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How to make your localization budget go further by getting your priorities straight

Here’s a question our clients ask us all the time: how do we optimise our localization strategy to use our budget efficiently?

In an ideal world, we would choose the premium products and services we know work best all of the time. Want to make a meal? If you’ve got the money, you buy the finest ingredients from your favourite brands.

In the real world, of course, it works rather differently. With limited budgets, we have to prioritize the kinds of products and services we purchase according to our needs. Sometimes, buying value-pack rice and beans is the only option on the table.

The same principle applies in localization. For a lot of content, it makes sense to use transcreation (a more creative style of translation that involves the cultural adaptation of content for new audiences) or multilingual copywriting services. However, these services usually cost more. For most of us, we simply can’t afford them all the time. 

So we need to prioritize. With certain types of content, it’s possible to make cost savings by using a different approach.  Sometimes machine translation with a human review stage offers value-for-money localization with an appropriate quality standard.

It’s all about getting what you need, when you need it, for a price you can afford. After all, if you’re hungry, rice and beans taste really good.

So, let’s take a quick look through how you might prioritize different types of content for different styles of localization, including marketing content, user interfaces, product descriptions, after sales/support/FAQs, and legal content.

Marketing content

In the online world, your marketing content is your virtual sales platform – like a store window and a sales person combined. If you were opening an outlet in a new market, you’d create the best possible window display and hire a salesperson who spoke the local language, right?

That’s why, with a localization budget, it makes sense to prioritize marketing content. Whether it’s on a webpage or in an email, marketing content is usually what defines not only your specific product offering but also your overall brand proposition. It’s what makes you different.

As marketing content tries to convey the “feel” of a product or brand as much as its function, it often relies on creative language. When localizing marketing content, it often is better to “transcreate” (or culturally adapt) content rather than just translate word for word. Many brands even commission copywriters in the target language to create content from scratch when localizing marketing materials. 

It’s true that transcreation and multilingual copywriting are often more expensive than word-for-word translation. Despite this, brands prioritise it in their budgets because it delivers results. Wherever you are working in the world, producing brand-driven, culturally appropriate customer-facing marketing materials should always remain a top priority. 

While we’re still on the subject of prioritizing marketing content as a whole, it’s also important to prioritize some forms of marketing content over others. If necessary, look at reducing the volume of marketing content to be localized rather than the quality of localization. Do a few things well, rather than a lot of things badly.

For example, some clients who don’t have the budget to fully localize the marketing emails they send to their customers in different territories choose a different approach instead. They prioritize copywriting the subject line only, while the body of the email is translated in a more standard (and cheaper) fashion. We all know that it takes a tempting line to get us to open something from our overflowing inboxes. So by copywriting a subject line that is culturally specific, perhaps related to current trends or seasonal events, it’s much more likely to make an impact. 

It’s a prioritization of budget that works because if you can’t convince a customer to open an email, what does it matter what the content of that email says?

User interfaces

Whatever product or service you offer, in the digital world, consumers experience it through your user interface (UI). Research has shown that if users don’t get to grips with your UI within the first 30 seconds, they’re likely to move on to something else.

Whether it’s an app or eCommerce platform, it’s crucial to make your UI intuitive and easy to use in all of your target markets. The functional elements of UI don’t usually contain large amounts of creative content, so it’s unlikely that you’ll need the more expensive transcreation or multilingual copywriting localization services here.

However, it’s one of the most crucial areas to get right in terms of look, feel and accuracy of content. That’s why it pays to use localization providers who specialize in UIs – they’ll be familiar with the most commonly understood terms, icons and interface designs used in different target markets.

It’s important, for example, that they know how to adjust navigation and menus for different types of content and script. Some languages are much longer on average than English – so a German interface may need to be redesigned to incorporate longer terms or perhaps use icons instead. For some other markets, the entire interface may need to be reworked to incorporate a script such as Arabic which reads from right to left.

Investment in creating the best possible UI is rarely wasted.  Making sure it is properly localized should be a high budget priority too. 

