SaaS Localization: Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated July 7, 2021

As a SaaS company grows from startup to global conglomerate, it’s critical to adapt your product to a diverse global audience.

Eventually, more requests for localization support come in from more teams, and you begin to wonder whether localization was a good idea in the first place.

With great infrastructure and tools, you can build a global product, adapt it to foreign markets and experience explosive growth internationally no matter how complicated a project may seem.

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about SaaS localization, including localization tips we’ve picked up while working on SaaS products like Medallia and TunnelBear.

The Importance of Localizing Your SaaS Product

Even though English is commonly accepted as the language of the internet, customers greatly prefer to use products and services in their native language.

A Forrester report found that 56% of consumers care more about getting information in their own language than they do about price.

Similarly, 95% of   are more comfortable with websites in their own language.

Naturally, this extends to software too. If you’re trying to expand your horizons worldwide, localizing and translating your SaaS product to each country’s native language is a necessary step.

Software and app localization is vital to performance, so companies need to be prepared for global markets and make their presence felt in different countries.

Benefits of SaaS Localization

Let’s turn to how SaaS localization can help your business.

Eliminate language and culture barriers

Language and cultural barriers can be an obstacle between your SaaS and international users.

Localization allows you to communicate more effectively with and stay close to your customers. By translating and localizing your product, customers can have a more seamless user experience, regardless of the language they speak.

Localization not only translates the content, but also adapts it to make it easier for local audiences to take advantage of the product’s benefits.

Improve the customer experience

When done properly, localization is a great way of gaining the trust of local customers and increasing adoption in local markets. When you offer tools and support in local languages right from the start, people become confident with your product and feel they’re in good hands.

In turn, they become advocates for your product thereby increasing brand awareness and further consolidating your reputation in the local market.

Boost your reputation and competitive advantage

Localization ensures your product is credible and dependable.

Making your SaaS product available in multiple languages tells potential business partners and users you care about customers and offer a more personalized experience.

Companies that localize for local languages also enjoy a competitive advantage because you can communicate with locals more effectively and overcome cultural barriers that keep them from using your product.

Save money (and boost your revenue)

By localizing your SaaS product, you can grow your revenue exponentially. The more markets you enter into, the higher your profit margins can become.

But all of these advantages are only possible if you’re following best SaaS localization practices. Without following proper localization techniques, you could lose a ton of money in reworking translations or product design. So by using a SaaS localization service, you can save money and improve your bottom line.

Common SaaS Localization Challenges

SaaS web and app localization take investment and time. Understanding the most common product localization challenges when expanding into foreign markets will help your company prepare for the road ahead.

Here are the biggest challenges that SaaS companies can run into when localizing their product.

Software layout issues

Preparing for internationalization begins well before developing your SaaS product. However, some companies decide to expand after fully developing the product, which may come with software layout issues during translation.

For example, string length is a common issue. If you’re translating from a short language like English to a longer language like Swedish, you may suddenly find that none of your text fits within your buttons or menus.

Right-to-left text, used in Arabic for example, can also be a challenge to add later if you haven’t properly internationalized your software from the start.

Inaccurate or half-finished translation

To localize your products, translators or linguists need enough reference material and a proper workflow in place. If both are inadequate or nonexistent, translators must spend time guessing, asking questions, and waiting for answers. The result is half-finished or inaccurate translation.

Image and video localization

Localization involves translating every single resource, including videos and images.

While images can save on localization costs and make it easier to understand the product, they may contain text, which can be a pain point for translators and decelerate or hinder the SaaS translation process.

Even the simplest image can be used to communicate a variety of messages.

Image localization is key. The message being conveyed in your images needs to be clearly understood in each local market around the globe.

Finding the right localization partner

Some companies may choose to work with the cheapest, best, or even biggest localization platform. However, there’s no single localization solution that fits all companies, so what works for a large corporation may not work for a growing startup.

The localization solution you pick should be agile, fits your company’s needs, and scalable to accommodate growth.

