Localization: What’s All the Fuss About?


Most businesses branching out into international markets realize that professional translation will be a part of the process, whether that’s the translation of legal contracts, marketing campaigns, or the company website. They may not have considered, however, the need for, and value of, a professional localization service. But what is localization? And why do you need it?

The lowdown on localization

There is an overlap between translation and localization and many language service providers offer both. GALA (the Globalization and Localization Association) defines localization as ‘the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market’. It should make the target reader feel as if the text was created specifically for them.

Whereas translation focusses on language, localization also takes graphics, layout, and figures into account. It’s worth noting that localization is often utilized for content that is published in different countries or regions that speak the same language, e.g. localizing from the US to the British market.

Examples of successful localization in action

To give you more of an idea, let’s look at a few concrete examples. In 2013 Coca Cola launched their ‘Share a Coke” campaign, where names were printed on their cans to add a personal touch to the customer experience. They adapted the names to those that would be common in the specific regions the cans were sold in, such as the names Aoife and Oisín in Ireland. In China, where the use of first names isn’t respectful, they used terms such as ‘classmate’ and ‘close friend’, showing a deep cultural understanding.

The online fashion retailer ASOS is a shining example of localization for eCommerce businesses. The website automatically selects the appropriate language, experience, and currency for each visitor and offers 10 different payment methods, accommodating the habits of customers from a wide range of countries. It’s not surprising then, that about 60% of the company’s sales come from international buyers.

Why is localization necessary?

There are numerous reasons why investing in localization will benefit your business, here are just a few:

  • Customers are more likely to use companies whose content they can easily engage with.
  • Those clients who pay for your products or services will have a more enjoyable experience. Customer satisfaction leads to repeat orders.
  • Hiring an expert to localize your content means you will avoid the risk of making mistakes which could damage your profits and reputation.
  • Investing in high-quality localization will give you a competitive edge over less conscientious companies.

Avoid pitfalls with localization

There are three main missteps localization helps you avoid:

Creating confusion

If texts aren’t localized successfully, particularly when it comes to features such as units of measurement or figures, customers are left feeling baffled and frustrated. People prefer simplicity, and if they have to convert sizes on a clothing label themselves, for instance, they will give up and go to another store.

Causing offense

Without expert knowledge of the target culture, it’s easy to unintentionally offend. Professional localization services will make you aware of issues related to cultural taboos present in your content and suggest viable alternatives that retain the source text’s original intention.

Projecting a negative image

There are many ways your new ad campaign or website could put off international clients, leaving them with a poor impression of your company. Words and images that seem innocuous to you could have negative connotations for the target culture. If you’re launching your business in the Japanese market, for example, you should avoid images that include the numbers 4 or 9, extremely unlucky numbers that are associated with suffering and death.

What should be localized?

Features that may need to be localized include:

  • Numbers, currencies, and units of measurements
  • Wordplay, idioms, and jokes
  • Date formats, phone numbers, and addresses
  • Images, colors, and symbols
  • Layouts and domain names
  • Representations of potentially taboo subjects such as alcohol and religion

Let’s take a closer look at some of these examples.

Units of measurement

Units of measurement can be found in many different types of text, from manuals to packaging. A recipe, for example, may include units for weight, size, temperature, and timings. Failing to convert them into the local unit is frustrating and misleading for users. Nobody wants to have to frantically google conversions while trying to cook dinner!


If dates are not formatted appropriately, it can cause big problems. Whether it’s the date of an important meeting, a label with an expiration date, or the date of payment on a global banking app, clarity is essential. Imagine a German supplier has guaranteed its American client that a product will be delivered by 3/4/2021. For the client, this means the 4th of March 2021, but for the supplier, it’s a month later on the 3rd of April 2021. A serious misunderstanding!

It’s important to mention that a high-quality language service provider will take these details into consideration when translating, but it’s always worth checking. In fact, some businesses prefer to use the long date format (written) to avoid potential confusion.


Beautiful graphics can make all difference when attracting clients, but when it comes to enticing international customers it’s not always cut and dry. Imagine a photo of a smiling family giving the thumbs up on a travel agent’s landing page. This gesture, so positive and commonly used in some countries is extremely offensive in others.

When localization involves the law

Sometimes localization is a legal matter, rather than a choice. Localization professionals should be aware of any legal requirements, such as censorship or content laws, that could impact what your business can publish. An example of this can be seen in the gaming industry. In 2019 China announced new laws which stated that games that involve gambling, depict blood or corpses, or have titles ‘based on China’s imperial past’ would not be allowed. If you have any doubts in this area, bring it up with your language service provider.

Now that you know all about localization you may be in the market for a professional language service provider to localize your content. Look no further than BeTranslated. With our skilled linguists and years of experience, we offer service you can trust. For more information or a free, no-obligation quote, get in touch today.