December 9, 2008
Today’s economy is presenting many new hurdles for US businesses. With disheartening news coming from all directions, it is difficult to know where to turn. In the guide below, reaching new markets is presented as the solution to the unstable financial environment plaguing US companies.
Expansion into new markets can help companies stave off the ill effects of a volatile domestic economy. While gaining access to the global marketplace was once reserved for only the largest multinational companies, recent advancements in communication technology and trade have allowed companies of all sizes to enter the international arena. A critical step in reaching global markets is a well-crafted globalization strategy that allows for efficient product deployment that meets local cultural and language requirements. Localization has become the answer for businesses worldwide seeking to enter new markets efficiently and effectively.
The Problem: A Failing Economy
Due to recent financial turmoil, the US has become an unstable marketplace for many American businesses. Nationwide, mortgage foreclosures are increasing at an unprecedented rate resulting in a massive credit crunch. However, what began as a housing industry breakdown has exploded into a market wide crisis.
The US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis reported a 0.3 percent decline of the gross domestic product in the third quarter, in addition to a 3.1 percent decrease of consumer spending, making it the largest decline since 1991. October brought record-breaking labor statistics. According to the US Department of Labor, the national unemployment rate jumped 0.4 percent, reaching a total of 6.5 percent. Consumer confidence has reached the lowest level in decades as reports continue to reveal a deteriorating workforce, volatile stock market and unknown future. With each market debacle, such as the September bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers or buyout of Merrill Lynch, the economic outlook becomes more and more dismal.
In the midst of countless pessimistic economic indicators, there remains one area of hope: exports. According to the US Department of Treasury, net exports continued to be a source of strength this past year, with a solid increase of 6.9 percent.
The Solution: Going Global
With a less than desirable domestic market, traditional business practices are no longer sufficient for companies to remain competitive. The current economic environment is giving US companies more incentive than ever to “Go Global”. The benefits of entering the global market are numerous and far reaching. The immensity of the global marketplace will serve a significant revenue driver for companies ready to take the initiative. The cost of entering foreign markets — setting up distribution channels and localization — are in most cases dwarfed by the return on investment or ROI.
The US Department of Commerce estimates that 95 percent of all consumers live outside of the US. By entering the global market, companies are able to reach a more substantial portion of potential customers. Accessing a larger group of consumers allows companies to experience growth not easily achieved in traditional markets. Increased sales and higher profits are available for those that are able to expand properly. Global expansion allows businesses to balance shortterm risks while strategizing for long term profits. Companies with diverse portfolios are less susceptible to fluctuations in the market, due to the decreased dependence on any one particular region.
Companies able to successfully enter the global marketplace experience increased competitiveness, both domestically and in the newly entered markets. These companies will be ideally positioned for success when the US economy stabilizes and begins to grow once again.
The most successful companies are those that have been able to adapt to the ever changing global market. While recent news of failing companies has shocked consumers, companies such as Wal-Mart and Google are continuing to see profit and growth.
Wal-Mart experienced a 10 percent growth in the third quarter, while 25 percent of all revenues derived from international sales.Despite declining retail sales domestically the company has remained competitive due to a solid global presence.
In the face of challenging economic times, Google saw another strong quarter which its CEO, Eric Schmidt, attributed to strong international growth. For the first time ever, international sales exceeded domestic business to account for the majority of Google’s revenue in 2008.
The benefits of expanding internationally are clear, yet globalization does not come without risks. A properly designed global expansion strategy can safeguard businesses against even the most perplexing dangers.
Localization: Your Transportation to the Global Marketplace
Language and cultural barriers present some of the most challenging hurdles for businesses to overcome when considering global expansion. The global market is not an extension of the US and must not be treated as such. Beyond basic language translation, products must be considered in terms of cultural differences. Failing to take notice of such differences can result in embarrassing, albeit humorous miscommunications at best; or insults and loss of business at worst.
