You have decided to translate your content into a new language to effectively reach new markets across the globe. But most of the time you will also need to consider localization in some form, depending on the purpose of your content.

What do we mean by localization?

Localization involves adapting your content for your target audience, considering cultural nuances and consumer preferences. It ranges from changing colors or images on marketing materials to better fit the country’s traditions and culture to converting units of measurement.

Localization vs. translation

Translating is the process of transferring text from one language to another one. Translators rework the text considering differences in words, grammar and syntax in the source and the target languages. While a translation is technically correct, localization goes a step further by considering what will resonate with your target audience.

More often than not, you will require both translation and localization to effectively communicate in a new language. The level of localization will vary depending on the type of text and how many elements are deeply rooted in a particular language, culture or country. So localization and translation are not exclusive, but work together!

What are the main elements of localization?

Message and tone of voice

Localization experts understand cultural quirks, traditions and norms in the source language and localize these elements using the corresponding equivalents in the target language. For example, Friday the 13th is usually associated with the superstition of bad luck in the UK.

However, the Spanish equivalent of the UK’s Friday the 13th is Tuesday the 13th. So if you are translating your content into Spanish, talking about bad luck on Friday the 13th will leave your Spanish audience feeling confused.

Numbers, dates, and measurements

Numbers, dates and measurements are different between countries and even within the same language.

This means that if you are translating a technical text in English with reference to pounds or feet, you may have to convert these units of measurement into kilograms or meters in most European languages.

Similarly, shoppers on global e-commerce sites are more likely to make a purchase if they know that the size of an apparel item would fit them. Therefore, showing equivalent international sizing for the USA, the UK and the EU is a must in today’s global market.

User interface

Language affects the interface design of your website or app. And that can be a big challenge for Right-to-Left (RTL) languages such as Arabic and Hebrew because the design needs to be flipped or mirrored. All the elements of navigation, such as the back button, are displayed in reverse order, so you will need the assistance of a localization expert with a background in design to make sure your multilingual website or app offers a good user experience.

Imagery and color

Colors and visual elements that are appropriate and meaningful in one country can have a completely different effect in another country. For example, the color red represents good luck, prosperity, and happiness in China, while in some African countries red is associated with death and violence.

Payment method

Displaying prices in different currencies, supporting multi-currency payments and providing different payment options is important for online shoppers and reduces shopping cart abandonment. Preferred payment methods can vary from one country to another, so it is important to offer options such as bank transfer, PayPal, credit card or direct debit based on the country’s preferences.

Examples of successful (and unsuccessful) localization


Ikea has successfully localized its website in multiple languages, from Finnish to Japanese. The local pages of www.ikea.com are specific to each region across the world, both in message and content.

At the time of writing this post (mid-September) the UK’s Ikea website focuses on the Autumn evenings, and how their products can make your home warmer. The brand is aware that temperatures drop and evenings get shorter as autumn arrives in the British Isles. They encourage people to enjoy the comfort of a warm home after a day at work with the help of their products.

UK’s Ikea website

Image source

On the other hand, Spain’s website is localized to suit the Spanish market. Like the UK’s website, it also references Autumn, but it does not link the coming of the new season with colder temperatures. Instead, it simply invites people to enjoy Autumn with the new products from the brand.

Ikea’s website is localized to suit the Spanish market

Image source

Taking a different approach, France’s website highlights the 40th anniversary of the opening of Ikea’s first store in the country. They invite readers to celebrate and party together. Colors, design and content are completely different from the UK’s website, which shows a high degree of localization.

Ikea’s website in France

Image source

IKEA’s localization strategy around the world has helped the brand to be successful in over sixty countries.


Now, an example to highlight the risks of ignoring localization altogether. The German sportswear brand Puma launched a pair of limited edition trainers in the colors of the UAE flag. But the people from the United Arab Emirates were not happy to see their nation’s flag on a pair of shoes.

Puma’s limited edition trainers in the colours of the UAE flag

Image source

In Arab culture, the feet and shoes are considered unclean because they touch the ground, so seeing their flag’s colors on footwear was an insult to the nation and prompted many complaints from people.

Puma issued a statement to apologize for this cultural misunderstanding and removed the shoes from all stores. This is a clear example of why having expert localization advice before launching or expanding in a new market is vital to ensure the acceptance of your products and avoid potential cultural mistakes that could damage your brand image.

Start your localization journey today

Localizing websites, product descriptions and general marketing materials is key to overcoming cultural obstacles and increasing engagement. It is simple: If the content resonates with the person, they are more likely to take action, whether that is buying your products or signing up for a free trial of your service.

All our language teams are based in-market and immersed in their local culture to ensure the effectiveness of your message. Get in touch to find out how we can help you.

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