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Localisation is key to enter new markets

Any organisation that wants to make a mark in a new region needs to have a holistic approach, writes ANDREW BOURNE, Zoho regional manager for Africa

Any organisation that aspires to make its mark in a new region, needs to have a strong localisation strategy that will help them ingratiate themselves with the locals, earn their trust, and eventually build brand loyalty. 

It is equally critical, however, for these organisations to understand that localisation entails more than just providing pricing in local currencies. Instead, it has to be a holistic approach that involves customers, employees, and other relevant stakeholders. 

Understanding localisation

Before digging into why localisation is so important and how to undertake it successfully, let’s discuss what it actually means. Localisation refers to the adaptation of a product or a marketing strategy to meet the needs of a specific locale through language, culture, or other relevant factors. 

Localisation can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, a product company can offer a local language UX and provide vernacular customer support. However, if a company simply uses a translation tool that doesn’t take into account local nuances, such a localisation attempt will create a negative brand perception.  

On the other hand, a holistic approach can have major benefits for an organisation, including easier entry into new markets, increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, and ultimately improved revenue.

Beyond translation

Making your product or service available in the local language and providing support are the first few steps towards localisation. There are other considerations you should make too.    

For example, if you have an online offering, when you localise it to right-to-left (RTL) for languages such as Hebrew, Persian, and Arabic, you should also enable a right-to-left oriented UX layout for better user experience. 

Even something as simple as automatically detecting which date format to use in a specific territory (dd/mm/yyyy vs mm/dd/yyyy, for example), or using comma or dot when writing a large number, can go a long way in building brand affinity.

Local pricing is also important as it allows customers to avoid currency fluctuations. Furthermore, you can integrate your product with local payment gateways and other locally-popular third-party apps in order to increase adoption.  

A culture of localisation

Real localisation, however, goes beyond localised offerings. It should be inculcated into your organisation’s culture. That means taking local cultures and ways of working into consideration when you enter new territories. 

At Zoho, we have adopted an approach called “transnational localism”. It brings together the best features of global connectivity with local knowledge and insights. We hire locally in the new territories and train the new employees so that they intimately understand our various offerings and brand values. They, in turn, bring with them a deep understanding of the local markets, and help adapt the offerings.  

Ultimately, if your employees buy into this attitude, they’re also more likely to feel empowered to cater to the needs of local customers. This will enable smoother entry into new markets. 

Taking advantage of the moment

It’s also worth pointing out that there’s never been a better time to take this kind of holistic approach to localisation. The past two years have accelerated digital transformation, and customers are more willing to adopt new products and offerings. Thanks to the rise of remote work, meanwhile, there are a whole host of workers who are ideally suited to working for global organisations and who can offer their expertise when it comes to localisation. 

The organisations that take advantage of this unique set of circumstances to build fully localised offerings and an open culture of localisation will put themselves in the best possible position to succeed in their expansion plans.

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