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Why Localisation Can Make or Break Your Brand’s Reputation

To understand the difference between localisation and translation, let’s start by defining translation: it is an act through which the content of a text is transferred from the source language into the target language (Foster, 1958).

Let’s add some clarity with an example: if you have a text in English and you want it in Spanish, English would be the source language and Spanish would be the target language. So far, so good.

How Do Localisation and Translation Relate and Differ?

We use translation when the source and target texts need to match exactly and literally. It may be the case of an instruction manual, an e-mail, an informed consent form, etc. Basically, we are speaking of a very literal rendering of the source message into the target language. Have you recently bought a new electronic device? The manual it came with has probably been translated into your language.

Localisation, on the other hand, involves translation but also goes one step further because involves translating the source content in such a way that it takes into account the target culture’s preferences, habits, and characteristics. In other words, the content is adapted for local consumption. The purpose is to make it resonate with the target audience and to endow it with a local feel.

Such adaptation might involve changing colours, jokes, cultural references, names, etc. Therefore, we frequently use localisation for evocative content aimed at eliciting an emotional response in the reader. It is the case of websites, blog posts, hotel descriptions, literature, etc.

Spanish Dialects: A Great Example of Why Localisation Is Necessary

While there are really good examples of impeccable localisation (like the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign we describe in this article), the various regional dialects within the Spanish language (both European and Latin American) highlight how complex it is to make a text sound local to each particular region.

Source: Primary Dialects of Spanish (By Hidra92. Wikipedia)

Here are a few examples of how Spanish differs across the world:

  • 1) In the Caribbean, there’s a tendency to not use subject-verb inversion in questions (“¿qué tú dices?, ¿cómo tú estás?“).
  • 2) In Chile and parts of Argentina, the direct object tends to be duplicated if it’s animate and determined (“la vi a tu hermana“).
  • 3) In Venezuela and Panama, the construction ‘para’+subject+infinitive #verb tends to be used where other regions prefer ‘para’+subordinate clause (“para yo poder venir“).
  • 4) In the #Andes region, the preposition “en” tends to precede #adverbials of place (“en aquí, en su delante“).
  • 5) In the Basque country, the direct object is very often placed before the verb and other complements (“trabajo mucho tiene”, “flores compra para su mamá“).
  • 6) In Paraguay, due to the contact with the guaraní language, the redundant use of the possessive pronoun is very common (“su casa de Juan“).
  • 7) Also in Paraguay, the formula ‘todo’+’ya’ is used to emphasise the fact that something has concluded (“ya trabajé todo ya“).
  • 8) Also in Paraguay, double negation is usual (“nadie no vino”).
  • 9) Also in Paraguay, the subjuctive mood is used for conditional clauses (“si tuviera plata, comprara esa casa“).
  • 10) In several countries of Latin America, as well as in Spain and the Basque country, the opposite of point 9 tends to happen – the conditional is used in place of the subjuctive in conditional clauses (“si tendría plata, compraría esa casa“).
  • 11) In Peru, due to contact with quechua (or so is thought), there’s an extended use of diminutives (“callandito, corriendito, ahisito, acasito, estito, unito“).
  • 12) Also in Peru, the sequence demonstrative+possessive is frequent (“esos mis hijos“).
  • 13) In US Spanish, the ‘n’ in the imperative of the 1st person plural is often expressed in the pronoun after the verb (dénmelo > “démenlo“).
  • 14) In US Spanish, due to contact with English, ‘estar’+the Spanish gerund is used to express an action in the present (“estoy oyendo“).
  • 15) In US Spanish, due to contact with English, the Spanish gerund is frequently used as an adjective (“las compañeras enseñando español“).
  • 16) Also in the USA, the Spanish gerund tends to be nominalised (“lo que hace es comparando precios“).
  • 17) Also in the US, ‘qué’ is usually employed in questions (“¿qué te llamas? ¿qué es tu dirección?“)

Got It. But How Does Localisation Differ from Transcreation?

Localisation adapts content for local consumption to make it resonate with the target audience at an emotional level. The goal of transcreation, on the other hand, is not just tweaking cultural references to give the translated text a local feel but involves creating a new text from scratch that will maintain the original intent, style, and tone of the original. That’s why transcreation is common for marketing collateral such as slogans or ads.

You can read more about the differences between language services here.

Localisation for SaaS Businesses

In the industry of Software as a Service, a successful global marketing strategy relies on effective localisation.

The ability to market to new audiences has brought new opportunities to software brands around the globe, but success goes way beyond just promoting their product internationally. It’s a whole process of planning, developing, adapting, and raising awareness about it, all the while sounding local and acting global. Talk about challenging!

It’s been proven that being able to communicate in our own native language is what drives buying decisions. So much so, that 9 out of 10 people will ignore your product if they don’t perceive as local to their region.

While localising your SaaS or FinTech product into all 7,117 languages of the world is just impossible, 90% of the world’s sales potential can be accessed by localising your content into English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese & Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean (and their local variants).

