Increasing inflation and staffing issues. Lower consumer spending and supply chain interruptions. Businesses continue to navigate a challenging economic landscape. For savvy companies, localization is a great strategy for weathering uncertainty during an economic downturn.
While recession hasn’t yet become a reality in the US, the threat is real. And growth has slowed considerably while many of our neighbors and allies abroad suffer a worse outlook. Times are tough. And they’re about to get tougher. The International Monetary Fund calls the global economic outlook “gloomy and uncertain” amid continuing impacts spurred by the pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and OPEC cutbacks increasing the cost of oil.
With increasing inflation and global consumers making hard decisions about where they spend their money, companies are feeling the squeeze. Many are trying to find ways to do more with less without sacrificing growth.
The key to stability and growth? International customers and marketing localization.
Here’s how strategic localization investment can help you sustain growth, even during an economic downturn.
OPERATIONAL & BUSINESS CHALLENGES
Whether or not bottom lines are being directly impacted as a result of economic pressures, organizations at home and abroad are shifting and adapting to ensure stability and growth in the face of a global economic downturn.
Companies facing more aggressive challenges are operating with budget cuts, staffing shortages, hiring freezes, and even layoffs. With less budget to work with – and fewer resources to do the work – marketers have to find new and creative ways to get things done. And many are turning to agency partners to fill resourcing gaps and drive new initiatives when they used to be able to invest internally for those needs.
Even companies that are doing well and growing in today’s economy are strategizing to reduce administrative overhead and optimize their business operations. They’re looking for new ways to be more efficient with global content and delivery models. To achieve business goals in a repeatable, scalable way.
Whether they’re struggling or thriving, for most companies, “business as usual” continues to be an evolving situation as pre-COVID normality continues to elude us all.
WHY LOCALIZATION THRIVES DURING ECONOMIC DOWNTURN
In times of economic downturn, the localization industry is one of the few to experience increased demand. When domestic economic conditions sour, localization enables businesses to mitigate that impact by diversifying risks across multiple international markets. Truly effective localization also offers businesses the flexibility to scale up or scale back depending on international opportunity, nimbly responding to market conditions.
According to the Common Sense Advisory, localization is so vital for a business’s global prospects that cutting localization in a downturn results in significant revenue loss. Many companies that cut localization budget and dropped in-language content altogether during COVID are still bearing the brunt of that decision: Staying connected with international consumers via relevant and engaging content is critical to international growth, especially in more established target markets with more sophisticated competitive landscapes. Cutting translation and localization budgets and slowing international content creation may be a good short-term cost-saving measure. But it’s a false economy. As international customers abandon your brand for better-localized (or just local) competitors, you will struggle to regain ground in the market, impacting your future global positioning and growth.
But while marketing localization is crucial for long-term international success, companies still have to face the reality of their current situation and achieve more with less. It’s important not to fall for the localization industry’s biggest myth: that marketing localization ROI is achieved by translating as much content as possible, as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Machine and AI-driven translation are often touted as a silver bullet for international growth at low cost. But especially during economic downturns – when competition for consumer dollars is at its highest – reaching and engaging with international consumers in a relevant and authentic way is far more important. It’s content quality, not quantity, that counts. And for marketing and creative content, “quality” is about so much more than language accuracy and efficiency. Successful marketing localization comes down to understanding your international audiences. And how to reach and convert them into repeat customers and brand advocates. And that means thinking beyond translation and thinking carefully about where you spend your precious budget.
QUICK WINS, LONG-TERM SUCCESS
Facing more uncertainty in the future and contending with budget and staffing challenges now, what can you do to deliver on business results without adding significant overhead? These four areas will help you deliver some immediate wins while setting you up for international success in the long run.
Your website is the hub of your digital activities. With budgets tightening – for you and your audience – providing a locally relevant user experience is crucial. Make the most of your budget by localizing only what matters most to your international target audiences. Market relevance is key, so focus on content quality and optimization, not quantity.
Build trust with your international audience by showing them that you’re serious about connection and engagement. Translate and optimize content that matters to them, while driving conversions and sales of products and services you want to grow in-market. Feature in-language reviews, and showcase customers, influencers, and affiliations with brands that are well known and valued in that market.
