To localize or not to localize?, that’s the question

Sometimes when we think of localizing the first thought that crosses our mind is: how expensive will it be? Budget is, of course, one of the main reasons to embark in a project or not. However, if we let all of our actions within a company to be driven by the costs, and we do not stop for a while to be able to compare those costs to the benefits we may obtain, chances are we will not let innovation happen in our environment.

Furthermore, in our experience we have seen that the cost of localizing is not really as high as the decision makers think it is. Perhaps in the Global North, professional services such as translation are quite expensive, but when you compare the associated costs to those fees charged in the Global South, well, you will notice that the actual expenditure to get your content localized (depending on the amount of content, of course) is not something to worry about.

Speaking in terms of software, where many of our customers perform their daily activities, we have seen several well intended promotions to expand their coverage in Latin America: “35% off during Q2 in every license you purchase, and the support and maintenance agreement is included for a year!!” It sounds like a campaign that was born to succeed. Sometimes their promos do the job, increasing the sales at the expected rate. Most of the times, however, the promos are not as successful as the marketing and sales department would like them to be…

Let’s not forget that the Latin American region is a developing one, and while you might take for granted that everyone in the world speaks (or should speak) English, reality proves different. It is true, though, that increasingly people in Latin America is getting higher quality education, and that everyday you can find more English proficient professionals in every country to the south of the US border. However, the people who can speak and understand English is not the majority of the population in our countries yet.

Now picture this: imagine you hear of a great offer of, say, Japanese manga. For a limited time you can get 50 pieces of your favorite manga story, at a really low price, shipping costs included. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Let’s assume that you are a great fan of that particular series, you have enough money available to take advantage of the promo, and you are sure that buying this manga is a great decision for you.

You are just about to click on the “Process” button at the webstore, when you realize that all the manga books are in Japanese. You know some words in the language, of course, because of your intense interest in manga, but you are not really proficient. Then you think twice if it is convenient to spend all that money (that a moment ago was a tremendous bargain) in a bunch of paper that you cannot understand, or, if your entrepreneur spirit flourishes at that time, in a bunch of paper that will require a considerable amount of time to translate by yourself, through the aid of information technologies. But then if you think of the possibility of going to the comic store around the corner, where you can find already translated manga that you can enjoy right away, perhaps you decide to go there and buy some titles, even though they are not as cheap as the promo you’ve just seen.

A similar situation happens with software titles offered in languages that are not Spanish and/or Portuguese. People might decide using a different tool that is already translated, to solve their productivity challenges, even though you offer really low prices or a better performance.

When we have done the math, it can be a lot cheaper (maybe the cost of 2-3 licenses) to localize the interface and the basic marketing documents, than giving out your margin in a promotion that in the end does not bring the desired outcome. Doing a promotion with a product that is already adapted to your customer’s needs can bring better results for you.

This situation is not only applicable to the software industry, but to all of those that are content intensive. To some extent, every marketing effort can benefit of localization, even if you are selling electronic devices that are not really language dependent. Think of the information era we are living in, and ask yourself again if it is worth it to localize you content. Our answer (and not only because this is our business) is: yes, of course it is.

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