What Type of Content Should Be Localised?

You need to choose the types of content you will localise based on which of them have the potential to generate the most engagement among your leads. In general most brands choose the below:

Blog Posts

Blog posts are a highly valuable source of insights that help your brand build trust with your customers by providing useful information. They foster brand loyalty and brand awareness; the more posts you make, the more opportunities you have to keep your brand top of mind in your target market. This is true for all markets you are trying to crack, so it only makes sense to have your blog posts localise.

Just as when you commission a copywriter with a blog from scratch and you ask for it to be SEO-friendly, so you should proceed when translating them into other languages. Some articles might be better suited for your foreign audiences than others, and the only way to determine it is by researching what they are searching for and how you can help answer their questions.

Email Marketing

You may have heard that “email marketing is dead.” Hell it is! Consumers prefer emails (most probably because it is permission based) and that’s a fact across the globe. In fact, one study from Marketing Sherpa reports that 72% of consumers prefer to receive promotional messages through email.

Email provides a professional and direct medium that allows businesses to reach out to their leads and customers. As such, localising your email marketing campaigns really is a no-brainer.

Landing Pages

Regardless of the language they are written in, landing pages are an indispensable part of marketing for lead generation. They lead customers to a specific product, service, or offer, and encourage them to take action. This is your opportunity to create conversions and build your customer base… in every market.

Consequently, landing pages will become an increasingly important part of your localisation strategy. Nifty Marketing gathered data from the highest-performing landing pages across five industries and found that 80% of them employ localisation strategies. For example, they are all optimised around one localised keyword (yeap, SEO again), 77% of them contain a local address and phone number, 49% include a local photo, and 21% embed a Google Map to help visitors find a location.

Some examples of landing page localisation include: targeting offers based on a visitor’s location; localising images to represent the target market; providing local business reviews via a 3rd party website; adjusting prices and pricing format based on a visitor’s country; creating offers around local events and holidays; etc.

Mobile App Localisation

If you think that developing an app is hard work, you might be surprised to know that mobile app localisation is probably just as hard. With over 342 thousand apps downloaded from the stores every minute and a user retention rate for mobile apps at 32%, effective localisation has become a must for any developer intending to reach international markets.

However, mobile app localisation does not just involve a simple word-for-word translation of an app’s contents. App developers also need to take user experience, usability, user interface, and other aspects into account.

The Need for Mobile App Localisation

Even though in today’s globalised world most people have acquired at least a basic competence in a second language (especially in English as a lingua franca), it’s been proven that users, even if bilingual, ignore products if they are not available in their language. The reason for this is that emotions are built in our mother tongue. They affect not just the nature of our decisions, but the speed at which we make them. That’s why getting into anyone’s heart and persuading them to spend money on your product or service requires you to communicate in their own language. 

With global unique mobile users projected to grow up to 5.7 billion by the end of 2020 (source: GSMA Intelligence), failing to localise a mobile app correctly (or to localise it altogether) means a missed opportunity for exceptional market growth.

Just to illustrate this point, consider the following: a study by Statista shows that 11.3 billion apps were downloaded in the United States in 2017, while other countries like China reached a jaw-dropping 79.3 billion downloads.

App Localisation vs. Internationalisation

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean exactly the same. Internationalisation happens when the app is first created and relates to preparing the app for future localisation. Internationalisation involves things such as making the app language independent (i.e., supporting non-Latin alphabets or bidirectional text when users need to switch from English to languages such as Japanese or Arabic), storing user-facing content in separate strings to facilitate their translation, etc.

Localisation is about making the app suitable for the target language and culture. It goes beyond translating textual content. Localisation involves setting the default currency, numerical systems, and date format; adapting images that need to resonate locally; finding equivalent symbols for certain meanings; even changing emojis! (Ever wondered if emojis will ever become an independent language? You might want to check out this post).

Top Languages for App Localisation

What’s your app type? What’s your promotion strategy? Depending on your answers to these questions, you might want to localise it into one or more of the below top 10 languages and respective countries for app localisation:

  1. English — USA, UK, Australia, Canada
  2. Japanese — Japan
  3. Simplified Chinese — Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong
  4. Hindi — India
  5. Russian — Russia
  6. Korean — South Korea
  7. German — Germany
  8. Spanish — Mexico, Argentina
  9. Portuguese — Brazil
  10. Indonesian — Indonesia

Types of App Localisation

Minimum Viable Localisation

MVL is when an app is localised with minimal features and content. While still offering a certain level of value to users, MVL requires significantly less time and investment. It’s a good option for brands who want to trial their app in a new market without committing to full localisation (yet).

Deep Localisation

This approach adapts every aspect of an app for a specific market. While heavier on resources, if an app is serious about doing long-term business in a chosen market, it’s definitely the way to go.