“Localization” is the process of linguistically and culturally adapting a product for a specified location. The desired result is a product that appears to be developed in the local culture. An effective localization process will help businesses develop and deploy products in global markets competitively and with the highest quality.
Selecting the Right Localization Vendor
Once the decision to go global has been made, there are many questions left to be answered. Selecting the right localization vendor can be an intimidating decision, which is made even more crucial in consideration of the current economic environment.
Consider the following when selecting a localization vendor:
Due to the uncertainty of today’s economic environment, financial stability is more important than ever in considering which localization company to select. When placing your globalization needs into the hands of a third party vendor, a company that is financially sound will ensure that your projects will be completed.
Experience and Technical Know-How
As technology continues to deliver advancements in software development, it is crucial to select an experienced engineering and translation team. Experienced professionals with the training and skills to execute projects free of errors, such as mistakenly modifying encoding tags, links and codes, will cut down in lengthy and costly revisions.
Multilingual Capabilities versus Single Language
Single language vendors offer specialized localization services in a very limited number of languages. If your business wishes to expand into one specific market, a single language vendor may adequately meet your needs. However, if your expansion goals are loftier and more widespread, a multilingual vendor will allow for more flexibility and future possibilities.
Multilingual vendors offer a single source solution for a wide range of projects covering a large number of languages. Selecting a multilingual vendor will streamline your localization efforts by leveraging work across languages to minimize overhead and turnaround time.
Simple translation can ignore industry jargon resulting in a poorly localized product. In addition to offering services in a large number of languages, the top localization vendors provide tailored services in a wide array of industries by employing quality linguists with subject matter expertise. The employment of industry experts enables the development of solutions that meet the unique requirements of each industry.
Quality Assurance should be an integral part of every step in the localization cycle from project evaluation and planning to project execution and final delivery. Using well defined quality metrics and procedures, localization vendors can ensure quality for all components in a localized product including functionality, documentation, engineering, formatting, and linguistic issues. Choose a vendor that is ISO certified or with equivalent quality management systems to ensure the highest quality results for your globalization efforts.
When it comes to the global market, size matters! Well established vendors have the necessary resources available to ensure proper management of projects of all sizes. Furthermore, multinational vendors bring the international perspective needed to help businesses operate at a global level.
Despite the advantages of choosing a larger vendor, do not compromise on customer service. Issues such as responsiveness, ability to meet deadlines and overall concern for customer satisfaction can be lost with larger and overextended companies. Localization is a customer service industry: make sure your vendor agrees.
When researching localization vendors, do not underestimate the value of customer testimonials. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn from others’ successes and failures. A company with a solid history of positive feedback will give you peace of mind when selecting a localization vendor.
Time is money. Choosing a vendor with a proven track record of fast turnaround speed will allow your business to deploy products into specified markets sooner, thus returning profits faster.
Choose a vendor that offers high-quality services at competitive rates. Do not underestimate the cost savings a company can obtain over time by working with a localization vendor that offers competitive services. Some vendors have built optimized localization models by combining quality in-country translations with low cost production centers in Asia to deliver quality localization services very competitively.
About the Author
Ms. Shunee Yee is the president and CEO of CSOFT International Limited (www.csoftintl.com) a multilingual localization company headquartered in China. Yee has over fifteen years of experience in the localization industry. She previously served as the vice president for new market development at two leading US localization firms with clients such as Microsoft and Adobe. She has been featured in many publications including the Boston Globe, The Economist and IDG journals. Yee holds a Master’s degree in Education from Rhode Island College. She is also a graduate of Nanjing Normal University in Nanjing, China.
About CSOFT International
CSOFT International Ltd. is a world leader in localization and globalization consulting services, providing turnkey solutions for companies facing the challenges of engaging customers and markets across linguistic and cultural barriers. Recognized as one of the Top Innovative Companies in 2011 by IDC we have an award-winning international team. In 2012, the company’s CEO was named one of Fortune Magazine’s 10 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and a Tech Disruptor by CNN Money.
Joanna M. (U.S./Europe)
Lisa Chan (Asia)