Mastering SaaS Localisation for International Expansion: 8 Tips for the Success of Multilingual SaaS
Here’s a shocking fact: over the next three decades, experts predict that the world’s population will swell by a staggering 2 billion people. As this global community continues to expand, so do the unprecedented opportunities for SaaS businesses. There’s more potential than ever to reach new horizons by turning products into multilingual SaaS solutions that captivate the eye and heart of an ever-diversifying audience.
However, capitalising on this potential demands more than just offering a multilingual interface – it requires a comprehensive approach that includes SaaS localisation.
This article serves as your guide, offering 8 invaluable tips to not only prepare your SaaS product for a multilingual journey but also to navigate the intricacies of SaaS localisation, ensuring a seamless and culturally attuned experience for users around the globe.
In this post:
What is SaaS localisation?
SaaS localisation is the intricate process of adapting a software product, particularly a SaaS application, to cater to the linguistic, cultural, and regional preferences of diverse target markets.
While the concept of localisation has been around for a while, its significance has grown exponentially in the digital age, where global accessibility is a driving force behind success.
Proper SaaS localisation requires a growth mindset, careful preparation, and trial-and-error testing. You’ll need an excellent grasp of your audience through segmentation research, a solid solution that can be easily adapted to new local markets, and the ability to reach out in the right places and with the correct messaging for each market.
Are SaaS localisation and software localisation the same thing?
While the terms “SaaS localisation” and “software localisation” might seem interchangeable at first glance, they encompass slightly different scopes and considerations. Both involve adapting software for different markets, but the nuances lie in the context and delivery of the products.
- Software localisation, often referred to simply as “localisation,” is a broader concept that encompasses the adaptation of any software product for different locales, encompassing both traditional software applications and SaaS solutions. It involves a myriad of linguistic and cultural adaptations, from user-facing text and functionality to visuals and character encoding.
- SaaS localisation, on the other hand, specifically focuses on localising Software-as-a-Service applications. These are web-based applications that users access via the internet, and they often come with the advantage of continuous updates and accessibility from any device. SaaS localisation entails not only linguistic and cultural adaptations but also considerations for the cloud-based nature of SaaS products.
In a nutshell, software localisation encompasses various software types and also includes mobile app localisation, making it a broader term that SaaS localisation falls under.
The benefits of SaaS localisation
Expanding your SaaS product’s reach through localisation isn’t just about accommodating different languages—it’s a strategic move that can yield substantial benefits for your business.
As markets become increasingly diverse and interconnected, tapping into the power of SaaS localisation offers advantages that can elevate your brand to new heights. Here are some compelling reasons why SaaS localisation should be a cornerstone of your international expansion strategy:
Enhanced user engagement
When your software speaks the language of your customers and resonates with their cultural context, users are more likely to interact with it, explore its features, and remain engaged over the long term.
Improved customer satisfaction
A localised SaaS solution demonstrates a commitment to providing an excellent user experience. When users encounter content that aligns with their preferences and expectations, they are more likely to feel valued, understood, and satisfied with their interactions.
Strengthened global brand presence
A successful localisation strategy positions your brand as one that values diversity and understands the nuances of various markets. This leads to a stronger global brand presence and can differentiate your SaaS offering from competitors who might not invest in similar localisation efforts.
Increased conversion rates
Statistics speak volumes when it comes to conversion rates and SaaS localisation. A survey by CSA Research showed that:
- 72.4% of global consumers prefer to buy products in their native language.
- 55% of global consumers only buy products from websites that provide information in their own language.
- 56.2% of global consumers regard the ability to obtain information in their own language as even more important than price.
These figures underscore the direct correlation between localisation and higher conversion rates. But there’s more: SaaS localisation goes beyond words—it embraces cultural elements that resonate with users. When you adapt your software to cater to cultural norms, symbols, and preferences, your marketing and sales collateral becomes more effective.
For example, high-context cultures like Spain, Italy, Turkey, Japan, China, Korea, India, and many Middle Eastern and Latin American nations are used to and respond best to nuanced and implicit communication. Conversely, in low-context cultures like North America, the UK, Germany, Northern Europe, Scandinavia, New Zealand, and Australia, a direct, explicit, straightforward, and transparent communication approach works best. Here’s an article you might enjoy about high-context and low-context cultures.
