Image Localization for Picture-Perfect Success

Last Updated May 19, 2021

If a picture’s worth a thousand words—localize them. Here’s how to give your e-commerce website images global impact.

According to the American psychologist Jerome Bruner, if a group of people receive information by speech, text, and images:

  • 10% remember what they hear
  • 20% remember what they read
  • 80% remember what they see

These statistics confirm the extraordinary effectiveness of images as a means of communication in online retail.

Moreover, images are ideal for global e-commerce companies because the same image will be understood by everyone in the world—right?


If an image is taking on the communication workload, its message needs to be clearly understood in each local market. And if the images on your website are not communicating a worthwhile message, they should be replaced with images that do.

So, how do you localize an image? To answer to this question, let’s first be clear what we mean by an image.

What is an Image?

The localization of images on a website is not limited to a simple picture of a product. It can also include:

  • Images used in blog posts
  • Images used in PDFs
  • Diagrams, charts, and graphs
  • Infographics
  • Icons

Even the simplest image can be used to communicate a variety of messages. An image can evoke a particular lifestyle, illustrate a point, or simply catch the viewer’s eye.

Different types of images often require particular image formats to display the image at its best. For example:

  • JPG: best for smooth variations of color, such as in natural images and photography
  • GIF: best for multi-image, basic animations. Also allow transparency (pixels being either 100% transparent or 100% opaque)
  • PNG: best for blending an image into a background, due to it being lossless (undiminishing quality) and allowing different degrees of transparency within the image

These image types play a vital role in the decision-making process when people visit a website. Ensuring this impact is optimized for different local markets around the globe is what localization is all about.

What aspects of an image need to be localized?

Targeted, localized images communicate clearly to a global market and actively demonstrate how well a business knows and understands its target audience.

Here are the top 10 factors that, if present within an image, will need to be localized.

1. Popular culture: An image that references a popular sport, movie, or type of music would lose impact in a country where that sport, movie, or type of music is not popular.

2. Religion: An image including religious symbols, such as a Christmas tree, or someone wearing, or not wearing, religious items such as a hijab, Yamaka or cross, could potentially alienate the target audience.

3. Body modesty: An image of a woman sunbathing in a bikini would suggest ‘summer’ in the US, but in some Middle Eastern cultures it would suggest ‘moral outrage’.

4. Animals: An image of a dog in Western cultures would suggest ‘man’s best friend’, but in many Muslim countries they are considered dirty and dangerous.

5. Visual metaphors: Subtle (and not so subtle) messages can be unintentionally conveyed by different cultural interpretations of the colors used or a person’s body language. After all, one country’s ‘thumbs up’ can be another country’s ‘middle finger’.

6. Text: Images, especially screenshots, contain textual elements. This text needs to be translated and adapted for local cultures just as much as the text in the body of the site’s content does.

7. Alt-text: Used to describe images, either textually for images that are blocked or orally via a screen reader for the visually impaired. Alt-text also provides a valuable opportunity for SEO.

8. Link: Images often link to another page on the site or open a pop-up window. The link and the content it leads to need to be appropriate for the local user.

9. National icons: Flags and less obvious symbols of a location, such as newspapers or road signs, will specify a location and possibly deter people from other countries.

10. Local conventions: Whether it’s the side of the road people are driving on or what they’re eating for breakfast, seemingly innocuous everyday activities can be a real geographic giveaway.

Localize Image Context to Maximize Impact

Images rarely appear in isolation. The localization process provides the perfect opportunity to take a holistic look at how an image is used within a web page.

For instance, it’s been shown that a large, high-quality image will engage the viewer’s attention before they even notice the page’s headline. Therefore, as people naturally scan a web page from top to bottom, a headline is much more likely to be read if the image is placed above it rather than below.

Likewise, images draw the viewers eye to the accompanying caption. As a result, captions are typically read by viewers before even considering whether to read the actual body of the text. The caption, therefore, is an ideal place to incorporate high-value sales and SEO messaging, localized, of course, for the different international markets.

How do I localize my images?

In any form of communication, especially that used in retail, maximizing shopper appeal is a vital pre-requisite to making the sale. The ultimate aim in e-commerce is personalization, where each individual receives a tailor-made proposition.

A Deloitte report found that: “Businesses that embrace personalization have an opportunity to create a differentiated proposition that may command a price premium, and improve consumer traffic and conversion.”

Localization is a huge step towards full personalization—and localizing your site’s images could be what sets you apart from your competition.

At Summa Linguae Technologies, we know the value of images and the role they play in bridging cultures. We understand that localized images have the power to make or break your international marketing efforts.

So, if you want your website’s images to work hard to deliver picture-perfect success in new markets around the world, contact SLT today.

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