The Preplanning Stage

Many factors need to be considered carefully and challenges overcome before embarking on a content globalization effort for your mobile app or site. For example, think about how the content you create for one market may get shared elsewhere.

“Today’s consumed content gets shared endlessly and crosses traditional geographic boundaries. Although content can still originate in a single market, once it goes viral, everyone knows about it. So content creators should try to design and originate content that can be consumed across the globe,” says Gal Oppenheimer, senior solution architect at Contentstack, a headless CMS provider.

A one-size-fits-all global approach will only go so far. You’ll also need to determine which particular foreign markets to customize content for. “To help, figure out where your users are most active on different social platforms—Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, etc.—and start building your following there,” Oppenheimer suggests.

For starters, it’s smart to target three to five key markets for your app, recommends Salz. “Anything less and you might be leaving money on the table.” Kriebernegg suggests translating some of your content or app into a foreign language that you want to test drive. “Release it and have a look at how it impacts your downloads. If you are getting good traction, think of also translating the complete content of the app to really unleash its power,” says Kriebernegg.

Look to analytics for guidance too. “Crunch your data to help find your audiences. Maybe you’re seeing some downloads coming from users in Malaysia, where English is spoken but not the national language. It’s a signal there is some interest—and to really get more users onboard, you should make your app discoverable in their native language and on a local app store,” says Salz.

Using tools such as smart analytics systems is wise, Caidar says. “These tools can provide insights into global and regional activity and deep data intelligence capabilities that optimize experiences by leveraging critical data.” Consider, also, how consumers overseas access content and pay for data on their mobile devices. “The speeds and bandwidth of internet connections vary a lot around the world, as do the capabilities of mobile devices. So you’ll need to re-evaluate things like images and layouts and make sure every element works fine on both high- and low-end devices. Your video might make it harder for certain users to download the page. And screen resolution and the ability to run scripts and special extensions have to be carefully evaluated,” says Moroz.

Keep in mind that many global markets charge more for data, as well. “Users in the Philippines, for example, pay almost five times the cost of data over the United States,” notes David Hewitt, group VP at SapientRazorfish. “Subsidizing data costs to reach household scale can be a worthwhile strategy here.” After performing your due diligence, don’t be surprised if you determine that content globalization for a particular audience isn’t worth it. “While globalizing content can seem like a good strategy, often times it’s not. The topics that resonate in one market may not in another,” Hecht says. 

Localization Prioritization

One of the most important steps in globalizing content is localization—the process of translating your app or site into various languages and making it authentic to that region via native dialects, cultural phrases, and content. This is where things can get tricky.

“One mistake many make is to rely solely on Google Translate. This is a good tool, but it can miss nuances that could wreck your business model,” says Salz. “The better answer is to hire an interpreter or at least a native person from that country who is attuned to the cultural sensitivities and inherent nuances of where you want to offer your content.” Another challenge is deciding exactly what you need to translate and for which audiences. “If most of your site or app is translated but none of its ancillary content is, ask yourself if you’re providing that user a good experience with your brand,” says Pereira.

In addition to, or in lieu of, hiring a human interpreter, consider leveraging translation technology and specialized tools, which can streamline the manual processes involved in the localization process. “We all know that automated translation isn’t ready for prime time, but the right platform will make your human translators more productive by speeding up the process and auto-translating words and phrases it understands,” says Oppenheimer.

Relying on a translation management tool is also smart; it can handle your translation files and assets natively and can facilitate rapid and accurate translation, whether the work is done internally or through a language service or machine translation, Pereira says. “Tools such as customizable workflows, style guides, glossaries, context, translation memory, and collaboration and communication with translators and project managers can help improve localization efficiency.”

And localizing your app store presence is just as important as localizing the app itself. “There’s more to the world than Google Play and the Apple App Store,” Salz says. “Don’t forget about the Amazon Appstore, the Opera Mobile Store, Tencent, and around 350 alternative Android app stores available globally.”

When it comes to mobile, simplicity is your friend in terms of design. “Turn to lightweight, clean design and styles that don’t require too much processing power or bandwidth, and make sure all interface elements scale properly in all your localized versions,” says Moroz. Additionally, partner with influencers when possible. “When communicating with a brand’s audience in France, for example, the only way to bridge language and cultural barriers is to have a local voice. This can be achieved by embracing influencers and content creators who are localized to specific languages and cultures,” says Caidar. “Take the recent Winter Olympics, for example. Brands actively partnered on social with athletes from different countries to create interest around behind-the-scenes content.”

Remember to check local regulations. Salz says, “You want to be sure that the countries you’re targeting in your globalization campaign will allow you to launch.”