Lack of localization agility

Every little detail, including Webhooks, chat-ops or git-ops can make a huge difference in getting and staying ahead of the competition. If you can’t cope with agile software localization release cycles, things will move slowly including organization, planning, updates, and turnaround times.

Collaboration challenges

Without open lines of communication and collaboration throughout the translation process, translators won’t do their job well, in turn affecting the overall user experience. Lack of context for translation—for example, not providing style guides or glossaries—can also hinder translators’ work.

Lack of resources

Without the right translators, translation management platform, and/or translation agency, you’ll end up with lower-quality translation. This leads to decreased engagement, lower conversions, and underperforming SEO.

Not to mention that poor-quality translation just makes your SaaS product look unprofessional.

Using manual processes

The manual localization process involves putting translatable strings into a spreadsheet and sending it to translators. Translators then have to confirm receipt of the document, edit the document manually, and send back the translated strings. Then, developers enter them manually into the CMS or code. This method has a potentially higher margin of error and isn’t time or cost efficient.

Delayed launches

Manual translation tools or processes contribute to extended or delayed launches, resulting in low-quality results that need rework before deployment.

Translators may also end up using complicated source code, making it harder to understand and translate the source language.

One mistake many SaaS companies make is localizing too late. This causes them to have to redo lots of work within the app to prepare it for internationalization and localization. This is why it’s key to localize and internationalize your app from the get-go.

SaaS Localization Tips & Best Practices

The benefits of localization are clear. Let’s now take a quick look at how to do it right with these 13 helpful tips.

1. Research localization targets beforehand (to ensure fit)

When it comes to SaaS products, localization goes beyond translation—it also includes adapting your product’s tone, color palette, personal data, and online payments.

For instance, a German customer would prefer formal communication, compared to the chatty and casual communication you’d have with US-based clients.

Similarly, while British citizens wouldn’t care as much about personal data or online payments handling, Spaniards need to know you provide all types of security, while Germans want an invoice before making any payments.

2. Consider payment options

Prospects may not be comfortable paying for a product in a foreign currency other than what they’re used to. Plus, what’s normal in one country may not be the same in another, which is why it’s essential to localize prices and payment options.

Make sure the payment methods work in the target market or you implement what the local audience prefers.

3. Use regional pricing strategies

Offering users their preferred payment method can maximize conversions, but be sure to also allow customers to pay in their local currency.

This way, they won’t get distracted and end up disrupting their purchase flow. Displaying local currencies is shopper-friendly and can reduce any confusion around your SaaS product.

It’s equally important to tailor prices to local markets using pricing strategies that reflect the economic reality and cost of selling into those markets (alongside user preferences and support needs).

International markets also come with fluctuating currency exchange rates, which may lower conversion rates if the price is higher when converted to local currency. Moreover, if pricing varies between website visits, it may create confusion and frustration for users.

Lock pricing for your targeted markets and check what exchange rate optimization techniques your provider offers.

Automated country, language, and currency selectors also ensures purchase flow efficiency and increases conversion rate. For countries whose local currency isn’t supported, offer USD or EUR alternatives.

Then, make sure pricing is consistent with the initial purchase throughout the life of a subscription. You can also experiment with odd and round numbers (for psychological marketing purposes) to drive better conversion rates.

4. Don’t place text directly on images

Images shouldn’t contain any text as it eliminates the need to translate the image. Try to separate text from graphics. If text must be associated with a graphic, create it separately to make it easier to manage localized versions.

If you can create a layer of text that can be translated and overlaid into the image, it’ll make everything more localization friendly. Leaving text in a different language tells the user the content was designed for someone in a different country speaking a different language and they’ll feel like they’re getting a lower-quality experience.

Note there are also cross-cultural differences to consider, as not all symbols and images mean the same thing across borders.

5. Ensure your database schema has international variants

Always use a full locale and be as precise as possible. Instead of using a language with the country code where it’s spoken, a full locale supports date formats, alternate spellings, and other differences between two countries sharing the same language, such as en-GB or fr-FR.

