Bridging the gap: Bringing regional services to the global market
What is a localization marketing strategy, and why does it mean more than translating your website and product interface to achieve international business success?

by the Shiba500 Team

What is localization marketing?

At its core, localization marketing is about making the buying experience easier for the customer, no matter where they are based. It's about making them feel familiar and also secure in their buying decision, even when the said company doesn't come from or isn't physically based in their local or buying region.

Businesses gain respect, build trust, and increase opportunities in new geographies by first taking the time to understand and learning to speak to the customer in their local verbal and (and, crucially , non-verbal) vernacular.

Why is a localization strategy so important?

"56.2% of consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price." - Common Sense Advisory

Imagine a Spanish company - startup or scale-up - researching their product and how that product will be received by local customers in neighboring countries. The point at which to start is not where the company is, but where the audience is at.

When expanding in bordering countries, from Denmark to Norway for example - there may be several differences (including language) - but at the same time, there is a certain overlap because, by geography, the cultures are that bit similar.

Consider then, when that same Russian or European startup decides to make the move into the US market (all 50 states of it). It's not just about translating the website or spelling localization with a "z" instead of an "s" now. There are cultural differences beyond colloquialisms to consider, and also differences per state, as well as major variations in the buyer journey.

Again… why can't I just translate the website and be done with it? Because, in 2020, in the US particularly, localized marketing is not only preferred, it's expected.

"72% of computer or tablet users and 67% of smartphone users want ads that are customized to their city or zip code." - Think With Google

New challenges when adapting to new markets

It's not just about the customer, there is also a vast difference in the way that US enterprises advertise and spend, in comparison to Russian or European enterprises, and what they invest in marketing.

Incoming startups need to be able to compete not only with local companies but with their advertising budgets. They need to be able to put their money where their mouth is. Which is why investment plays such an important role in the US, more than in Europe or Russia perhaps, at least in the initial stages of setting up.

"Companies in the US spend an aggregate $190 billion a year in advertising, representing 32% of global spend" - FireMatter

Investment structures themselves differ greatly between the US, and Russia and Europe, as well as the way sales collateral eg. pitch decks and press releases are formatted. A company translating itself to the US needs to think about more than just the audience they are trying to reach, they need to see the whole picture.

Russian and European startups in the Americas

Founded in 2011 in Russia by Andrey Khusid, Miro (originally known as RealtimeBoard) made the decision back in 2019 to rename, rebrand, and branch out their product - a collaborative digital whiteboard - internationally.

As of Spring 2020, Miro has headquarters in Russia, Europe, and the US and it has just received a considerable amount of European and US investment, counting companies like Netflix and Spotify as some of their clients.

How did they achieve this? By giving their brand identity an internationalized revamp and by utilizing an effective integrated strategy across a distributed team.

Some other companies worth reading about that have successfully crossed the pond from Russia to the US and are making a name for themselves are Getintent, CINEMOOD, and inDriver.

From Europe, some startups to research for their efforts to localize effectively in new geographies are Spanish companies Glovo and Typeform, and German company Holobuilder.

One of the key steps to making localization happen successfully is knowing what actions to focus on and at which point in your strategic roadmap to do it. But how do you figure out what is more important and what is less important to focus on?

The most important localization steps to consider
Here's where you start (but certainly not where you finish):

1. Research. Do your homework

Understand the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the world you plan to set up shop in by digging into research. Get to know your new locale, your customers, the landscape, and your local competitors. What are the buying and selling habits? Pay attention to what they do well and what seems particularly regional.

Also, pay attention to what they might be missing from their strategy.

2. Reconsider your concepts and ideas

Consider the local customer and really think about who that person is. What are they interested in? Your theories and opinions are all fine and good, but your marketing ideas should respect and reflect the differences you meet in the regions you are moving to e.g. the importance of local image sourcing.

Listen to the customer and understand their point of view - not the other way around. e.g. conducting interviews and surveys with a real life audience.

3. Adapt your content to the geography

Trends change fast, especially if it's been a minute since you created your current brand identity. Some markets, like the US, and parts of Northern Europe are generally ahead of others in terms of content trends, fonts, visuals, design, UX, social channels, offline marketing, etc. and then the other regions tend to follow suit.

Your brand image and your colloquialisms need to come under the microscope.

Social media: What social media channels and apps are your local audience using? Whether it be WeChat in China or VKontakte in Russia, KakaoTalk in Korea, or Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram in the US and Europe - if you are not talking to your local audience in their digital homes, you're not talking to them at all.

How to measure localized marketing success

The most important thing in any strategy is knowing your short and long-term goals and setting your KPIs accordingly. The same applies to localization. What metrics do you usually use, and what are you measuring yourself against in your new geography? You'll find some trends might not be the same as those in your locale.

How to tangibly measure your success in a new market comes down to what it always has in your own market - things like customer satisfaction and retention scores - but due to language and cultural barriers, it may take that much more effort and even someone local with experience on the ground to help you figure it all out.

With that in mind, if entering a new geography is a whole new world for you and your company, it might be worth considering assistance from those with some know-how who can guide you on your way. It won't be easy, but it'll take a load off!

How can Shiba500 help you with localization marketing?

Shiba500 is a strategic marketing agency that acts as a "bridge" between growing companies and new opportunities, specifically:

  • Entering a new geography
  • Launching a new product/service
  • "Reviving" or pivoting an existing product/ service/ brand
As a boutique agency, we are also in a position to offer custom scopes of work for projects that are unlike any others.

We work with startups and scaleups that have made some traction in their respective regions and are now looking to move into either the European or US market. As globally-oriented companies, they know that their product or service works, but they don't know enough about their target market in the EU or the US.

We work with companies in:

  • Research & Discovery: We focus on specific categories and customer profile discoveries and/ or target geographies in the US. We explore the competitor landscape and how and where those companies communicate with their target audience.
  • Positioning & Messaging: Since market dynamics are different in the US, compared to Russia or Europe, we help talk about the product in a new way.
  • Customer Development: We assist with proving concepts on live audiences in the US - via landing page testing and in-depth interviews with vetted respondents.
  • Go-To-Market Strategy: We create a playbook to launch the company and its product effectively on the US market.
  • Vetted Partnership Networking: We define design, production, PR, and influencer marketing workflows.
Your ultimate goal with your localization strategy is to humanize your brand and make it regionally accessible for that local market.

Rather than trying to make the customer understand your language, it's about making efforts to ensure you understand them on their turf.

After all, the customer is always right.
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