Key components of SaaS localisation
SaaS localisation is a multifaceted endeavour that involves several critical components to ensure a seamless and culturally attuned user experience across diverse markets. As you embark on the journey of localising your SaaS product, here are the key components to consider:
- Content localisation: At the core of SaaS localisation lies linguistic adaptation. This involves translating user interfaces, menus, buttons, labels, and content into the languages of your target markets. Extend localisation beyond the UI to encompass content such as user guides, documentation, marketing materials, and customer support resources. Providing content in local languages ensures a consistent experience throughout the user journey.
- Cultural customisation: Beyond language, cultural nuances play a pivotal role in SaaS localisation. This component involves tailoring your software to align with the cultural norms, traditions, and sensitivities of different regions. E.g., Italians won’t respond well to an error message like “Oops, it seems that something went wrong” – you’d be better off with a matter-of-fact statement like “That didn’t work, try again.”
- Regional regulations and compliance: Adhering to local regulations is paramount in SaaS localisation. Ensure that your software meets legal requirements, data privacy regulations, and industry standards specific to each region, such as compliance with GDPR in Europe.
- Date and time formats: Even seemingly minor details like date and time formats can impact user experience. Accommodate different date formats (e.g., MM/DD/YYYY vs. DD/MM/YYYY) and time zones to make sure your SaaS solution is user-friendly and practical.
- Currency and payment integration: If your SaaS product involves financial transactions, currency conversion and payment integrations become crucial. Localise pricing to reflect the currencies of target markets and integrate payment gateways that cater to regional preferences.
- User interface (UI) design: Adapt the user interface design to resonate with local aesthetics. This involves not only translating text but also considering layout adjustments, iconography, colour choices, imagery, and other design elements that feel native to the audience.
- Accessibility and performance optimisation: Ensure that your SaaS product performs optimally in various regions. This can involve utilizing content delivery networks (CDNs) to reduce latency, optimizing loading times, and considering accessibility features for users with disabilities.
- User experience (UX) localisation and testing: Rigorous testing across different locales is essential. Conduct user experience testing with representatives from target markets to identify any usability issues, linguistic discrepancies, or cultural misalignments that might have been missed during development.
Considerations before launching a multilingual SaaS product
Launching a multilingual SaaS product is an exciting endeavour that opens the doors to global expansion and unprecedented growth opportunities. However, to ensure a smooth and successful rollout, careful consideration of several factors is crucial. Here are the 8 key considerations you should address before taking your multilingual SaaS product to the global stage:
1) Define your vision
Before you decide to go global, think about why you want to do so and how it can benefit your company. A clearly articulated vision can make a huge difference!
If you’re thinking of expanding internationally, what is the underlying goal? Are you trying to achieve a new level of growth through new global customers? Is there an untapped market that would benefit from your product or service? Or is serving customers who are overseas part of your revenue churn reduction strategy?
The purpose of your expansion will determine where, when, and how you target these markets. For example, if your vision is to reach a global audience of active online users, you’ll want to focus on the larger markets where most people are online: North America and Western Europe.
2) Assess your global readiness
Before you start exporting your solution abroad, think about how global-ready your company really is. Not all SaaS companies are built the same. Some have products that can easily be applied globally; others are custom-built for a single market or region. To figure out what you do, you’ll want to do some homework. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
What kind of solution do you provide? Is it a product that can be sold or used globally to solve a single problem, or is it a custom-built tool designed for a specific region? Is it fit for becoming a multilingual SaaS solution? Does your service require professional installation, customer support, training, maintenance contracts, or something else entirely that may make it difficult to deliver in a different market?
Does your solution have other strategic implications for the customer? For example, suppose you are selling a customer relationship management (CRM) system for customers in the healthcare industry. In that case, you might consider adding features such as drug interaction checks and reminding doctors about prescription refill dates using local pharmacy databases for each country you’re targeting.
3) Devise a strategy
All too often, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of going global without fully understanding why you’re doing so, and how you plan to do it.
Once you’re certain that your product is fit to be launched globally, it’s time to ask yourself if it will be more effective to roll out in-region first or go global from the start (also known as “going wide” or “going deep”).
- In-region-first expansion is the traditional way. It’s how you get your product off the ground in one country, learn to adapt it using local data and market intelligence, and bring it to neighbouring countries. Before migrating elsewhere, you’ll have a much stronger foundation for success—and better odds of avoiding costly mistakes.
