Winning the Race for Global Customers

welocalize January 10, 2019

What do 4,500 exhibiting companies and 180,000 attendees from 150 countries at CES 2019 have in common? After the snazzy product launches, show floor displays, and slick video demos, every brand wants to win the heart of the consumer. We can’t help but wonder how and if the most innovative products will drive customer engagement with diverse users across international markets. Do these products address the needs and preferences of prospective customers from different socio-cultural and linguistic backgrounds around the world?

What does it mean for a product to be global-ready?

An International Mindset

No one wants to be an afterthought, forgotten, or ignored. International customers want products that are in line with their expectations. Take breakfast. Put it on the table of one of the largest consumer markets in the world. What do you get? A quick lesson in being global-ready. When a multinational food manufacturer in breakfast cereals launched in India, the brand didn’t consider that Indians are not used to cold breakfasts. Local tastes called for hot milk, and consequently, consumers got soggy cereal. After an expensive product launch, the cereal maker had to pull the product from grocery shelves and re-engineer.

How is cereal and food related to CES and technology? At the biggest electronics show where over 700,000 product launches take place, it was a vegan “hamburger” made in a lab that won the highest accolades. According to the popular tech blog Engadget and tech publisher Digital Trends, the Impossible Burger represented the best technology innovation, the “Best of the Best”, of this year’s show.

Whether food engineering or digital devices, product localization is critical for success in international markets. Recognizing that ‘international’ is part of the growth equation allows brands to get ahead and to get it right. Getting a new product ready for global markets is a multi-step process that requires a cross-functional team of experts. These following key steps are critical.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Products today have shorter life cycles due to rapidly changing market demands. Global enterprises are under pressure to keep up with the latest trends and must innovate quickly. While companies like those exhibiting at CES may understand the need for global readiness, companies often fail to recognize that inadequate planning will cause delays, increase costs, and undermine competitive advantage.

Being global-ready means that the end customer across different locales is part of the initial market research and design planning as well as the implementation plan. Savvy product managers know this includes display systems, date-formats, choice of language versions (e.g. which Arabic form for the Middle Eastern market), feature preferences, popular payment systems, and more. Global-ready, however, also includes being operationally ready. These include requirements that are broad and complex, from international patent filing to multilingual SEO for content marketing performance.

Form a Dedicated Team

Forming a dedicated team is the first investment a company must make when embarking on an international product launch, and a comprehensive McKinsey study agrees. As a product may go to many different markets, planning and coordination can quickly spiral out of control. A dedicated team requires management support to allocate cross-functional expert resources to concentrate on the tasks of going global. This team would be in charge of globalizing business processes to support prospects and customers outside of a company’s home market. The team would also document the processes so that the knowledge is retained and shared.

      Market Performance – Launch Capabilities that Correlate with Success:

Source: McKinsey cross-industry launch survey 2015

Prepare for Translation + Localization

Some of the most common fails in international marketing happen because translation and localization were never considered as part of the product’s core features. Within the product, this often results in rushed translations, inadequate linguistic validation, unexpected functional errors, and gaps in usability testing.

The simplest things can cause hiccups. For instance, a layout that worked on the English website may break on the Japanese one. Not foreseeing or providing for font size differences or script orientation also cause such problems. Such a situation can be avoided by planning and providing for agile localization or continuous translation.

Product marketing also suffers when digital campaigns that don’t meet performance metrics and adversely impact customer engagement. Marketing content may require transcreation — a process which adapts content culturally and socially to the target audience. In this process, content is not just translated from one language to another. Transcreation takes a message in one language and refines it for another while preserving the emotion or deeper meaning. In some cases, branded content may even need to be created from scratch in the target language.

Be Agile

In agile localization, the localization process is tightly integrated with product development. Translation is not an add-on but a core component of the production process. Strings (sentence segments) may come up for translation every day and need a fast turnaround. With this approach, multilingual versions of the product are ready to be launched simultaneously with the English one. Agile processes require a team that plans and is in regular communication, from developers and product managers to localization project managers and testing leads.

Partner for Global Scale, Local Expertise

Even Global 2000 companies with dedicated in-house teams focused on globalization find that partnering with experts is necessary for global and local scale. Some of the largest multinational companies, as well as the fastest growing younger brands, have partnered with Welocalize to deliver multilingual solutions to enable their global expansion.

Delivering multilingual content aligned to global business requirements is at the heart of what we do. Across Welocalize’s operating companies, we offer integrated, multilingual solutions at key steps along our clients’ global business journey to transform all content types for local audiences. From GDPR, annual reports, and compliance e-learning training, to on-page multilingual SEO and website translations, Welocalize supports international companies that require business solutions across all key operations, from start to finish.

In going global, companies frequently chart new territories in markets that are very different in terms of demographics, geography, business practices, language, cultural preferences, and more. Companies need to do this now more than ever to tap into new and growing markets, accelerate competitive edge, hedge against slowing domestic markets, and grow brand value.

To learn more about reaching global consumers, connect with Welocalize at