Localization is the process of producing or adapting your company’s software, documents, marketing materials, and websites for the particular cultural and linguistic needs of the target market you desire to enter. This process is one of the most important components of successfully taking your products and services into international markets.

According to Internet World Stats, there were a little over two billion people using the Internet as of March 30, 2011 (). Of these, over 500 million use the Internet in English. In other words, there are over one billion people on the Internet who view online content in a language other than English because English is not their native language. Therefore, if you want to increase sales, as well as your influence and reputation in both domestic and international markets, then localization is no longer a suggestion, but a necessity.

Native Language Preference

It is important to stress that people are much more likely to buy products or services from your company when you provide information in their native language. If people can’t understand what you are selling, how you are different from your competitors, or if they get frustrated because they can’t find what they are looking for on your website, then they will not buy from you. It is just that simple.

Feelingfrustrated or alienated because they perceive that your company does not care about their unique needs will have potential customers quickly leaving your website and refusing to buy your product or service. On the other hand, localization of your software applications, documents, and websites will allow you to communicate with millions of potential buyers you would otherwise be unable to reach.

Why is Localization so Important?

Picture the scene. A family buys a dark brown couch, chair, and love seat from a furniture store in Toronto. On the day the new furniture is delivered to their Brampton, Ontario home, the couple’s curious seven-year-old daughter begins to carefully examine the new arrivals. A few moments later, she innocently asks her mother, “What does ‘Nigger-Brown’ mean?” Astonished, this mother turns to her daughter who is pointing to the packing labels attached to the furniture. In place of a more appropriate term, the colour description on the label is a racial slur completely unacceptable in Canadian society.

How could such a mistake happen in the first place, let alone be overlooked by the furniture manufacturer in China, the supplier in Scarborough, and the store that sold the furniture in Toronto? It was soon discovered that a software company in China was responsible. They said that an older version (no longer in use) of their Chinese-English translation software provided the racist term.

This true story (), along with many other recent examples, underscores the need for cultural sensitivity and awareness when selling products or services to international markets. In a world where every day more people who speak a language other than English are gaining Internet access, localization is one of the most underutilized methods you could begin using that could lead to increased customers and sales.

Benefits of Localization

Localization will keep you from making embarrassing mistakes that have the potential to alienate or offend potential customers, mistakes that many major companies have made because they failed to consider the unique cultural and linguistic needs of their target market. However, if you are willing to make the initial time and cost investment in localizing your websites and marketing materials for the target markets you desire to enter, your business will benefit in ways you never could have imagined.

Some of the potential benefits include:

Based on these many benefits, professional localization of your documents, websites, products, and services is one of the most important and potentially lucrative steps you can take this year.