Translation and translation services have been instrumental in driving the e-commerce market on a global level. The success in using translation to bring a product to another market can be seen in the video localization and video translation areas, which clearly show the potential customers these strategies can get. As such, app localization is also quickly becoming a major headache for developers as they try to bring their applications to the global market. It is becoming obvious that the mere translation of the app is not enough to boost revenue.
As you probably know from your own experience, using applications in another country to do something like ordering food or finding recommendations can be difficult. The first hurdle is generally that many local apps are region locked, meaning you will not be able to download them onto your phone in the first place. If you manage to get past this issue, a lack of language options or app translation is the next problem. You can use programs like Google Translate to help, but this is very bothersome and inconvenient. Also, these local apps often do not accept international phone numbers, making them essentially useless to foreigners.
The failure to address these issues can be the downfall of many applications when it comes to the global or other markets such as Ireland. For example, the popular Indian site MakeMyTrip launched more Indian languages in their app to a lot of fanfare. Two years on, and these languages have been discontinued, no intention of bringing them back. Their main failure was that merely just translating the app is not enough to make it useful for the customer. Snapdeal is another example of a failure to address app translation issues, where the app lets you choose your language, but the site does not. There are also other issues when using the search function, as the site is not deep localized, meaning only the UI elements and parts of the description have been translated. This means that it is not localized enough to be practical for customers. This is a good example of what not to do if you want to localize your app and intend to do serious business using a digital platform.
What are some of the biggest mistakes people make that we can see from the above examples and similar cases?
- Most people do not bother with SEO (many people are unaware that the app is available in multiple languages).
- No search support – the customer does not get the proper results when using the search function.
- Descriptions – descriptions in the app store are often in English, and they do not specify supported languages.
- Incomplete localization – Users expect to connect to an existing MT platform and want magic to happen. In most cases, you need someone with expert knowledge to help with localization.
- Lack of deep localization – where only UI and basic elements are translated.
What then are the scenarios where you can expect products to fail or experiences to be different for customers?
Apps are usually designed for the native people of the country. So, what if a traveller comes into the country. If he only speaks Japanese, he will not be able to purchase anything using the local apps. What about then a German traveller accessing a German app in another country. And what about the Japanese man in Italy using a German app?
All these potential scenarios and their consequences need to be carefully considered, keeping the target audience in mind.
It would help if you also considered devices and where you want to make your app available, such as Android, IOS, PC or Mac etc. Also, you must ensure that the titles, reviews and descriptions are properly localized in the App Store. A great example of proper localization is the Airbnb app, which has been localized in over 60 languages. It is not just the translation, however, which makes Airbnb so successful. It is their overall service experience. Once your booking has gone through, they will send you guides in your language, like a local person helping you step by step. In terms of app localization, this is the gold standard.
Now that you understand the importance of localization, what does the whole process look like? The following is a quick guide on the entire process of localization. Although it does not go into any of the intricacies, it represents what the entire process looks like.
Localization (L10N) process
- Analyze – requirements, target audience, different customer scenarios, platforms, devices.
- Internationalize – Issues discussed later.
- Terminology guide.
- Translate – Hire vendor or team for translation, local terminology/sensitivities.
- Continuous L10N updates – the app will be changed, bug fixes, feedback etc.
- User/Beta Testing – user acceptance testing.
- Market release.
In addition to the process outlined above, there are also several good practices you can implement to ensure proper localization of your app:
Use local phrases and expressions – the copy should read as if it was created in the local language (handy for mobile phone in Germany etc.). You should also use a good platform or modern TMS to use AI/MT and other tools to help maintain consistency (deals with many internationalization issues as well).
SEO (on-page and international) – multilingual sitemap, translated meta tags, local search engine indexing, localized URLs etc., are important to increase the number of people your product can reach.
Figure out what currency your product price should be in – local currency or converter? Additionally, suppose your business is based on e-commerce. In that case, Checkout, Tax and Shipping info needs to be compliant with local needs. Payment Methods must be sensitive to particular preferences of the different markets, as some are not available in some places and others are specific to certain countries. It is also important to consider a good cross-border business as a service platform for e-commerce.
Keep in mind cultural sensitivities, as the names of products having a different meaning in another country is a constant source of failure regarding translation. It is also vital to ensure that notifications and confirmations are correctly localized and make customer service available in local languages.
The customer needs to trust in your purchasing and information providing process. Once the trust is lost, the whole process starts unravelling, and the customer likely won’t come back to the app. Trust is very important in e-commerce.
Internationalization is an important step in the localization process. It describes designing a software application so that it can be adapted to various languages and regions without engineering changes. The following are ten essential things for you to consider when internationalizing any mobile app:
- Date/Time formatting.
- Number formatting.
- Mail addresses.
- Sort and search functionality.
- Do not leave content in source code!
- Unicode or Double-byte or Multi-byte character support (languages that write from right to left etc.).
- Bi-Di support for Middle Eastern languages.
- Do not embed text on the image!
- GUI elements – provide extra space to accommodate European languages.
How would you go about starting this localization process then? Our advice would be to not do this on your own; select the right partner. Speak to several localization service providers that have experience in the areas/locales you need. A diligent and suitable partner should provide you with local knowledge of the market, cultural nuances, and native resources. It is essential to ensure that they have the necessary experience and certification to provide you with what you need. They should also have the ability to support you in Beta testing. Your partner must also have the correct technology to support the process mentioned above (this is where platforms can help) and have an overall knowledge of the local buying experience process (from browsing to completing the purchase). It is also important to ensure your partner can support you with internationalization.
When applying this information to the app translation and localisation process, it is easy to see why mere translation is not enough to properly localize an application. There is much more that needs to be done to bring it to the global market.