It’s 2019, and you probably heard the business cliche “think global from day one”.

 

For starters, thinking global means growing a mindset that your product or service is designed for the international market.

 

To go truly global from day one, you need localization. This is the process of taking a product and tailoring to a specific locale/market. Keep in mind that localization is more than translation. It’s adapting your product physically, linguistically, and even culturally.

Here’s what you have to consider to build a successful, international business in 2019.

The first barrier — physical accessibility

The first step of localization is making sure that your product is physically available to other markets. That means — can you ship to their country? Are there inhibitive customs or tax laws? Do you provide local payment methods?

If you rely on Facebook to market your products, then you physically won’t be available to buyers in China. In that case, you should consider local platforms to generate awareness and drive sales.

Linguistic accessibility — can’t read, didn’t buy

The next step is adapting the product to make it discoverable and understandable. This involves making content, the product and the website (as well as any marketing materials) in the preferred language of that market.

This is supported by several studies showing that online shoppers prefer to do business in their native tongue. 42% of Europeans have reported to only shop online in their native language. Another report found that 72% of online shoppers who are not native English speakers would like the product reviews to be available in their native languages.

The logic behind this is clear — you can’t buy what you can’t understand. And though in English-speaking countries we often have the assumption that everyone around the world speaks English, this, in fact, is not necessarily the case. Only 1.5 billion people in the world speak any English at all out of 7.5 billion in total. That’s only 20%. By making your business and products available only in English, you’re missing a growth opportunity.

Cultural accessibility — the ultimate hurdle

The last step of successfully localizing your international business is making your product relevant to the local culture and their understanding.

Alter your images to speak to the local population. That can range from the city backdrops you use in your website images, to demonstrating photos of women in different garments, based on the locally accepted standard.

In cultures that value hierarchy and seniority, it can be beneficial to present a senior official both in business discussions, promotional materials, and “about us” pages. Whereas in egalitarian societies a focus on equal team involvement could be a better choice.

Even colors can have various meaning across different cultures. While in Western cultures the color green can symbolize environmental friendliness, in Iran it evokes joy, while in China it symbolizes disgrace. This may be something to consider when choosing your logo, website theme, and visual assets.

Examine the values of the local culture and consider how your product may appeal to it.

A large project for potentially bigger rewards

The benefits of growing your business globally are not to be underestimated.

 

With emerging markets growing 3–4 times faster than developed countries, new business opportunities are ripe in locations such as India, Brasil, and China.

 

That being said, trying to implement localization yourself can be quite a challenge. There are tools such as Lokalise that help you eliminate the hassle of localizing your website, mobile apps and digital content. This results in being able to implement new languages in days, as opposed to months.