Localization - The key to success in the international market
Lior Cohen, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Net-Translators Ltd.
Software companies have come to understand that in order to attain significant market share (not only in the American market) they must fully localize their software into the languages of the target countries. Localization is a process of adapting a product to various markets worldwide in order for local users to feel that the product was planned and produced for them and adapted to their language, culture, and needs.
Now that the Internet has become the principal mode of communication in the global economy, international markets are changing and are becoming more and more crowded by the day. Many software companies are seeking new markets in which to operate and ways to gain a significant competitive edge.
In spite of the widespread assumption that in most countries around the globe people speak or understand English, the chances of successfully marketing software without performing a complete and high caliber localization process of the interface and documentation into the local language are slim.
Today only around 12% of Europeans speak English as a first language, and only around 15% of the global population speaks English as a first or second language at all! Moreover, most people around the world surf the Internet in their mother tongue and not necessarily in English.
What do major software and hardware companies around the world do? Just taking a look at the web sites of Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, HP, Cisco, and other companies proves that these companies address their customers in their own language exclusively. Their web sites have been translated into the dozens of languages of the target markets in which they operate. The products have been translated in their entirety, including technical specifications and documentation as well as the company's promotional materials.
The need for localization has moved from the nice-to-have stage to the must-have stage.
It is important to understand that the opportunity of penetrating country's market usually presents itself only once. Therefore, the quality of the translated product has a direct effect on the success of the campaign and on the market share that will be attained.
Every dollar, euro, or other unit of currency invested by a software company in an attempt to penetrate markets in countries such as Japan, Germany, and France is liable to go down the drain due to mistakes unrelated to the design or quality of the product - but rather to the manner in which the software, the user guide and the help files were translated, if at all! Customers in these countries won't adopt a forgiving attitude towards poorly worded documents or spelling mistakes. They will usually conclude that the company is unreliable, and this will have a profound negative effect on the image of both the manufacturer and the product.
The company, often unaware of the issues of translation and localization, develops its products with the American market in mind, on the assumption that all markets speak English. When the need arises to translate the software it often turns out that the software hasn't been designed taking localization into account and problems are created in adapting the product to various languages.
During development has the length of words in German been taken into account? For example, the word "Redo" in English is a 16 letter word in German. Was the software designed to take such long words into consideration? Was sufficient space left for the words to fit onto buttons? This is just one of the many considerations when localizing a product.
An additional example could even be the color of the interface. This issue is critical in some countries where certain colors may symbolize death or loss, for example, and therefore marketing products in these colors is liable to severely compromise the marketing efforts. Was this fact taken into account when the product was designed?
Performing unprofessional localization and failing to exercise stringent quality control will lead to a failure in marketing the software in these countries, and to a loss of investment.
Software localization processes are complex by nature, and require a large number of stages as well as stringent quality controls.
Today, software companies in Israel and around the world understand that in order to perform fast, accurate, and high quality localization into the various languages it is essential to find a reliable localization provider (multi-language vendor) with the experience and successful track record of carrying out similar projects in the past.
Today, most software companies outsource translation and localization. This enables them to perform a general availability release in the target languages as well as in English. The GA will not only be for the software but the documentation, too. Furthermore, a professionally performed localization ensures a level of quality so high that the user won't even notice that the product wasn't originally written in his own language.
Outsourcing the company's localization and translation services enables the software company to focus on his core business
Localization is an area of expertise that is no less complex than any other. In order to implement it fully and accurately, there is a need for highly professional personnel. The manager of a software localization project into just 10 languages will manage dozens of professionals, including translators, proofreaders, QA people, DTP people, i18n people, and software engineers. Companies that attempt to manage localization processes on their own are reinventing the wheel, and often make many mistakes due to their lack of proficiency in this highly specialized area. They may fail to select appropriate translators and usually do not make use of state-of-the-art CAT (Computer Assisted Translation) tools. These tools enable the company to save time and money as well as exercise control of the quality of the translated product. Attempts by software manufacturers to perform localization processes generally culminate in disappointment due to a product of inferior quality, which ultimately has a negative effect on sales in the destination markets.
Some software companies rely on their distributors or representatives in the destination countries for localization and translation. Taken at face value this is an easy and convenient solution, but it has implications that must be taken into account: from the loss of control over the content and message conveyed via the translated materials, to recurring delays in launching the translated products. It is advisable to use the services of distributors or representatives in various countries around the world in order to perform quality control over the localization and translation provider, thereby obtaining perfect control of the entire process, ensuring the quality of the finished product and the timetable.
Best results can be achieved in a company's localization and translation efforts by using an experienced MLV who will deliver a more cost effective translation and localization solution for each individual market. When implemented correctly, a company's efforts will be rewarded by increased sales in the desired target markets.
Net-Translators is Israel’s leading translation and localization company. The Company specializes in software localization and translation into over 60 languages, including online help and technical documentation. Net-Translators works in close cooperation with the software companies from the earliest stages of product planning and development. Net-Translators supports company's efforts to localize into all the relevant languages (i18n), and ensures full adaptation to the culture and needs of each and every target country. The Company makes use of the leading technology in the localization and translation market. This enables it to maintain uniformity in terms of translation style and terminology, helps reduce response times and lowers the translation costs. The Company employs more than 1000 translators around the globe, who reside in the countries where the languages are spoken on a day-to-day basis and who possess a professional background in the field in which they are translating. Net-Translators implements some of the world’s most stringent quality control standards, enabling software manufacturers to release high caliber translations of their software in dozens of languages simultaneously (SimShip).