Guest post by: Don DePalma, Chief Strategist and Founder, CSA Research

International markets represent major revenue opportunities around the world, but most companies support just a fraction of the languages they need to reach prospective customers. CSA Research’s data shows that global marketers need 14 specific languages to reach 90% of the world’s online opportunity. Those languages include English, the major European tongues, Chinese, and Arabic. That list represents a sizable investment in translation and localization for companies that have, on average, localized their websites into just six languages. Many businesses struggle to manage even that, thus stunting their growth potential.

Look beyond that list and instead at emerging markets like Indonesia and Vietnam. Because most companies take a short-term view of the opportunity, their support for languages in emerging markets is sparse. Most ignore countries like Indonesia and its online population of 57 million. Few companies support Hindi, a language used by 70 million people online and more than 40% of India’s population in everyday life. Because many countries are joining the digital world on their phones, anyone wanting to reach them must add mobile delivery to their repertoire. Translating their websites into and creating mobile apps for these languages will give companies access to growing middle-class consumer populations around the world.

So why don’t companies simply localize their product information, packaging, owner’s manuals, websites, and mobile apps into all the languages they need to address the developed and developing world? Money, resources, and a sound business case conspire to limit the number of countries and languages that companies support. At the same time, volumes keep growing, thus requiring more content and code to be localized into more languages at much faster rates than in the past. These factors lead localization managers to ask CSA Research’s analysts the following question ever more frequently: “How do we make the decision on which markets to target, which pieces of content to translate, and how deep into a website or product information should we go?”

At CSA Research’s upcoming buy-side Colloquium at LocWorld Santa Clara, we will address the issues that buyers of language services face as they struggle to deal with the volumes, content and code diversity, and new platforms required for both developed and emerging markets.

Our research has demonstrated that many companies waste a lot of time searching for a magic wand to deal with these issues. Unfortunately, there is no “right” or “one- size-fits-all” response to the questions of which and how much content to translate or create for a given market. That’s because organizations creating the business case and dedicating resources to those markets means major discovery and planning. They must identify, categorize, balance, and prioritize their stakeholder expectations when they respond to requests for entering new markets or investing more in existing ones. How can you make the best decisions on where to spend your budget? Here are a few of the recommendations from our research that we will share with Colloquium attendees:

  • Focus on the international opportunities that align with corporate goals. Identify the countries that account for most of your revenue today. Looking out one, two, or even five years, how will that change? Do different products have more or less success in different markets? How well do people in these countries tolerate foreign-language content, if at all? Actual business data will help you apply your limited budget to the markets that matter the most today – and will guide you in future international investment.
  • Build customer profiles to decide on content by market. Once you’ve narrowed the list of the world’s nearly 200 countries and thousands of languages down to what your budget can support, identify your target customer. Ask your company’s marketers and sales executives to describe their ideal customer persona. Work with content designers and creators to match these profiles with the content they will consume in interacting with your company.
  • Connect business goals with prospect and customer expectations. You will be tempted and pressured by language service providers (LSP), marketing agencies, or in-country staff or partners to localize everything. Listen to what they have to say, but base your decisions on hard data from web analytics and unfiltered feedback from prospects and customers. This information will keep you focused on objective business growth, ROI, and strategic goals.
  • Analyze content to create a tiered market model. Take a closer look at the information types these customer profiles and customer expectations require. Use that information to determine which content you offer and how you localize it. Factor in variables such as how ready the content is for translation, how well it supports corporate programs, and how it supports the level of the customer experience that you plan to offer in each market.

The bottom line is that expanding support for current markets or entering new ones involves tough decisions. The starting point is making the business case for each language or country–and then determining the best way to meet the content expectations that both your prospective customers and your company have for that market.

Buyers of language services can reserve a spot at the session on the first day of LocWorld by clicking here.