By Ian Brooks, Digital Strategist at Lionbridge

As any successful global brand will tell you, expansion into new markets can be tough. It involves much more than merely opening an office or offering shipping to a new country. It’s a risky process. Companies can overextend themselves; cash flow can become stretched and the ability to meet customers’ needs grows ever more important.

One area that businesses need to pay particular attention to is localisation of their web presence when they expand to new markets. In the same way that making sure a consistent brand quality is present in any new market, brands need to keep a consistent localisation strategy.

So, what is a localisation strategy and why should businesses be aware of it? Localisation means modifying content, messaging, and applications for local consumption. Like any other part of global expansion though it’s a process that needs to be properly assessed, managed and optimised; an emphasis needs to be put on the ‘strategy’ element.

To properly understand the current state of localisation Lionbridge recently conducted a survey of hundreds of marketing, IT, and localisation professionals in over 30 countries.

The good news was the majority of those surveyed had already identified the importance of localisation. Over 90% of respondents localise their product and service pages, understanding that optimising this information for local markets will make it more impactful.

Additionally, they are already localising campaign and landing pages, marketing assets, and press releases. Interestingly though, only a third actually translate company blogs. Given that this is a great way for brands to reach a potentially indifferent, audiences it seemed a strange oversight.

The problem, however, seems to be that the localisation is carried out on an ad hoc basis, with nearly half (40 percent) of business saying that that they do not currently have any formal strategies in place. The result is that nearly 40 percent localise content weekly and an additional 27 percent localise content on monthly basis.

This is fundamentally inefficient. Translating content on a reactive basis does not allow for the level of consistency that global brands need. It is difficult to maintain brand identity with multiple translators working on content in different locations, and often in different styles. More importantly, not having a proper localisation strategy in place can have a financial impact. English is not the de facto language for online commerce anymore.

From an expansion stand point this means any business growing globally could be failing to target over 60% of their potential audience. The problem of ad hoc localisation actually goes further. True localisation is not just about translation, it’s about understanding culturally significant touch points that let you properly optimise all of your content. If your content is not just understandable, but directly relevant to an audience, the likelihood of sales are increased.

Improved content is more impactful and this can translate directly in to improved profitability. So while it can be considered daunting and complicated; Lionbridge has come up with a four point check list for business to help them through the process:

1. Know the customer mindset. Cultural blunders ruin brands and profits, so you need to understand your customer to deliver them the right content. Do your homework and make sure you know how customers in specific regions obtain information, and what their preferences are.

2. Determine the right translation and localisation methods. Based on your research, this includes languages that will best benefit your specific business, while paying attention to what your competitors are doing and which languages/regions they’ve invested in.

3. Make sure your approach is centralized. Centralizing your strategy will increase inefficiencies and costs associated with a decentralised/ad-hoc approach. By having everything in one place, you’ll save yourself headaches, in addition to costs.

4. Select the right translation provider. To start, take a look at a provider’s reputation, supply chain, level of service, the technology they’re using, and their resource capacity. These factors will inform you if a translation provider can meet your needs.