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  • Writer's pictureJaney Wong

The Importance of Early Localization in Product Development

Moving Localization to the Left: A Crucial Step for Global Success


Localization in Product Development

At Undertow, we understand that every SaaS company has a unique journey to success. One factor, however, remains consistent in every path to global growth - the importance of early localization in product development. This strategic move, often referred to as "moving localization to the left," can be the game-changer in your international expansion strategy.


In one of our recent podcasts, we had a candid conversation with Miguel Sepulveda, Globalization Director at King, where he shared invaluable insights about localization's role in achieving global market success.


Here are some key takeaways from our discussion.


Removing Language Barriers


"One of the important reasons for companies to do localization is to remove the language barrier," Miguel explained.


Language plays a crucial role in communication, and localization addresses language barriers by translating and adapting content into the local languages of the target market. By speaking the languages of your customers, you can effectively engage with them, build trust, and establish stronger connections.


A prime example of a company benefiting from early localization is the popular ride-sharing app, Uber. When Uber began its global expansion, it understood that to succeed in non-English speaking markets, it needed to "move localization to the left".


mobile app


Instead of merely translating its app, Uber adapted the content to match the local languages and cultural nuances of each new market. This ranged from incorporating local slang into their app interfaces to acknowledging regional customs and regulations. 


Consequently, Uber quickly gained traction worldwide, becoming a global leader in ride-sharing services. This case perfectly illustrates how early localization can significantly increase a product's global market acceptance and success.


Enhancing User Experience


"Localization improves the overall user experience by tailoring products and services to the specific needs and preferences of the target audience," Miguel pointed out. This goes beyond mere translation, it's about customizing every facet of your product to align with the cultural norms and expectations of your target market. This includes tailoring user interface design, date, and currency formats, payment options, and even visual elements like colors and images to create a product that feels local. By doing so, you resonate more deeply with your audience, catering to their unique needs and preferences in a way that truly speaks to them.


The Multilingual Content Podcast banner

Ensuring Legal Compliance


Different countries have specific laws, regulations, and standards that companies must comply with. As Miguel noted, "Localization ensures that products and services meet those legal standards and regulations." This aspect of localization is often overlooked but is crucial for any company seeking to operate globally.


A prime example of ensuring legal compliance through localization is seen in the technology giant, Apple Inc. When Apple launched its Health App in 2014, it was keen to respect the different healthcare regulations in various countries.


For instance, in the UK, the app uses the metric system for measurements, while in the US, it uses the US customary units. Also, to respect privacy laws in Germany, Apple ensured that the health data of its users were stored on the device itself and not on iCloud. This localization strategy not only helped Apple avoid potential legal issues but also increased trust among its international users.



Apple objects

Competing Effectively in New Markets


When entering a new market, it's essential to position your product effectively against competitors. "You need to study them and understand what they are doing," Miguel advised. By understanding the local market dynamics, you can tailor your product and marketing strategy to meet the specific needs of the local audience.


A prime example of a SaaS company that has successfully employed localization strategies is Slack. When Slack decided to expand its operations beyond English-speaking countries, the company realized the importance of "moving localization to the left". Slack invested in localization from the early stages of product development, ensuring that their platform would be accessible and user-friendly for various international markets.


The company started by translating its user interface, help center articles, and marketing content into various languages. However, they did not stop at mere translation. Slack also adapted its content to align with local customs, colloquialisms, and business practices in each target market. 


Computer with Slack on the screen

For instance, in Japan, where the business culture is more formal, Slack adjusted its usually casual tone to create a more professional impression. 


This is where Brand Guidelines become a crucial aspect of internationalization when establishing brand consistency across multiple languages and cultures. Adherence to brand guidelines in the localization process is not just about creating a uniform brand image; it's an essential strategy to resonate more deeply with international customers. By ensuring that localized content aligns with the brand's values, tone, and style, you create a locally relevant brand experience that fosters trust, improves customer engagement, and ultimately enhances brand loyalty.


The Multilingual Content Podcast banner

Additionally, Slack ensured its product complied with local laws and regulations. In Europe, for example, it adhered to the stringent data privacy laws, instilling trust in their European customers and avoiding potential legal issues.


By implementing an effective localization strategy, Slack managed to compete efficiently against local competitors in every new market they entered. This resulted in accelerated growth, increased market share, and a truly global presence for Slack. Such a success story underscores the power of early and comprehensive localization in global product development.


Building Trust and Loyalty


"People struggle to engage with content they don't understand," Miguel stressed. 

Localization builds trust and loyalty by providing content in a language that the user understands and feels comfortable with. This leads to increased user engagement and ultimately, customer loyalty.


Consider the case of the project management software, Asana. As part of its localization strategy, Asana didn't just translate its content but also restructured its feature sets to better cater to the needs of different markets.


Asana screenshot

The Right Time for Localization


"The best moment to involve localization is when you actually have the idea of the product," Miguel emphasized.


Early involvement of localization in the product development process ensures that the product is designed with global readiness in mind from the outset. This not only saves time and resources down the line but also results in a product that is truly fit for the global market.


In conclusion, early localization in product development is not just an option but a necessity for SaaS companies aiming for global success. It breaks language barriers, enhances user experience, ensures legal compliance, enables effective competition, and builds trust and loyalty. So, it's time we move localization to the left, making it an integral part of the product development process right from the ideation phase.


Undertow translation services

How Undertow Can Help You Reach Global Success Through Early Localization in Product Development


After learning about the importance of early localization in global product development, you may be wondering how to incorporate it into your company's strategy. That's where Undertow comes in.


We are a leading localization and translation service provider that specializes in helping SaaS companies expand their reach into international markets. Our team of experienced linguists, cultural experts, and project managers will guide you through your localization journey. What makes us unique is our "Human Factor". You will never just be a number to us.


We aim to simplify and demystify multilingual product and marketing localization for B2B SaaS startups. We focus on what you want to achieve and help you turn it into actionable results. If you’re looking for a partner to take your international user experience to the next level, get in touch with us today.


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