What is localisation in business?

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Expanding your business to overseas markets can be a great way to widen your reach and gain a competitive edge, in terms of brand positioning and revenue. However, to be successful, it's essential to localise your business. This entails paying attention to the full circle of innovation, production and packaging, as well as branding

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the mammoth amount of work required before you branch out to a new market overseas. Take it easy – we’ve done the legwork for you, so all you’d need to do is follow our guide. But first, let’s understand what defines localisation and its impact on your business success.

What does localisation mean?

Localisation is the process of adapting your products, services and marketing materials to the cultural, linguistic, and regulatory characteristics of a specific country or region. It’s one step after globalisation, which entails the movement of goods, services and ideas beyond geographical borders. 

In a nutshell, localisation ensures your product and the business process that surrounds it are legally permissible in the market and relevant to the local audience.

Why is localisation important for companies that want to sell their products overseas?

Localisation is essential for companies looking to expand into new markets because it helps them to connect with customers on a deeper level. When you speak in their language, you’re able to establish greater affinity with your target audience. This helps to facilitate adoption across consumer funnels. 

For example, if you’re in the business of wines and are exporting to China, positioning your brand as the go-to choice during festive occasions like Chinese New Year can help attract significant traction on the conversion stage. Bundle packs and seasonal discounts are some ways to execute this. Tapping on the country’s most profitable online sales day, Single’s Day is another example. On the awareness and consideration fronts, you may consider social media or blog content that enrich the daily lives of Chinese residents. A blog or Instagram video on wine pairings with specific Chinese delicacies is one example. 

When establishing a connection, you also maintain cultural sensitivity through localisation. This ensures there is no misinterpretation of messaging or cultural blunders that may not reflect well on your brand. You avoid pitfalls like boycotts that would otherwise jeopardise your chances to excel in the international market. 

With sound localisation strategies, you garner greater trust, a key ingredient for brand loyalty and business success.

How do I localise my brand and products?

Localisation is an ongoing endeavour. Cultural and communication challenges must be consistently overcome. Likewise, businesses must invest in administrative costs to manage legal and logistical processes to make their new market venture a success. While some may view the increased costs and resources as a hurdle, a sound strategy and long-term plan can bring in greater benefits that’ll easily outweigh initial investment costs. Here’s how.

1. Understand all aspects of local life

To succeed in a new market, you’ll need to gain a deep understanding of the local culture, customs and laws. This way, you can effectively localise your products, services and marketing strategies, and ensure complete relevance. 

Suppose you’re a Kiwi home decor company looking to export your products from New Zealand to Japan. Incorporating Japanese cultural values of simplicity, harmony, and detail into your products will help appeal to the locals better. Simultaneously, consider the regulatory requirements of selling these products in Japan. On top of indicating the manufacturer’s name and country of origin on your product labels, Japan requires clear labelling of recycling symbols based on the materials in the products, in line with the country’s unique recycling system. If you wish to market your products as safe for the environment, you’d also need to comply with several guidelines and acquire certifications to attach the eco-friendly tag on your labels.

2. Research on local competition

Before establishing yourself in an international market, you’d want to ascertain how successful your venture can be. This starts by understanding the local competition. By analysing the competition, businesses can identify opportunities and future challenges in the market, as well as develop a unique selling point that differentiates their products or services. This can be done through competitor analysis, which involves studying their competitors' strengths and weaknesses, as well as their marketing strategies, pricing and distribution channels. The internet and social media platforms are great tools for gathering data on competitors.

3. Focus on personalisation

Personalisation is the process of tailoring products, services and marketing messages to the unique needs and preferences of a specific target market. As you can guess, it is a key attribute of business localisation. Let’s imagine that you’re a New Zealand clothing retailer exporting to the United States (US). Considering the diverse body types of the locals, you can personalise your line of apparel by offering greater options for sizes, up to variations of plus sizes. Another example of personalisation is speaking in the language of your locals. Combine Singlish into your social media materials wherever logical when targeting Singaporeans, or translate content to the native languages such as Hindi in India, Arabic in the United Arab Emirates and Chinese in China.

4. Work with relevant local partners

When you engage with local partners, you gain valuable insight into the market, can better navigate cultural differences, and access local networks and resources. There are various local partners to consider:

  • Distributors: Help businesses push their products or services into local stores and markets
  • Suppliers: Provide raw materials at a lower cost than importing them from overseas
  • Marketing agencies: Strategise effective marketing strategies and campaigns that are tailored to the local market.
  • Logistics vendor: Enable smooth delivery of goods across the country, including managing the customs clearance of products into the destination country. 

Analyse your own resources and capabilities, and understand what kind of partnerships you’ll need in order to succeed in the new market.

5. Invest in website localisation

Website localisation is such an important part of overseas business ventures, yet many overlook it. When you localise your website, you’re essentially focusing on these elements for the benefits as described:

  • User experience: Different markets have different online user behaviour when it comes to website shopping. Providing features familiar to them increases customer engagement and potential sales. Price-sensitive customers in the US like to compare prices across brands and read online reviews, so including user-generated reviews on each product page will benefit them. In Japan, shoppers prioritise convenience, so they’re more likely to cart out using their mobile phones. This means your website must be optimised for mobile use as well and easily synced with other apps such as mobile wallets.
  • Legal compliance: Many countries have laws and regulations that require websites to be presented in a certain way. For instance, the European Union requires websites operating in the region to adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by providing clear and concise information about how customers’ personal data is collected, used and protected. In Australia, Canada and several other countries, the law requires businesses to display prices in a manner that is clear, prominent and not misleading. This entails stating prices in the local currency and including applicable taxes or fees.
  • Better search engine optimisation (SEO): Localising a website can improve its SEO in the target country, as search engines tend to favour websites that are in the local language and are optimised for the local market. This means using localised keywords such as “home decor products japan”, creating country subfolders in the domain with localised languages (“www.homedecorbrand.com/en-jp/ or www.homedecorbrand.com/jp-jp/) and creating Google My Business (GMB) listings with local addresses.

Localising your business takes time, but you will bear the fruit of your labour in the near future with the right strategy in place. And with every overseas venture, rest assured that DHL Express will be by your side always as your most reliable global shipping provider. Helping you navigate the local regulatory customs requirements, packaging rules and the like, you’ll be able to reach your target customers in any international market with unrivalled ease. Get started with a DHL Express account today.