- Going wide, on the other hand, requires a more robust, scalable solution that can easily be applied to multiple countries internationally. This approach is much riskier financially and in terms of time and resources invested in the product. But it allows your company to enter the market with a strong foundation in each new country, which can translate into long-term benefits for the multilingual SaaS product and the company.
4) Assess regional, cultural, and language differences
Although we can all enjoy a good laugh at our little regional differences, they do matter when it comes to global expansion. You will have to consider cultural factors such as language, religion, values, ethics codes, humour—even the way information is displayed—to cater to the needs of your new customers.
If you’re expanding into English-speaking countries, this isn’t a major concern; however, if you plan to target multiple languages or countries that don’t share the same language, you’ll need to invest in localisation and translation services.
These include SEO translation—users don’t search the same way around the world. What they search for in one country is often very different from what they search for in another. For example, a customer living in Spain looking to purchase a computer will enter “ordenador” in the Google query, but someone in Argentina, despite speaking Spanish too, will search for “computadora”.
5) Ensure the internationalisation of your multilingual SaaS product
Internationalisation is the step previous to SaaS localisation, and both are necessary to achieve successful globalisation. Internationalisation is about making your SaaS application available for different languages, currencies, date and time formats, and so on.
For example, before you begin localising your SaaS product, make sure to perform an internationalisation review of your product’s source code to identify and address any issues that might cause problems when translated into new languages. For example, improper use of Unicode characters or fonts can render text unreadable or unusable in certain regions.
6) Set up a global operations team for your multilingual SaaS
Launching in foreign markets doesn’t just mean translating or localising content—it involves adapting products to different cultures and regulatory environments.
At the very least, it’s important to have a legal and compliance team that’ll help you adapt your business model to each region. For example, when setting prices, make sure you’re doing so in a way that is compliant with local taxation laws. If you want customers to pay by credit card in some regions but not in others, you’ll need to set up local payment gateways.
A global operations team will oversee your expansion process and onboarding new teams, partners, and service providers for each country you enter. They will work hand in hand with your marketing team to devise a global marketing strategy that incorporates both on- and off-platform tactics including paid ads, SEO, content marketing, and social.
7) Set up a scalable localisation process
Once you decide to go global, the next step is to onboard a localisation specialist who can help you create a scalable, repeatable strategy for your business.
A good localisation strategy will include up-front analysis of the market and customer requirements; product testing and feature prioritisation based on regional needs; language-specific UI text, marketing materials, and support documents; and embedded language support in the product.
It’s a good idea to hire a localisation manager who will be responsible for the overall management of your company’s localisation workflow. A localisation manager will be able to set up a process that will guide your Marketing and Product teams on how to localise your content, create a global product roadmap, and come up with other processes and policies that will help you launch in multiple markets.
8) Recruit and retain localisation experts and local talent
A global business will need a lot of local talent to make it work as smoothly as possible. They’ll need writers who can create compelling and engaging content in their target language. They may even need a team to help manage social media accounts or handle customer service inquiries from international markets.
The challenge with most global SaaS companies is finding the right talent locally, which may require you to onboard local recruiters to find candidates for your open roles.
When it comes to your product, you’ll want a SaaS translation expert who deeply understands the market and your industry to turn your existing product into a multilingual SaaS solution. As with global marketing teams, early-stage SaaS companies will need to carefully vet and recruit candidates before taking them on board in new markets. Get in touch with us if you need a hand to create a plan that works for your business.
Embrace the global stage: The Power of SaaS Localisation for Multilingual SaaS
In the realm of global expansion, SaaS localisation emerges as the driving force behind successful multilingual SaaS products. It’s not a mere step; it’s the very essence of crafting experiences that resonate with diverse audiences.
The key lies in understanding that SaaS localisation is the bridge to achieving seamless and impactful multilingual offerings. With consumer preferences underscoring the importance of native-language engagement, embracing SaaS localisation isn’t just an option – it’s the strategy that propels your SaaS product to global prominence.
As you prepare to launch your multilingual SaaS solution, remember that SaaS localisation is the compass guiding you toward international triumph, ensuring that your product resonates across linguistic boundaries and cultural landscapes.
Author: Maria Scheibengraf
Maria Scheibengraf is an English-to-Spanish marketing and SEO translator specialised in software (SaaS, martech, fintech), and Operations Manager at Crisol Translation Services, which she co-founded in 2016. With a solid background in programming and marketing, Maria has an in-depth understanding of the technical intricacies involved in software programs, websites, and digital platforms. Maria is also the author of The SEO Translation Bible.