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1. What is product localization?

Product localization: How to adapt your product for new markets

Given the increasingly interconnected nature of today's global market, pushing your ecommerce operations beyond familiar boundaries is not just an option anymore; it's an essential part of doing business. 

However, don't be fooled: taking your offer globally involves more than just reproducing the same product in every country.  

Welcome to the realm of "Product Localization." This complex yet fascinating process involves adapting your products to effectively engage diverse audiences around the globe. 

It might be about finessing a product design or refining a sales pitch, product localization is all about ensuring your product strikes the right chord, no matter where your customer lives.  

Dive into the intricate universe of product localization and understand how slight adjustments in culture, design, and language can spell the difference between being a resounding success and getting lost in the crowd when launching in new markets.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Product localization goes beyond mere translation of product descriptions, adapting products to fit the cultural, linguistic, and regulatory norms of target markets. It's about ensuring products resonate with local consumers, making them feel familiar and relatable.

  • Localizing products allows businesses to tap into wider demographics and boost sales. Products tailored to local norms foster trust, create an intuitive user experience, and amplify brand recall, often leading to higher revenue.

  • A robust product localization strategy entails thorough market research & analysis, working with native experts for accurate translations and cultural insights, and focusing on linguistic and cultural adaptation.

  • Some common challenges of product localization are language inaccuracies, cultural insensitivities, and staying on top of the changing local trends. Solutions include engaging professional translators, continuous cultural research, and following local trends.

  • With its robust print on demand capabilities, Gelato empowers businesses to produce products directly in the target country, effectively bridging the gap between you and your new audience.

What is product localization?

Product localization, at its core, is much more than just translation. It's an intricate process wherein a product—be it physical, digital, or a service—is adapted to meet the cultural, linguistic, and regulatory norms of a specific target market.

Imagine you've created a board game that's wildly popular in your home country. If you simply translate the game's rules into another language and sell it overseas, it might not resonate. Why? Cultural references or color preferences might differ. Localization ensures that these nuances are addressed, making the product feel as if it was originally crafted for that local market. It's about creating familiarity and relatability.

Why is product localization important for businesses?

Businesses can't afford to overlook the significance of product localization. Localization allows businesses to tap into new geographic regions and demographics, exponentially increasing potential customers and sales for a chosen product or service. When a product feels "local," it resonates more with the audience. By addressing cultural and linguistic nuances, businesses foster a more intuitive and relatable user experience for customers in global markets.

Although there's an initial investment in localization, the return can be substantial. Tailored products typically perform better in local markets, leading to higher sales and revenue. Through localization, businesses can maintain a consistent brand image and messaging, even while adapting to diverse markets. This strengthens their brand recall and loyalty. A successful product localization strategy also effectively reduces time to market and gives local competitors a run for their money.


How can product localization be implemented?

Now that we've understood the benefits of product localization, let's look at how you can approach it. Localizing your product requires a systematic approach. It's a process of adapting your products and services for the local culture and language, not just linguistically but functionally and emotionally. Here's a detailed roadmap:

1. Do some prep work and analysis

To localize your product, determine which parts of your product need localization. This can include hardware and software localization to adapt the user interface, manuals, packaging, marketing materials, and more. Check if your product's architecture supports localization. For instance, can your website handle right-to-left languages?

Conducting market research also helps gauge the local competition and understand where your product stands. By analyzing local consumer behavior and preferences, you can tailor your localization strategy more effectively, ensuring a smoother and more successful market entry.

2. Engage the right professionals

Hire native translators to bring cultural and linguistic expertise that generic translation tools can't match. Next, consult cultural experts so they can guide you on subtle cultural nuances to ensure your product doesn't inadvertently offend or misrepresent.

Additionally, collaborate with local marketers or influencers familiar with the preferences and trends of the target market. Their on-ground insights can help in refining your localization strategy, ensuring it aligns seamlessly with the local audience's expectations and values.

3. Linguistic and cultural adaptation

Translate all textual elements into the target language. This involves recreating content in the local language to resonate with the local culture while maintaining the original message. Make sure that all used symbols, colors, images, and other design elements align with local sensibilities.

It's equally important to seek feedback from native speakers and local experts. Their insights can highlight nuances or subtleties that might be overlooked, ensuring a deeper and more authentic connection with the target audience.

4. Understand cultural nuances

The saying "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" encapsulates the essence of understanding and respecting cultural nuances. And for businesses, this is a cardinal rule when entering new markets.

What one culture values, another might dismiss. For instance, while Western societies value individualism, many Eastern societies prioritize collectivism. Products that resonate with these values have a higher chance of success. Likewise, icons and symbols revered in one culture might be irrelevant or even considered offensive in another. In some cultures, purchasing decisions are influenced heavily by family or peer opinions. Recognizing these dynamics can shape marketing strategies.

5. Adapt design elements for local markets

Design isn't just about aesthetics; it's a language. It conveys messages, tells stories, and elicits emotions. When entering a new market, understanding the design language of the local culture can be as crucial as mastering its spoken language.

A design that resonates with the local culture feels familiar and appealing. A culturally relevant design can evoke specific feelings or memories in different cultural contexts, enhancing the product's appeal. Design elements like colors, typography, and imagery deeply influence product perceptions across cultures. For instance, red symbolizes passion in Western countries, whereas in China, it signifies celebration. Typography, like calligraphy-inspired fonts, can resonate with certain regions, while images should reflect local symbols and lifestyles.

