6 Localization Mistakes to Avoid When Entering New Markets

Sam Molony
May 6, 2022
6 min read

Breaking into international markets is never easy. You need to make people aware of your product or service and get them to make a purchase. Localization mistakes made because of a lack of understanding of different laws, customs, preferences, and traditions compound the problem. 

Localization is considering and conforming to your target market’s way of doing things. It is your responsibility, as a company, to ensure that your content and designs are appropriate and respectful to your target consumers before going public. Unfortunately, many international companies have encountered problems with localization.

When developing your sales or marketing strategy, you can avoid costly localization mistakes that jeopardize by paying attention to the following points.

1. Relying on Machine Translation

Machine translation tools like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator are great. They help individuals and businesses quickly translate content from one language to another. That’s handy when you want to communicate with a colleague.

While software solutions are cheap and fast, you shouldn’t use them for your sales and marketing material. The quality of automatically translated content is still not perfect.

You’ll find plenty of examples of localization mistakes caused by machine translation. Take the example of pen manufacturer Parker.

When Parker Pen expanded into Mexico, they tried to translate their slogan, “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you”, to Spanish. The word embarrass was wrongly translated into “embaraza” which means pregnant in Spanish.

Here’s their translated slogan; “it won’t leak in your pocket and impregnate you”.

That’s rather embarrassing for a global brand.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples like this one.

A translator will help you avoid most of the localization mistakes. You can use a Translation Management System like Transifex for this work. The platform will guide your translators’ work by ensuring they achieve special characters limits, context, and translation quality. 

2. Ignoring Cultural Context

Have you watched Inglorious Basterds?

If you have, you might remember the bit in the bar where the British spy orders three beers. The person held up their index, middle, and ring finger. A fight breaks out shortly afterward.

The spy didn’t realize you never order beers like that in Germany.

Successful companies understand the importance of consumer representation and honoring culture. You need to ensure that any communication materials used help you connect with your target audience.

That means checking the language, visuals, and symbols you use.

Work with locals so you can check how the content you produce will be interpreted. For instance, hanging the Saudi Arabian flag in the opposite direction is illegal because it has text from the Quran. Another example, a thumbs-up gesture means zero or worthless in France. It generally means well done in countries that speak English. 

Local staff can help you sidestep these types of silly mistakes.

3. Not Offering Local Payment Methods

Today there are over 200 payment methods adopted by various businesses globally. While some payment methods like credit cards are global, there are key regional differences in the way people pay for items.

Here’s an example.

According to Statista, In 2020, credit and debit cards had more than 50% of the market share in North and South America. However, in Asia- the Pacific region, more than 50% of online transactions are wallet-based. 

You need to do your due diligence regarding the dominant payment methods. Using local payment methods makes it easier for people to purchase goods or services from your company. For instance, Alibaba has made it easy for East Africans to shop on Aliexpress by allowing popular mobile money service Mpesa transactions.

The Mpesa integration makes it easier for people in the region to use AliExpress.

You should also display prices and allow transactions in local currencies. That saves your customers the time to calculate exchange rates and other additional costs, like shipping fees. We took this approach when rolling out our cold email software to new markets.

4. Poor UI 

Best practices for user interface design change according to the region.

Not considering crucial aspects of UI like colors, fonts, images, formatting, and text positioning can make your site hard to navigate. To ensure people in the local market can navigate the site easily, you need to optimize it for the target market. Then, monitor how people engage with your site. 

For instance, to accommodate and attract more consumers from Arabic markets, you need to keep in mind the following crucial details:

  • Digits are written from left to right in Arabic
  • You can’t directly translate all words into Arabic. 
  • Arabic script usually requires a bigger font.

You also need to research the best terms that represent universal terms like “click” or “login”. Then, look at the terms other apps use in the same language and ensure consistency throughout your website. 

Do not launch your site in a new region before performing test runs. Software testing helps you catch errors early enough and suggestions on how to better user experience. In this case, it will help you determine if your UI will work for your target market, saving your company both time and resources.

 5. Vague Style Guidelines

Style guidelines are key to the localization process; they define the brand’s general style while guiding the localization process. The guidelines will mostly touch on factors like:

  • Appropriate fonts
  • Cultural 
  • Capitalization rules
  • Punctuation rules
  • Your company’s preferred voice and tone

When developing guidelines, involve your major stakeholders, including the localization provider. Also, feel free to borrow ideas from other brands or regionally recognized style guides. For instance, you can check out AP Style guide for inspiration.

6. Mistranslated Product Titles

As captivating as your title sounds in English, it might not sound the same in Spanish or any other language. As a result, your title might get lost in translation as you try to explain the solutions you are providing or come across as offensive to the target customers. 

Working with local staff will help you create marketing campaigns that resonate with your target market. These campaigns might be very different to ones you run in other regions of the world.

Conclusion

Before expanding your business’s services or products to any international market, you need to do your research. Ensure that whatever translation or communication you make shows a clear representation of the people and respects their culture. That will show your target customers that you have customized your products and service with them in mind, ensuring successful localization.

Your localization specialist needs to understand and share your company’s goal of localization to build a product that respects local cultures. Also, hire knowledgeable translators to help you through the localization process. That will make it easier to create viable designs from the word go rather than paying to rectify later. 

To avoid making costly localization mistakes, every content and design you use should comply with your target locale and culture. Create user interfaces that are easy to navigate, use the correct translations, embrace cultural differences, and follow the pointers given in this article. 

This post was written by Sam from Mailshake.

Sam Molony
Sam is part of the marketing team at Mailshake. Sam’s goal is to inspire people to not just “hang in there” but to thrive. When Sam's not publishing or promoting new content, you can find him playing sports and cooking up a storm in the kitchen.

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