Preparing your team to localize more mobile moments

With a billion tablets already online and four billion smartphones predicted to be in use worldwide by 2017, mobile is the next frontier for companies to implement and fine-tune the global customer experience.

Mobile phones represent more than just another digital channel for content as more and more people throughout the world adopt the devices as the principal sources of communication, services and entertainment in their lives. Fulfilling their expectations requires organizations to shift from simply delivering localized content to enabling localized experiences whenever and wherever people expect them — all according to their language, culture, personal preferences and current physical location.

So how can your team localize more mobile moments? By selecting the mobile app data that makes sense for you, then easing into the mobile localization scene. Based on in-depth interviews with 36 localization managers and directors at 29 global companies, Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research) provides guidelines below to ensure your success.

First, choose the right mobile data to support informed decision-making. The language support required for mobile may not be the same as for web or desktop apps. Why? The market you’re entering with mobile may have different expectations or audiences than what you’ve experienced elsewhere. Because resources aren’t unlimited, particularly with startup companies, focus on enabling the right experience in the right language with the right nuance for the right locations.

There is no lack of analytics or data related to mobile applications or their adoption rates and usage. However, to derive the most benefit from these resources, you must select the ones that will lead to the best decisions. Use data as input for strategic planning, according to one of the following three scenarios.

1 Extending an existing product: if the app amplifies a current product or service by offering a subset of functionality appropriate for mobile, review in-house business intelligence data from your own team first.

2 Developing a revenue-producing app: if your mobile app is intended to generate sales, allow time to research payment processing methods and local income levels, and to store download statistics for competitors. Balance issues such as ease of payment against revenue opportunities. Beware of countries where you experience high download rates coupled with much lower conversion rates.

3 Marketing via mobile apps: when you design mobile apps to promote brand engagement, products or services, your management may require return on investment justification. Review analytics from Facebook (or the local market equivalent) to gauge possible response to localized versions and to track changes in conversion rates over time.

Ease into the mobile app localization scene

It’s reasonable to experiment via app stores to determine the languages that make the most sense for localization. In practice, this means translating or transcreating the app store description page and adding keywords in the languages that you want to test, while leaving the mobile app itself in its original language. It’s better to wait until you’re convinced about a local market’s viability before investing in a full-blown localization and testing process.

For revenue-generating apps, consider offering a subset of localized content and functionality on an app download page and track the locales and languages represented by visitors who download. This works especially well for companies trying to determine if they should stick with colonial language versions such as French or English for Arabic-speakers, or support indigenous languages. In this example, the marketing challenge they must resolve is, “How much larger is the market for versions in the mother tongue?”

You can also furnish more choices in dialects for their mobile apps, especially in the consumer space. The most popular languages for discussion include English (India, the United Kingdom and the United States), Portuguese (Brazil and Portugal), and Spanish (various flavors for Latin America, Spain and US Hispanics).

Just like many people in emerging and frontier markets ignored landlines to go directly to feature phones, many are now trading in those feature phones and skipping desktop + broadband to invest in smartphones. The majority of these potential customers operate in languages, cultures, locations and business environments that have nothing to do with English or the countries where it is spoken. However, their personal context is more important than ever before because they have more money to spend and more local companies with which to spend it. Make sure that you analyze the right data to make informed decisions as to which languages to support.