6. Modify product descriptions

Product descriptions serve as a key touchpoint in a customer's decision-making process, especially in international markets. These should not only be accurate but also resonate with the local audience. Well-written product descriptions can set customer expectations and be instrumental in building trust and fostering brand loyalty.

Local expertise is invaluable when writing product descriptions. Native speakers bring an intuitive understanding of cultural nuances, ensuring product descriptions feel organic and authentic. They can identify potential misinterpretations and offer insights that automated translations might miss. Native speakers can also help translate and localize idioms or colloquial expressions correctly, as their meanings can get lost in literal translations resulting in confusion. This helps maintain the intended message's integrity and appeal.


Common challenges faced while implementing product localization

As businesses set out on their product localization journeys, they inevitably encounter several challenges. These roadblocks, while daunting, can be navigated with the right strategies. Let's delve into some of these challenges and discuss potential solutions.

1. Language barriers and inaccurate translation

Direct translations can often miss the mark, leading to misinterpretations or even conveying an entirely different message than intended. Such errors can alienate potential customers and jeopardize a brand's credibility in the new market.

Here's how you can solve this

Engage professional translators with expertise in the target market. Relying solely on automated translation tools can be risky. Regularly update translation glossaries and databases to ensure consistency and accuracy. Collaborate with local teams or experts to review and refine translations.

2. Cultural insensitivities and making generalizations

Every culture has its taboos, sensitivities, and values. Overlooking these can lead to backlash or diminished brand perception. Engaging with a culture without adequate understanding can seem insincere or even disrespectful.

Here's how you can solve this

Conduct thorough cultural research before entering a new market. Understand local customs, traditions, and values. Collaborate with local experts who can offer insights and guide the localization process. Avoid broad generalizations. Remember that even within a single country, there can be significant regional differences in culture and preferences.

3. Keeping pace with changing local trends

Cultural landscapes evolve. What's trendy or acceptable today might not be the case tomorrow. As societies progress, values shift, and new generations bring fresh perspectives. Consequently, businesses that don't adapt risk falling out of favor or appearing out of touch.

Here's how you can solve this

Maintain an ongoing relationship with local market research firms or consultants who can provide timely updates. Regularly gather feedback from local customers and adjust your strategy accordingly. Stay engaged with local influencers, media, and communities to keep a pulse on emerging trends and shifts in sentiment.


Notable real-life examples of product localization

1. McDonald's menu adaptations

McDonald's, the biggest fast-food franchise globally, has been serving customers across cultures and regions for several decades now. Known for its adaptability, the company tailors its menu to cater to local tastes.

For its Indian market, the company, considering the predominantly vegetarian diet and cultural sensitivities around beef, introduced the McAloo Tikki (a spiced potato patty burger) and eliminated beef and pork from its menu. Further into the east, in Japan, the Teriyaki Burger, which incorporates a teriyaki glaze, and the Ebi Filet-O, a shrimp burger, were designed specifically for Japanese customers.

2. IKEA in China

IKEA, the world's largest home furnishings brand, adjusted its business model to align with the shopping habits and preferences of the Chinese market. After recognizing that Chinese apartments are generally smaller than those in Western countries, IKEA's showrooms in China now display home layouts that are more reflective of local living conditions.

Products like the rice cooker and wok were introduced to cater to local cooking habits. Feng shui principles were also incorporated into some product designs and store layouts to further appeal to the local market.

3. Coca-Cola’s name localization in China

When Coca-Cola first entered the Chinese market, its name was directly translated. The translation sounded like “Kekoukela,” which could be interpreted as “bite the wax tadpole” or “female horse stuffed with wax”, depending on the dialect.

After realizing this transliteration issue and the confusion and humor it spread, the company decided to adopt the name “Kekoukele” for the Chinese market, which means “delicious and happy"—a far more positive and brand-appropriate meaning.

4. Netflix

Netflix, the global streaming behemoth, has expertly localized its platform to cater to diverse audiences worldwide. By curating content libraries specific to each country, producing original shows from various regions, and offering multiple dubbing and subtitling options, the company ensures cultural relevance and accessibility. 

Additionally, their keen awareness of cultural sensitivities, region-specific pricing models, and dedicated local language support underscores their commitment to offering a tailored viewer experience. Through these strategic adaptations, Netflix demonstrates the essence of product localization, resonating deeply with audiences in every corner of the globe.

Streamline your product localization efforts with Gelato

In today's fast-paced global market, efficient product localization is a game-changer, and Gelato can revolutionize that process for you. With its robust print on demand capabilities, Gelato empowers businesses to produce products directly in the target country, effectively bridging the gap between you and your new audience.

Instead of managing complicated logistics, dealing with shipping hassles, or facing long delivery times, Gelato ensures that your localized products are in the hands of your consumers in no time. This not only bolsters customer satisfaction but also dramatically reduces the cost and carbon footprint linked to long-distance shipping.

Gelato offers an expansive range of custom products, such as calendars, photo books, phone cases, mugs, wall art, etc., tailored to diverse market needs. Beyond traditional offerings, you can now venture into selling trendy items like hats, backpacks, blankets, towels, socks, and so much more. This means you can cater to the specific tastes and demands of each localized market with a wider and more appealing product range.

Gelato isn't just a print on demand solution; it's your partner in seamless and effective product localization, helping you leave a lasting impression in every new market you venture into. Sign up for Gelato today!


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