Out of the Flat Black Box: Mobile Apps Localization Strategy

This guest article was authored by Talia Baruch of  Copyous (now LinkedIn).

The Urban Nomad

Sounds familiar? Like someone we’ve transformed into, slowly and steadily, encapsulated by the virtual ritual. Yep, we’re on the GO.  And we demand instant, interactive information anytime anywhere. The Urban Nomad in us is never bound to one place. Wherever we are, across oceans and continents, our carry-on mobile device is our port of communication with the world around us. We pull it out to check our calendar, to interface with our connections, to play games, purchase goods, manage photos, read books, watch movies, or just idly slide-flick through its menu bar, while waiting for our transit.  If 2011 was crowned as the year of the tablet, 2012 is the year of the ultra-thin, ultra-light ultra-book black box, leaving laptops and PCs in the backseat.

Mobile Commerce: Stand out in the Cloud

Mobile web traffic is already surpassing PC-based traffic. According to ABI Research, by 2015 mobile commerce will have reached $119B worth of goods and services purchased via mobile phone. In the less developed world, mobile phones will play a center role in e-commerce, as they are often the only pathway to the internet. This means that companies are now quickly planning their mobile commerce strategy to get a fore and stand out in the cloud within this dominant market. Mobile storefronts now fit into companies’ broader multichannel outreach to consumers. Therefore, when we examine pipeline paths for the localization industry, it is the mobile vertical that frantically calls for our attention.

Reaching Markup Goals

One of the key hurdles localization vendors face in the mobile vertical is the conceptual method of budgeting localization accounts. In most other verticals, reaching markup revenue goals is largely determined by word count volumes. In the mobile arena, however, text is minimal and LSPs need to transition their work scope budgeting to a different ball game model. Typical features in mobile localization are short user interface strings, multiple target language simship releases, focus on layout design, on usability and on compatibility with a variety of platforms: iOS, Android, BlackBerry. Culturalization plays a key role in mobile localization, culturally adapting the usability and design elements to enable a native look & feel for each market.

Global Strategy for New Market Entry

When you explore new market opportunities for your application performance, research what types of applications are popular in the target markets. Brazil, Russia, India, China, Japan and Korea are markets with heavily growing mobile traffic use: smartphone sales, apps store installation, ads revenue and virtual goods consumption.

Visibility & Usability

We often customize the application performance, usability and functionality to the locale culture and usability. Another consideration is determining dominant mobile operating systems and carriers in the target markets. For example, China Mobile is the leading carrier in China. In the Arab world, BlackBerry is still the leading device, while Apple iOS takes the 2nd place trophy. Switzerland is an example for a challenging mobile market, featuring three spoken languages: French, German and Italian; three dominant operating systems: iOS, BlackBerry and Android; three major carriers selling these operating systems: Swisscom, Sunrise and Orange. This translates into a total of 27 test instances, all for one market locale!

Got Game? Measuring ROI of Localized Goods

ROI from localized apps is given, providing you implement sustainable and scalable localization processes and conduct careful market research for product acceptance in new market entry. Electronic Arts’ revamped car racing games localized into Russian yielded a 600% ROI over the English version! Likewise, Julio Vieitez, Director of LUG—distributor of online games in Brazil, reported that a game version localized into Brazilian Portuguese yielded a 15 times higher revenue than the English version in the local market. Not bad for ROI! An example for revenue loss due to mis-culturalization is when “Age of Empire” was localized into Greek. It was banned by the Greek government because of the name “Macedonian.”

Find out who loves your apps and make them love you more. Determine the top-three non-English locales for your apps traction. Localize into these three target languages first, as a tier-one pilot. Not all languages in a localized app will generate significant added revenue. Make sure your translators understand your app and are active users. Detecting terminology nuances is a landmine in apps localization, where jargon and context shape the content. For example, the Chinese translated term for “User” is different in a standard app compared to a gaming app.

It’s the Urban Nomad Bit Again, for Closure

The Early Nomad would travel in search of fresh pasture. The Urban Nomad travels in search of fresh opportunities. His modular, fast pace life style demands multiple adjustments, relocating from one place to another. But all along it is the little lit screen flickering in the back pocket that keeps the humdrum aligned, centralized in cyber space, home away from home.

About Talia/Copyous

Talia is an independent localization and culturalization consultant with 17 years experience optimizing companies’ international outreach. She founded Copyous, devoted to fitted localization program development and management for companies’ go global goals. Talia is a frequent speaker at principal localization and internationalization conferences and an avid contributor at industry roundtables. Contact Talia at via LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/taliabaruch and Twitter @TaliaBaruch.

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