Localization is the key to unlocking the APAC market
Once, simple translation was seen as enough for brands deploying in new markets. But as customer expectations rise globally, straightforward translation won’t pass muster. Nan Su, Asia-Pacific manager at agency Croud, tells us that only true localization will help Western brands win in Asia-Pacific.
Croud suggests some methods for improving attempts at localized marketing.
Global expansion has been a priority for countless North American and European brands since the pandemic hit. Digital transformations have seen online approaches altered and improved. And with forecasts predicting the Asia-Pacific (APAC) market will return to leading growth in the second half of 2022, many brands are looking to the East for new opportunities.
The APAC region’s growth is expected to continue into 2023. So how can brands tap into this lucrative market? The first step is to develop localized campaigns that speak to these audiences with relevance.
Croud’s International Localization Report surveyed 1,600 consumers across China, Japan, France and Germany. The report found that brands risk alienating audiences if they don’t get their strategy right from day one. You only make a first impression once. Misinterpreting a colloquialism or failing to abide by cultural traditions could be a costly mistake.
So, what are the pitfalls brands need to be wary of - and how can they successfully curate localized campaigns?
Be a chameleon
APAC consumers cannot be grouped under a single umbrella persona.
Different countries have different cultural expectations, which can vary wildly from region to region. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be applied to all global operations. To communicate effectively, brands must adapt to these differences.
Localization campaigns must factor various elements into the equation, including cultural nuances, beliefs, sensitivities, and colloquialisms and idioms.
Tactics that work successfully in a European environment aren’t guaranteed to provide the same results when applied to APAC audiences. Our research found that French and German consumers prioritize correct links to social accounts and local imagery. Chinese and Japanese audiences, in comparison, place more emphasis on website loading speeds and native currency usage.
The latter is particularly pertinent to Chinese consumers. 31% of survey respondents conceded that they would be less likely to purchase products from a brand using the wrong currency. Being meticulous with the finer details is paramount.
Japan’s primary concerns revolve around inaccurate cultural references. 48% of respondents said that culturally-negligent content would cause them to have a negative perception of the brand, and would harm trust levels. Localized content can prevent this.
Brands can leverage these insights into positive actions. Google Translate has its value: helping tourists translate simple words and phrases. But it should be used in a limited capacity within a business environment. Translating entire web pages and e-commerce sites could lead to subtle cultural nuances being missed.
These are all steps that brands can take care of in-house. But there’s also help that can be found further afield.
The power of partnerships
Eastern expansion requires a comprehensive understanding of the audience. This can be achieved through strategic partnerships.
Key opinion leaders (KOLs) are a unique type of influencer group. They already have large follower bases, and are APAC market natives. Brands can develop relationships with these individuals to rapidly increase brand recognition during their early expansion efforts.
Brands should also consider the impact of customer testimonials. These reviews are instrumental in successful localization strategies. 51% of Chinese respondents and 41% of Japanese respondents felt testimonials from their local market were important. Compare this to France and Germany’s responses: 38% and 36% respectively.
Leveraging these insights into actionable improvements is essential. Tailoring the strategy to resonate with the APAC audience, rather than using the methods that worked with your local consumers, will allow you to seamlessly break into the new target market.
Do your homework
The APAC market doesn’t sit behind an impenetrable wall, off-limits to North American and European brands. But it does require an appreciation of the unique cultures of your target countries. Researching consumer expectations and behaviors (as well as specific cultural nuances) offers the perfect platform for successful expansion.
Brands that develop localized campaigns and modify their behavior and operations accordingly are poised to succeed. This is an ongoing process; markets are constantly shifting and you must adapt to these changes. Producing localized content and forging partnerships with KOLs is vital to a fruitful trip to Asia-Pacific.
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