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What Is Localization: Definition and Clear-Cut Examples

What is localization

Picture this: You have to travel to a totally different country. The first thing you’ll do is inquire about the language the locals speak. But immediately after, some more questions will come to your mind: What time zone is it? What kind of outfits are acceptable to wear? When do people take their meals? Are credit cards widely accepted there?

The exact same goes for companies willing to take on new adventures into foreign lands. In order to export and conquer foreign markets, knowing the language is just not enough. This is where localization comes into place.

Definition of localization

Localization is the process of adapting a product, service, advertising or any other content to a specific market. It is often confused with translation, but it actually goes way beyond. Localization requires you to convert text from one language to another, but also to adapt to all the different factors that define a certain group of people: time zones, national holidays, gender roles, product beliefs and cultural references. The end goal? To give your content the look and feel of having been created specifically for each target market you’re aiming at.

By the way, around the web you might also find the abbreviation 'L10n' for localization, in which '10' represents the number of letters between the first 'L' and the last 'n' of the word.

Successful localization examples

Chances are you already met many good cases of localization, but didn’t even pay attention. This is exactly how localization should feel: Invisible, so that the local customers don’t know the content was originally produced for another market. Let’s have a closer look at some successful localization examples:

  • In India, McDonald’s doesn’t serve beef or pork on its meals, and instead offers chicken, fish or vegetarian options.

  • Hyundai in Portugal had to change the name of its Kona car, because it sounded very similar to the Portuguese “cona” - a very vulgar expression for the female genitals.

  • With customers in more than 170 countries, Wix offers website templates for businesses that exist only in specific locations, such as brigadeiro (popular traditional dessert) shops in Brazil or kimonos stores in Japan.

  • Movie names also need to adapt to local culture, like this Danish adaptation The Boy Who Drowned in Chocolate that is actually... Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

  • Even Spotify’s playlists thumbnails are localized to elicit a desired feeling from users across the world.

Spotify playlists thumbnails localization examples

Who needs localization?

Localization is for anyone trying to push their newly started business an extra mile. It is a crucial step for companies selling abroad, be it in physical locations or through an online store website, whether you’re a giant like Coca-Cola or a small açaí farmer in the deep forests of Amazonia. According to an international survey, 75% of consumers prefer to buy products in their native language, and 60% of them would rarely or never buy from English-only websites (CSA Research). Localizing your offer for specific markets will make it more appealing to your clients, and thus increase your conversion rate, as well as build up credibility for your business.

Localization checklist

Ready to start localizing? Here’s a basic checklist of the elements you need to take into consideration:

  • Changing your visuals (videos, images, etc.) to suit each market’s tastes and cultural habits.

  • Adapting the design of your website, packages, guides and all other materials to fit the translated text.

  • Updating graphs, stats and surveys with the local market data.

  • Converting to local units of measurement and currencies.

  • Adapting the format for dates, phone numbers, and addresses.

  • Collecting information and taking action regarding legal and local regulations.

As you can see, localization is a company-wide endeavor, and should be taken very seriously. But considering the growth impact on your local markets, it is definitely worth the effort.

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Rafael Melo

Rafael Melo, Product Localization Team Leader at Wix

A rare Brazilian that doesn’t care about football that much and is passionate about other cultures.

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