Prioritizing Localization in 2019
If there’s one thing we’re grateful for in 2019, it’s the fact that localization has become more of a priority for companies looking to serve the Indian market. The question is no longer why should we localize, or even how, but what resources do we dedicate to it?
It’s been well established by expert studies that the Indian internet is already primarily Indian x’language speaking. The Indian language character of the Indian internet will only increase over time – 90% of new internet users coming online will use an Indian language, not English.
Given this, companies need to see the Indian internet as two very different user bases – English language users and Indian language users. English language users had the benefit of early access to the internet, and are more likely to be mature users who can confidently use the internet and take advantage of what it has to offer. These users are privileged, and can navigate interfaces with ease – because platforms are built with these users in mind.
On the other hand, Indian language users are mostly new to the internet, and have very little idea how to use online platforms. Things we take for granted, even something as simple as making a purchase on an app for or for finding a relevant product category on a site can be confusing. Iconography generally used on these platforms doesn’t convey much either. In addition, platforms do not explain how to carry out simple tasks, creating another barrier to usage.
Localization Beyond Interfaces & Content Conversion
Localization doesn’t merely deal with content conversion. It also enables content creation in Indian languages, as well as better multilingual search and discovery engines to find and consume relevant content. Another important element that comes included within the process of localization is making transactions Indian language friendly. After all, platforms revolve around funnels that end with conversions, and this holds good regardless of the user’s language.
So far, localization has generally been seen by decision makers as a function of user experience, not of revenue. It is a great addition to a company’s strategy, but not an essential addition.
This is a misconception, since localization can most definitely have a very direct impact on your revenue, in addition to its boost to non English user experience. This misconception is keeping companies from localizing aggressively.
If companies feel that the effect of localization will be limited to user experience, they should ask themselves if they are truly enabling smooth business impact generation on their platform. Localization should be accompanied by user education, which in turn lets these new users effectively take advantage of platforms and potentially convert and transact. Without this crucial step, companies are merely allowing new users to read a platform in their own language, which is not enough.
At the end of the day, localization efforts require the utilization of resources, and activities that are seen as solely contributing to user experience (and not revenue generation) are not prioritized. This is especially relevant since most companies are new to localization and are still evaluating adding it to their strategy.
With more localized platforms around, new standards for building for Indian language users will emerge, related to iconography, user behavior, preferences, and the like. This will continue to lessen the entry barrier to using digital platforms effectively, which will in turn drive conversions and allow these users to transact and use services comfortably.
Think Long Run – Think Market Share
Something very important companies need to keep in mind while evaluating their localization strategy is that hundreds of millions of Indian language internet users will be coming online over the next 5 years. That’s tens of millions of potential new users every week.
According to studies, tens of millions of Indian language internet users will come online in 2019, and many of them will want to shop online. They can only actually carry out these transactions if platforms come enabled with language support in their mother tongue. Not all Indian e-commerce platforms will support local languages when they come online. Which platforms will these tens of millions of users naturally gravitate towards using, then?
That’s right, the platforms that have interfaces they can comfortably read.
It then becomes a question of market share. Revenue then becomes about thinking about the long run. The stronger a localization foundation you build, the more prepared your platform will be to take advantage of the Indian internet’s rapid demographic growth.
In addition, there already exists a large user base for Indian languages. This user base isn’t actively transacting as much as their English counterparts (due to the lack of accessibility and user education available to them mentioned earlier, in addition to other factors), but is highly engaged in consuming content. Once you open your platform up to these users and provide them with content that resonates with them, new users sharing the same language will also be drawn to these platforms.
Remember – localizing your platform is a strategic push, a key to solving a larger problem. Give it and Indian language users the attention they deserve and things fall into place.