has to be translated not just to another language, but for cultural and industry context, too. Automatic tools are still unable to do this.
3. Localization is the deeper, more comprehensive form of translation. If a brochure has a picture of marbles and talks about how your product can help customers keep from losing their marbles, but a target market doesn’t identify with that metaphor, localization helps convert the image and the tagline to something that will resonate with the local market.
This is often where multimedia, such as video, digital-marketing campaigns and other collateral also needs to be translated. That could mean new imagery, graphics, logos and even voice actors. In this case, it’s important to keep all source files on-hand so you can optimize the content for the new market without creating something new from the ground up.
Localization is about making sure that the company becomes a recognizable brand by ensuring that everything that builds brand awareness, from the website to collateral to packaging, is culturally relevant and on-message.
4. Globalization is the encompassing term for internationalization, translation and localization. As I already mentioned, internationalization should ideally occur during the product-planning stages. Localization and translation, on the other hand, are the steps businesses take to fully enter another market and position the brand as a leader in the space.
When businesses globalize a product, that means developing a product that will be popular in multiple markets by translating the copy accurately and creating collateral that will build trust among the target audience.
Globalization isn’t a process that happens overnight, but when a product does finally launch after this kind of careful planning, businesses will finally be able to say that the brand truly has “gone global.”