Product descriptions

Especially with eCommerce platforms, product descriptions are an extremely important part of the overall content. However, particularly if they are produced in high volume, how do you prioritize the way in which they are localized?

The answer lies both in the type of product description and the purpose which it serves.

If there are a large number of generic product descriptions that detail mostly physical features (size, colour, material, technical specifications, etc), it may be sufficient to localize these using machine translation with human post-editing. Since translation memories save the correct translations for the most commonly used words, terms and phrases, this approach can also be highly cost-effective and allows for a fast turnaround. 

However, not all product descriptions should be localized this way. For many brands, product descriptions provide much more than details of physical attributes and technical specifications. In the absence of a physical store, they provide users with a “feel” of the product created through language which relies on creativity, cultural reference and a distinct tone of voice. In short, language that needs to be transcreated or written from scratch by native-speaking copywriters if it is to resonate with its target audience to maximum effect.  

However, if your budget for transcreating or copywriting won’t stretch to the total number of creative-style product descriptions you produce, there are always options. Again, it’s a question of prioritizing. In such cases, it makes sense to identify the key products that will bring the maximum benefit to your business through creative localization. Perhaps these are new product launches, promotional items or flagship lines. Your localization provider can provide a hybrid solution, where some products are transcreated or copywritten while others are translated in a more standard way.

A staggered approach can help too. If transcreated product descriptions are seen to perform well, more traditionally translated descriptions can be upgraded over time when budget permits.

After sales, support and FAQs

Whether it’s returning a product, difficulties with payment or simply forgetting your password, we all need some help from time to time. That’s why aftersales centres, support content and frequently asked questions (FAQs) are some of the most visited sections of all kinds of sites and apps, from fitness trackers to luxury fashion brands.

It’s crucial that this customer-facing content is clear, consistent and relevant for users in all target languages. However, because it’s not creative content, it shouldn’t require the more expensive transcreation or multilingual copywriting services.

A word of caution, however, should be heeded. Each brand and industry sector has its own language and terminology, and the help sections of a site or app is where you really get into the “nitty gritty” details. If it’s to do with troubleshooting, it’s likely to include technical jargon that explains how the product or service works.

So, when choosing a localization provider for your help sections, it makes sense to select one with experience in your industry sector. They’ll need to get to know your brand of course, but they’ll already be familiar with many of the most commonly used industry terms and how they are translated into different languages. 

As with other content areas, if budgets are really tight, it makes sense to prioritize quality over quantity. Define what the most important support content is and localize this first. The rest can be added incrementally as budget allows.

Legal content

OK, this is perhaps not the most exciting area of your localization project. But it’s one of the most crucial to get right.

Any legal content – such as terms and conditions, licences, service level agreements, guarantees or other contractual agreements – should be translated by legal translation experts and reviewed by legal professionals in the target market. Never rely on non-experts in what is a very specialized field of localization.

Failure to comply with local regulations and the ensuing potential for litigation is a risk no brand should take lightly. That’s why localization of legal content should always be prioritized.

Nevertheless, there are potentially savings to be made. Experienced localization providers have often translated many similar types of legal documents in target markets and will usually have close relationships with local legal experts. Based on their experience and expertise, they can advise on appropriate legal content for particular target markets within competitive localization budgets.

Also, not all elements of all legal notices and documents require translation and review by legal experts. Identify those parts which require specialist review and use lower-cost standard translation services for the rest.

The final word

In localization, as in most areas of life, we have to adjust our belt accordingly. Identifying what areas of our content benefits most from pricier services such as transcreation and multilingual copywriting can help us to get the most value from our localization budgets.

At Alpha Lifestyle, we create bespoke solutions for our clients that meet their specific needs and budgets. As we are a full-service provider, we can offer hybrid solutions which balance the competing variables of quality, value for money and, of course, meeting essential deadlines.

If you’d like to talk to us further about how to make the most out of your localization budget, please get in touch and send us an email at