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Mobile App Localization: The Process and Benefits

Mobile App Localization

Picture this.

You have chanced upon an interesting app in the app store but in a non-native (English) language. Would you decide to download the app?

The above scenario occurs almost every day for non-English speaking users across the globe, be it in China, Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Japan, and or any other non-English speaking nation. Even if an app has a five-star rating, they do not prefer downloading it simply because app localization isn’t being offered and it is in their non-native language.

English is no longer the dominant language. It shares its space with other languages such as Mandarin Chinese, Latin American, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, and more.

According to Statista, of the 2.53 billion global smartphone users, 1.1 billion are largely from countries in the Asia Pacific, where English is not the primary language.

What is Localization?

Localization, in the context of apps, simply put, is making your app useful to users belonging to varied cultures and countries. In doing so, you are going the extra mile to give the customers what they want, and in their language of choice.

Therefore, to reach this segment of users, building a localization application in their native language becomes all the more important. And since these users constitute a majority, your app becomes limited in its reach if you’re not localizing your product for them.

Why App Localization Matters

Through iOS or Android app localization, your app is directed to users whose native language is not English, which constitutes about 60% of the global populace.

Languages Used

Let’s look at how app localization best practices can help your business:

1. Greater Reach

By localizing your app, the chances are that your user reach may scale up globally. As is seen in the graph below, millions of apps were downloaded in the years 2016, 2017, and possibly 2021 in APAC (Asia-Pacific), EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) nations, and America; and, of these nations, APAC had the maximum downloads. Here, localization becomes all the more necessary with users who are not well-versed in English.

Application Downloads Over the Years

2. A Strong and Diverse Customer Base

With app localization, it is possible to reach a more diverse set of customers and garner consistent user feedback. This would not only help improve the quality of the app but will also enhance the customer experience tremendously.

3. Higher Revenue

Revenue Increase

Besides having a diverse and robust customer reach, localizing your app would also result in a considerable increase in revenue. This is because your app will no longer be restricted to a specific user set or geographical area but would have a more global presence; hence, the more the users, the more revenue.

As per a Common Sense Advisory study, about 75% of non-native users prefer to purchase apps in their native languages; and 60% of them stated that they would never consider buying an English-only app.

How to Localize Your App

1. Create a Strategy

When localizing an app, the first question that arises is : Which language(s) to choose?

While the top languages include Mandarin Chinese, Latin American Spanish, Korean, Arabic, Japanese, Russian, German, and more, yet it is not necessary to translate your app into all these popular languages. Thus, one needs to think strategically.

Here, two approaches may be used:

  • Deep Localization
    This approach involves selecting niche user segments where you can customize the app features by making it user-centric, distributing through local channels, planning campaigns locally, etc. If you have no shortage of funds or have investors at hand, this is the best way forward. Additionally, you can also build online to offline (O2O) products or services.
  • Minimum Viable Localization (MVL)
    The second approach may be used when you wish to reach a larger audience. Here, the product is first translated into the local or native languages for ease of understanding to local users and is then scaled up based on their receptivity. This approach is a sure shot way to test out the user segment in different geographies.

2. Defining the Scope

The next step is to decide how much content needs to be localized.

Defining the Scope

In case you are targeting your app for a few user segments, you can localize all of your content. However, if you are looking to test potential user segments, localizing a few at the start is recommended. The key is to scale up your app localization.

Here’s how:
Test the potential user segment. Simply localize your app store listing, and check for any traction. In case you find some scope, opt for a Minimum Viable Localization, and localize the app content. If there is a positive user reception, localize your app completely, including its content.

3. Choosing your Translators

Choose a Good Translator

When localizing your app, it is essential to choose a good translator, factoring in the costs, quality of output, and efficiency. Based on this, there are three models that you can choose from as per your requirement:

  • In-house
    While in-house resources may be high on investment, it is more rewarding in the long run, the advantage being that there will be effective communication and collaboration between departments such as marketing, public relations, etc. and in real-time. All of this will drive superior quality.
  • Third-party Translation: Crowdsourcing
    This model can be leveraged, especially when your app constitutes a diverse user base. This will not only help minimize the costs, but you would also be having access to app localization tools and resources that can connect with the local user base.
  • Outsourcing
    In the outsourcing model, hiring an Language Service Provider (LSP) would be rewarding as they are driven by quality and on-time delivery. You may either choose any of the models mentioned above to localize your app or use a combination. For example, you can hire professional translators at the start, and then seek feedback from the users, who will help amplify your app with appropriate translations.

