What is Localization?

Image: A graphic depicting website localization

As you expand your business or brand to new countries, translating your website into different languages is just one part of the process. But translation alone doesn’t guarantee success.

A solid localization strategy is one of the most important parts of a profitable international launch. Localization is the process of adapting a product or service to a specific target audience. While translation is about the words you use, localization is more about how well your product resonates with people in a different culture.

Want to learn how localization helps companies get great results? Read on!


E-Commerce Localization

Amazon is the top eCommerce platform in the world for a reason. They use eCommerce localization to reach target markets across the globe. Localization helps Amazon deliver a world-class customer experience to people in dozens of different countries.

Image: a screenshot of amazon's chinese localized site
Amazon’s China site is localized with language, UX design, and country-specific deals.

Here’s an example. If you compare Amazon’s American and Chinese landing pages, the sites are completely different for each locale. And it’s not only the native language that’s different. Amazon adapted each element of their China homepage (http://amazon.cn) to suit the local culture, from local currencies to unique user preferences. Amazon knows that their Chinese consumers care less about delivery speed than American consumers and instead prefer to know exactly when their packages will arrive. So the Chinese Amazon user interface was designed with less emphasis on delivery speed and more emphasis on a specific delivery date and time.

image: a screenshot of amazon's american homepage, localized for the USA
Amazon’s US site focuses on American holidays like Easter and Earth Day.

You don’t have to be a tech giant like Amazon to benefit from localization. ECommerce companies of all sizes can gain new customers and stay competitive when they thoughtfully tailor their content for new markets.


Localizing Web Apps, Mobile Apps, and Software

Nowadays, consumers have billions of apps to choose from. But globalization has changed the marketplace. For example, studies show that people are eager for localized apps in emerging markets like Germany. Whether your business is enterprise accounting software or a mobile gaming app, localization can help you grow your audience and revenue in different countries.

For web apps or mobile apps, localization elevates your brand above the competition. A 2019 study discovered that translated app store descriptions led to a 38% increase in mobile app downloads. Localized content can boost the bottom line, too. Many Fortune 500 companies found that their investments in translation and localization paid off with increased revenue.

Airbnb is a great example of app localization. Airbnb localized both its web app (for desktop users) and mobile app (for iOS and Android). Airbnb supports 220 locations and over 60 languages. Depending on the user’s location, Airbnb’s user interface, time and date formats, forms, phone numbers, and payment methods are all tailored for a local context. For example, Airbnb added dozens of currencies and new international payment methods before the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. This savvy localization effort led to millions of bookings and a lot of extra revenue for the business.

Image: a hand holding a phone with the airbnb localized mobile app.
Localization is an integral part of Airbnb’s app design. (Image source: bloomberg.com)

As you can see, smart app design with localization at the forefront helps customers have a fantastic experience with your brand.


Websites and Localization

Only 20% of the world’s population can read and speak English, so website translation is crucial. People who can’t read your content can’t buy from you, so translated text is a necessity for reaching the other 80% of your potential customers.

Global companies like IBM understand the importance of localization and translation. Since the 1950s, IBM led the industry in the development of AI translation technology. Today, it’s no surprise that they invest a lot of time and energy in website localization for IBM.com, including support for dozens of different languages and local markets.

Along with translations, IBM uses extensive localization to provide a unique user experience for people in different regions. Each country’s site is tailored for local customer preferences and cultural sensitivities. For example, the social sharing buttons for sites like Facebook and Instagram are popular in the US but not as common in other places like India, so IBM’s India site uses LinkedIn buttons instead.

Image: A screenshot of IBM's Localized homepage for poland
Pictured: IBM’s Polish homepage. IBM is an industry leader in localization, with dozens of language options on its homepage, IBM.com. 

IBM also recognizes that content maintenance is incredibly important. According to their documentation, “Initial translation is the easy part, managing translations is complicated.” To solve this issue, IBM recommends using a script to help localization teams easily identify new content and manage translations.

A reliable translation management system (TMS) supports companies like IBM as they maintain their localized content to seamlessly communicate with clients all over the world.


Choosing a Partner for your Localization Projects

If you’re looking for the right partner in the internationalization and localization process, consider Localize.

Localize is a translation management system that simplifies your workflow and localization process with powerful features like glossaries, style guides, automatic content detection, and more. We’ve helped over 500 companies localize their websites, software, and mobile apps for a global market.

Contact the team at Localize to start building a successful localization strategy today.

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