Localization and market extension
Localization: customizing a product for the target locale
Localization is a process of adapting a product to meet the language and cultural expectations of a specific local market. Unlike simple translation of a product's content, localization is a fundamental procedure, resulting in integrating the whole of the product cohesively into the target group locale. Successful localization refers to customizing a product in such a way that purchasers will perceive a localized product as having been produced and developed in their own country. The localized product must not feel "foreign", like something that has been developed abroad, converted and then imported.
Localization of software products is a new and fast-growing industry. According to IDC, the size of localization, translation and interpretation (LTI) services market and cross-lingual application (CLA) services was $2.981 billion in 2001, predicted to grow to $6 billion by 2006.
Not so many years ago, converting software for the non-English-speaking locale was fairly straightforward and could be done by virtually any translator of moderate ability. Localization projects could be managed by smaller translation companies and individual freelances. The target products, converted in such a way, could rather be called "translated" than properly localized software. The translation consisted primarily of rendering manuals and sets of on-screen instructions from English into the major European languages, was quite incomplete and unprofessional. At that period, it seemed, however, to satisfy the local consumers.
Now software users have become much more sophisticated and immediately reject inferior quality. To sell the localized product, it must be fully-attuned to the expectations of the target market, with particular regard to the language, age range and sub-culture of the consumers group, and to the nature of the product itself. Proper localization requires powerful localization tools (see Software localization tools) and should be undertaken by experienced and reputable specialist companies. The localization team should take into consideration any attributes and linguistic idiosyncrasies of the target culture that are essential for the localization process, such as humor, taboos against sexual references or violence, environmental issues etc. It is also important to understand what is acceptable within the broader target locale in terms of audio-visual representation, for some images, gestures or noises that are wholly innocuous in an Anglo-American context might be offensive, embarrassing or simply meaningless in the target culture. Incorrect dealing with these issues can affect the consumer interest, and eventually threaten the marketing success of the localized project.
The promotion of the localized project in the target market does not stand to simple translating English advertising text as well. It should be done by high-degree specialists qualified in local marketing.
Localization, if properly implemented, allows the manufacturer to increase the distribution of a product, extend its shelf life, and ultimately become less dependent upon the situation in its own market. Though sometimes challenging, it brings the producer considerable revenues, that are equal to or even higher than those achieved in the original market.