4. Internationalization

Even though you have a strategy for localizing your app, you would still not be able to place your app in the play store unless you internationalize your app.

Internationalization

Internationalization or i18n is a process where you plan and implement products and services to enable easy localization for the set audience based on their language and culture.

5. Preparing Materials for Reference

While the code is being prepared for localization, send reference materials simultaneously to your translators as this will help them understand the source text.

Below are the reference materials that you can leverage:

  • Translation Glossary
    This includes key terms in your source language. By leveraging this glossary, the translations stand consistent and help secure your brand.
  • Style Guide
    The style guide can be leveraged to elucidate the tone of voice and presentation of your organization’s content.

6. Using a Translation Management System (TMS)

Before you begin with the translation process, it is essential to have a good system to manage your content. Here, a translation management system (TMS) would help. This will help track the project information as well as ease out the app localization process considerably. Further, it allows you to automatically import as well as export the resource files, thus saving time.

Translation Management System

The team members will also receive notifications about their task(s) or project(s) to keep them on track. This gives the project manager a real-time report on the project’s progress without having to micromanage.

7. Consistent Communication with Translators

Consistent Communication with Translators

To have a good translation in place for app localization, constant communication with your translators is the key, especially in the cases wherein you’re outsourcing. Also, providing support to translators to understand the source text by sharing ample context would result in a more effective outcome.

While a quality check can be done to avoid translation mistakes, it is better to nip the problem in the bud. This way, issues can be resolved on the go.

Tips:

  • Pick a SPOC (specific point of contact) that translators can reach out to for assistance. This way, translators will know whom to contact.
  • Explain with examples so that the translators understand the text(s) better. The more the examples, the better the understanding of meaning and tone, leading to a better outcome.
  • Create a forum. This is when you opt for the crowdsourcing model. If your translator group or community is huge, a considerable amount of time is spent answering their queries or clarifying their doubts. Setting up a translator forum would help resolve issues or clarify doubts considerably, and in real-time.

8. Testing the Translations

Testing the Translations

It’s now time to test your app localization. Here, seeking an expert’s help, i.e., a localization tester, will have a more positive outcome for validating. Choose a tester that is familiar with every aspect of the app as well as fluent in the language chosen for localizing your app. They will be able to point out errors – technical (for example, UI display issues, untranslated strings, or non-cultural translations, etc.) or those pertaining to local culture.

App Localization Examples

Here are some of the most popular brands who have nailed their app localization efforts to resonate with the local audience.

1. Airbnb – Vacation Rental Marketplace

Expanding aggressively into new markets and ensuring a global presence, Airbnb supports 62 languages to reach close to 4 billion native speakers. They have also translated the reviews and other content from the user for its readers. Through localization, Airbnb offers a personalized experience to its customers.

2. Netflix – Over-the-top Media Service

Netflix is a household name in the entertainment space and is equally known for its localization measures. Besides translation and localization of its app, the business also offers subtitles and dubbing of its content in local languages. What’s more, Netflix also heavily focuses on creating localized content.

3. ASOS – Online Fashion Retailer

Localization is of utmost importance in the eCommerce world, and ASOS has successfully leveraged it for its retail business. ASOS’s website and all the essential information is available in seven languages, along with the option of paying through 19 different currencies. This has helped considerably increase the digital sales of the retailer.

App Localization – Conclusion

By localizing your app, you have expanded its reach, thus covering various geographies and cultures. As per a Common Sense Advisory survey, about 50 % of countries downloading the apps fall in the non-English speaking category. This shows that if your mobile app is not being localized, you are missing out on almost half of the potential audience.

Hence, it’s now time to localize your app and present it to a wider global audience.
However, it would be better to run a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for the localization app before launching it globally. This way, you’ll get real-time feedback from users or potential customers, given the short, frequent releases you would be making. Given that, hiring a mobile app localization expert would be the best bet in making your app live to the global audience.

Localize your mobile app

Amandeep Singh

About the Author

Amandeep Singh is a Technical Developer at Net Solutions with over eight years of experience in iOS technologies. An avid learner and excellent at developing and maintaining iOS applications, he comes with a strong development background. Outside of work, Amandeep likes to spend time exploring the Internet and listening to music.

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