It can be tricky to do this, because it’s common that the code and database technology may support international use cases where the strings are localized but the database schema is not.

For this reason, it would be helpful to consult localization experts before you write the first line of code.

6. Make it simple to find strings

During the internationalization phase, strings must be extracted, localized, and reinserted back into the code.

The key here is to remove user-visible strings from your code and resource files. That includes titles, product names, error messages, images and another other text that might be visible to the user.

Look out for strings with modifiers and use placeholders instead of breaking strings into minute pieces that make the translators’ work difficult.

You should also avoid concatenation or batching too many strings together. This will attract localization bugs, which can be laborious to fix.

7. Don’t hardcode currency, date, and time formats

When it comes to time and date formats, there are many variations around the world. Some countries put the day or month first, others use 12-hour splits or 24-hour formats, and many prefer AM and PM.

The concept of a weekday also varies from one country to another because of different definitions of holidays and off-days.

There are also different “dollars” across the world, like those used in Canada, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan—not just the U.S.

Consider using standard formats such as UTC, ISO time, or epoch time. Libraries like Moment.js or Date.js can also convert to the right time formats for each locale.

8. Offer diverse ways of ordering names

When it comes to personal name ordering, every country in the world has a variety of possibilities. Some prefer First Name / Given Name while others prefer Last Name / Surname.

This can be confusing when translated and may not mean the same thing based on the reference country.

This may result in a database full of first or last names that in other countries are last or first names.

Instead of creating many different variants, it’s easier to have a single field for “full name”, but you’ll have to decide on what’s best based on your users’ needs.

9. Use UTF-8 as default for character encoding

UTF-8 standardizes encodings across servers and browsers.

Ideally, every layer in your stack — database and the application itself — should use the UTF-8: HTML, HTTP server. The only exception is when working with Asian languages, in which case UTF-16 is more efficient.

For most situations, UTF-8 is a good choice because it ensures users don’t see character corruption for web applications, especially where the server and browser don’t share a character encoding.

10. Allow users to select language

Some browsers let you select more than one language based on your preference, but browser language isn’t always accurate.

If possible, let users indicate their preferred country and language so you don’t have to guess.

You can always store the users’ preferences and default to it, compared to querying browser language or IP country, which are both less accurate.

11. Keep text direction in mind

Products are usually designed in a way that support only left-to-right languages. This makes it difficult to support right-to-left languages like Urdu, Arabic, Persian or Hebrew.

There are 10 different right-to-left scripts used by 32 different languages.

For this reason, it’s important to design and build your SaaS product to accommodate scripts in both directions especially if you plan to offer your product in countries that speak these languages.

12. Consider color variations to match cultures

Different colors have different meanings, and their connotations can be positive or negative depending on the culture and where you are in the world.

When designing your UI, be mindful of the colors you use, and whether it’s appropriate to display different ones based on your target markets.

As you consider color, stay true to your brand but ensure you’re not reminding people of what’s negative in their culture based on the color combination, symbols and messaging used.

13. Know the best languages to adopt

There are over 2,700 different languages spoken globally and while you may want to accommodate all users in their native languages, it may not be possible to do that.

Instead, you can start small and expand the range of supported languages continuously.

Fortunately, you can cover the majority of all internet users by adding the top 10 languages for global business.

That way, you can seamlessly integrate development, testing and translation so they can work together.

For instance, you can host repositories on GitHub, use a hosted continuous integration and deployment service for testing and translate with a translation management system.

The Bottom Line

Localizing your software can drastically increase the reach of your product. Summa Linguae Technologies builds custom SaaS localization solutions for your product’s unique needs.

We provide innovative, cost-effective software and app localization expertise to make your technology travel worldwide.

Our translation and technical localization technology enables your business to sell and support in-country and global marketing efforts throughout the world.

Contact us today if you’re in need of SaaS localization.

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