Product localisation is crucial to ensure users in each individual market can use your product easily, that they find it valuable, and fit for purpose. If your product is difficult to navigate or understand, users won’t stick around for long.
What is product localisation?
Product localisation is the process of adapting your product for global markets.
You should scrutinise every aspect of your product for each new location or culture. When done properly, users should feel as though you’ve designed and created the product uniquely for them.
Poor product localisation on the other hand will make it much more difficult for your product to break out in a new market and get traction. It’s important to understand the needs of users in the new market and how they usually interact with every aspect of a product like yours.
Understanding product users in foreign markets
UX research is key to uncovering what you need to know about users in international markets and therefore how you need to adapt your product to fit.
The amount of product localisation required varies for every company. Some key considerations are:
- What is unique about users in each market?
- How will users interact with your product?
- Are there new features that you need to develop and existing features that aren’t required?
- What colours, fonts and design styles would best suit?
- What text styles, tone of voice, phrases, etc. are most suitable? Will simple text translation be enough or do you need to go further?
- What new imagery do you need?
- Do you need a new website, a local URL, or do you need to make fundamental changes to the online customer journey?
- How should you market the product locally?
Solid UX research will help you figure out how far you need to go with your product localisation for each new market that you enter.
Product localisation for global companies
If you’re operating on a truly global scale you may have adopted a more centralised approach to UX design so that your approach isn’t too fragmented. Whilst this won’t generally allow for maximum product success in each individual market, it could have other benefits to the organisation as a whole that make this a suitable approach. So let’s look at product localisation within the constraints of a global organisation.
One option at your disposal is product globalisation. This is the process of launching a single product across multiple international markets. As we’ve mentioned, to achieve optimum success this would also involve some degree of localisation for each market but that won’t always be possible with the restrictions of a global product development template some large companies have in place.
That’s not always a huge concern depending on the type of product and the scale of the language and cultural differences between markets. For example, due to the internet and the modern connected world, it’s now much easier for products to attract new users internationally, often inadvertently.
In addition, a lot of user behaviour is becoming more similar across markets and a lot of languages, such as English, are understood across a broad range of markets.
Because of this a lot of companies have put their focus into creating globally standardised products rather than individual market-focused localised products. Technology is driving global cohesion, leading global companies to adopt a product development approach that focuses on what the masses want rather than concerning themselves with what they deem to be less significant localised needs.
In addition to recognising the power of technology in bringing everyone in the world closer together, some multinationals also become disillusioned with poor performance in some markets and don’t see the investment in localisation in some regions as a worthwhile use of their resources. They opt for a standardised, more cost effective approach – product globalisation.
After all, people around the world now want access to the latest technologies. Even poorer regions now want modern day luxuries, like smartphones, as part of their day to day. So if a global company can create a product that is advanced, adaptable, functional and in demand internationally, product localisation becomes less of a necessity.
Corporations that opt for a product globalisation strategy and execute it effectively can benefit from large economies of scale in product development and distribution. This in turn allows them to offer their products at lower prices thus increasing their competitive edge and scalability.
But product globalisation won’t work for all and it won’t allow you to create the perfect product for each individual market. Plus, without UX research into each individual market, you can never be sure that your product globalisation strategy is appealing to the masses. The danger is it might only appeal to very few if your assumptions about what the majority of users want is incorrect.
Considering the right approach for your organisation
Products, the scale of organisations, and their objectives vary widely. The level of product localisation that you adopt will depend on your unique circumstances. Some global companies can adopt a quick and efficient product globalisation strategy and see success worldwide, whilst others will have no choice but to undertake detailed product localisation for each new market.
Whilst the Apple iPhone could possibly get away with just offering different language options, other products don’t have that luxury and need more localisation. For example, an international travel booking website will likely require a lot of localisation for each individual country to meet regulations and to fit different consumer behaviours and cultures.
It may be that in your particular case you don’t need a localised approach for each market, you could look at it on a regional basis if the culture across a region is similar. The effectiveness of this hybrid approach between product globalisation and product localisation will again depend on your type of product.
The importance of UX research
Regardless of your chosen approach, you will need to undertake some level of UX research. That’s because basing product development and your go-to-market strategy on knowledge and real-world facts is far more effective than basing it on simple presumptions.
It’s important not to get tunnel vision and presume that what’s currently working in your primary market will work in a new market, even if you think the culture, needs and behaviour of users seem similar at face value. You need to know for sure. Even if you’re adopting a product globalisation strategy you need to make sure that you’re appealing to as many people as possible. Only research can give you the accurate, up-to-date insight that you need.
Even the most effective globalised products that need little product localisation will need different marketing strategies for each market. For some markets it may need to be even more granular than that as there can be a lot of cultural differences within single countries.
Just like your product, you need to scrutinise every aspect of your usual go-to-market strategy to make sure all your marketing communications will resonate and have the desired impact. You need to review your text, your fonts, your colours, and maybe even your overarching brand guidelines for each market. Then you need to review how you’re using each marketing channel and research any new marketing channels native to that market that you need to have a presence on.
Your social media content, magazine adverts, television adverts, billboards, and everywhere you promote yourself needs careful planning. As part of your UX research project that will ultimately shape your product development roadmap, you should seek to uncover any cultural information you need that will help you shape an effective marketing strategy too.
It starts with research
Product localisation and product globalisation strategies should start at inception. How can you create effective product development strategies if you don’t have the hard facts about what users want?
To get reliable insight and to open the door to creating a winning product you need to conduct high-quality research. If you start on the wrong path and launch a product that’s difficult to use or of no value in a new market it can be very difficult to recover.
That’s why having professional researchers is so valuable. That said, it’s not always easy getting this resource in-house, but there is another way…
Outsource your UX research
At UX24/7 we provide UX research services internationally so that we can take this work off your hands. Get expert insight on new markets, user behaviour, cultures, and competitors from us, whilst you stay focused on the wider global expansion strategy.
When you work with us you will get:
- Multi-industry experience
We can work with you at all stages of your product lifecycle to make sure it’s always optimised for success, wherever in the world you take it.