Look for gaps in your existing localized content that could be quick wins. Especially when it comes to user experience and the customer journey. For example, one of our hospitality industry clients was investing in localized campaigns and landing pages for Spanish-speakers in the US. But a key conversion point – their checkout engine – was still in English. After they localized their checkout engine into US Spanish, their conversion rate increased 411%.
From a purely linguistic perspective, this wasn’t a significant priority. But by considering localization ROI in the context of conversion rates and user experience, it had an immediate, positive revenue impact.
Translation is a tactic, not the goal. Before investing any budget or time in broadscale translation, consider your international customer journey and user experience they expect, from awareness to advocacy. Then distill those insights into their simplest components, and localize to offer your customers a full, culturally relevant experience. You’ll get better results and a quicker return on your localization budget.
As with domestic consumers, search is the top way global consumers discover new brands. And we’re seeing more clients invest in international search engine optimization (SEO) as a foundational element for their long-term global success.
If your international users can’t find you, they can’t buy from you – no matter how great your website is. From translation plugins and site speed issues to technical misconfigurations, there’s a lot that can prevent your localized website from showing up on your local customer’s search results page. A technical SEO audit can help you ensure your language tags, site speed, and UX are up to snuff.
On-page SEO will help you rank for words that matter most to your international audiences. In-market, in-language keyword research – performed by local SEO experts – is crucial. And ideally, keyword integration would be done at the same time as website translation and localization to ensure keywords are incorporated naturally from day one.
Again, it’s international content quality – not content quantity – that counts.
If you’re ready to take your international SEO strategy to the next level, topic clusters are a great next step. A strong topic cluster strategy will help you build your authority with international search engines. All while delivering market-relevant content and boosting brand awareness/sentiment.
One of our clients, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company, has seen a 112% year-over-year growth in organic search traffic since implementing a topic cluster content strategy for their target market.
(Check out this post on building an international topic cluster strategy to find out more.)
Relieving business pressures through localization
Finding the right marketing localization partner isn’t just about meeting the needs of your customers. It can also help you streamline processes that are taking up too much internal overhead when resources and time are already over-stretched.
Consider inefficiencies and bottlenecks in your customer journey. For example, your customer support team might be spending too much of their time answering the same question for different customers in a market. You could translate your FAQs or copywrite market-specific post-sales content. Localized FAQs, post-sales customer support, chat bots, and landing pages can free up people power to focus on efforts that will really move the needle on business objectives. And you may even uncover new ways to drive revenue with minimal effort.
Plan for a hybrid future
If international is a long-term priority, you’ll want to start thinking about how to implement a hybrid go-to-market model for your marketing and creative content.
A hybrid model for localization balances the benefits of centralization with those of decentralization. Hybrid marketing localization models offer both efficiency (budget, accuracy, time-to-market) and effectiveness (experience, connection, engagement, ROI). So companies can centralize localization operations and management without sacrificing local market authenticity that’s crucial to their success.
One of the biggest benefits of a hybrid marketing localization model is scale. It’s about finding more productive ways to produce effective outcomes. A hybrid model is critical to managing aggressive international growth. And for keeping unnecessary overhead to a minimum by scaling up and down with business needs.
Implementing a hybrid model may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. The right partner will help you map out your path to hybrid. They’ll also take into account your current reality and help you chart a path to where you want to go.
During an economic downturn, marketing localization is one of the most effective strategies you have to reduce risk and continue growth. Pulling back for short-term savings is a false economy. Successful global brands double down on marketing and creative localization efforts in tough times, and it’s critical to be intentional. Balance what you need to drive revenue now while setting yourself up for longer term, sustainable success.
If your budget is tight, be selective about what you localize. Be wary of language service providers encouraging you to translate everything and subscribe to software – this likely isn’t a good use of your limited resources. And it could limit your chances of optimizing your international content and boosting engagement.
When going international with your marketing content, consider who you’re trying to reach, why they’re a good investment, how you’ll reach and truly engage with them. You’ll also need to identify what in-market success looks like for your company and how exactly you’ll measure marketing localization ROI.