What Mobile App Localisation Involves

When dealing with mobile app localisation, there are many factors that come into play. The main goal is making the app look and feel local while enabling a smooth customer experience. Your translator needs to be able to approach the project not only linguistically but in a holistic way, which requires the capacity to appeal to all of the user’s senses. See below some key aspects involved in the localisation of apps.

Checking Information Flow

Not all cultures process information in the same way. As a consequence, the below needs to be considered:

  • Text compression: when it comes to app localisation it’s essential to keep the content concise and to the point, expressing only the main ideas (with an option to read more if necessary). The translation strategy to achieve this comprises either grammatical or lexical ways to shorten the text without destroying its meaning. Text compression gets rid of redundancy in human language to transmit messages quickly. 
  • Sign-up flow: this is one of the most critical aspects of the user experience journey when it comes to apps. According to what’s the purpose, what’s the audience, and what’s the language, the chosen sign-up flow will be different. The key idea is to reduce unnecessary friction and only ask for what each culture considers essential information.
  • Character limitation: as some languages are larger than others, or less concise, there are different character limitations to be followed. Text reduction can be achieved not only by minimising the number of words but also by abbreviating words and using shorter synonyms.
  • Skim-reading-friendly design: we all skim-read. Skim reading means reading rapidly in order to get an overview of the text. With visible headlines and clear buttons, the reader can detect the general idea of a piece of text, and decide whether to keep reading or to avoid that part.

Adapting Visual Information

  • Layout. Did you know, for example, that users in China prefer e-commerce websites and apps cluttered with elements? That’s something that would feel overwhelming for the average western consumer, though. However, appealing to cultural archetypes of this sort in both cases will ensure higher sales, which is why something as simple as rearranging the layout of catalogue articles according to the target culture can make a huge difference. Localising the app layout also refers to things like adding extra space in text boxes or adding additional fields in forms (in Spain, for example, everyone has two surnames, so you need two fields in personal information forms).
  • Emojis, colours, and symbols. Your translator will also need to consider the best localisation strategy for emojis, colours, and symbols. Thumbs-up emojis are offensive in Nigeria. In China, the white colour tends to represent death and mourning (it’s the colour worn for funerals). In Japan, the colour purple represents danger.
  • Identity. Consider this example: if your app will be marketed in Asia, and it includes images of people of western ethnicity, those images or pictures should be changed to people of eastern ethnicity. You want your users to feel represented by your product, which you achieve through appropriate brand messaging.

As a consequence of preferences like the above, a good localiser needs to have outstanding cultural analysis and cognitive research skills to be able to synthesise localised content and visual data in such a way that the user doesn’t feel bored, offended, overwhelmed, underrepresented, or any other negative feeling.

Naturally, front-end developers play an essential role in the localisation of mobile apps, and you need to involve them in the process. They are in charge of implementing the required flexibilisation in the app (which the localiser will have identified).

Researching Local Competitors

Before localising an app, getting to know your local competitors and what they offer will be paramount for you to make your app stand out. You can then establish your prices and create marketing campaigns on a competitive level. In addition, you can highlight your strengths as opposed to your competitors’ weaknesses, which can improve your app’s performance in the local market. Researching local competitor apps is essential for you to find out what the threats in place are, but also the opportunities you may have.

App Testing

As explained by VMO

“Mobile app testing is a form of A/B testing wherein different user segments are presented with different variations of an in-app experience to determine which one induces a desired action from the user or has a positive (or better) impact on app key metrics. By consistently figuring out what works for your mobile app and what doesn’t, you can systematically optimize it for your desired metrics and unlock limitless growth opportunities for your business that were always lurking in plain sight.”

Testing can be either:

  • Functional testing:  it is used to determine whether the app features work the way they were intended to, and ensures that users can perform all necessary actions.
  • Linguistic testing: checks for correct and context-appropriate translations, and usually involves a fluent speaker inspecting your app.

Apple App Store Guidelines for Mobile App Localisation

Apple offers a variety of app localisation guidelines for it’s App Store that can be very useful to know how to set up your app for an international audience. Besides, these guidelines can help you understand what’s necessary to expand into new markets. If you take advantage of the different steps suggested by Apple, you’ll manage to assess the success potential of your app and you’ll be able to make its localised versions a reality.

Android PlayStore Guidelines

Android also offers its own Play Store localisation checklist that will help you with the same purpose. If your app is adapted for Android, then you will definitely benefit from having a look at these guidelines in order to guarantee the success of your app.


Metadata and keyword localisation are crucial. Multiple studies have shown an increase in app downloads following metadata and keyword localisation. However, in order for your app to rank high on search engines, you need more than just translating your keywords into different languages. The right thing to do here is to do some research on what keywords rank top for a certain target locale and then localise your metadata and keywords for such markets. This process is called multilingual keyword research followed by SEO localisation, and only expert marketing translators know how to do it right.

Need a SaaS Localisation Professional?

You’ve come to the right place. Get in touch with us today so we can start crafting the most appropriate and effective localisation campaign for your business.

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