As businesses expand their offerings to new regions and countries around the world, it’s imperative to have a content localization strategy to retain customers.
We know that trained customers are your best customers. Key business impact metrics like adoption, retention, and renewals trace back to the effectiveness of customer training, no matter where your customers are located. While the look and feel of the training may change from region to region, the goal of it does not.
Gaining buy-in, creating, and deploying localized Customer Education content does not have a playbook, but this post details how Jamf, a mobile device management system for Apple, implemented a content localization strategy for their Customer Education program by leveraging Skilljar’s localization functionality and other best practices.
Click here to view their presentation from Connect 2022, the premier conference for customer education and training professionals.
What is content localization?
Localization is the process of transforming or adapting content about your product or service that you have created for your primary audience into content for audiences in another country or locale. You might be thinking, “Isn’t that translation?” Although localization involves translating from one language to another, it does not encompass the entire scope.
Localizing content also needs to accommodate cultural and contextual differences from one country to the next. For example, if you create a training video with an American flag in the background for your primary United States audience, you could change the flag to a map of the world to comply with your global audience. The written training content on the screen may be the same as the primary market, but a slight tweak like this helps to localize the entire learning experience.
Content localization can also be technical. Think about CTA buttons, for example. When you translate from English to German, the text may no longer fit within the button. Adjust the backend code within your hosting software to accommodate this language change.
Localizing is not just about the words. Consider images, videos, currencies, and design formatting as you’re localizing content to create the ultimate customer experience. Adding personal touches to learning content increases customer loyalty and improves the time to value and product adoption.
Three steps to introduce content localization
As the decision maker or champion of your Customer Education program, you have probably been asked to localize your training content by a higher-up. But before you can grant their wish, it’s important to understand the full picture before tying up valuable program resources.
1. Start with the “Why”
Start by asking, “Why are we translating this content?” and “What does success look like in six or 12 months?” For some organizations, that goal might be to drive revenue and customer growth in new regions. That also means retaining customers, so be sure to factor that into the strategy as well.
Having this basic understanding will be the foundation for your localization strategy and ensure there’s alignment between your department and the rest of your executive team.
2. Show the data
In addition to asking fundamental questions, seek to understand the data behind why executives are asking you to localize content.
For example, you can ask for past and future sales performance in regions or territories where you’ve been asked to localize. Understanding the scope of regional success helps determine if that content needs to be localized and if it will be sticky for the customer.
You can also take a look at support and Customer Success ticket volume by region as another indicator of a need for localization.
3. Determine the “How”
Implementing a localization strategy doesn’t happen overnight. Continue down the path of collecting all the information you need to make this successful, including an understanding of how you can create the optimal learner experience for your customer.
Consider questions like, “Where do customers begin their journey with your product?” Is that from marketing or technical documentation inside your product? Or, how does Customer Education fit into the product experience?
Take it one step further and ask how each department across the organization talks about the customer experience. Seek alignment on these crucial touch points before ultimately communicating the help you need to get this project across the finish line.
How to create a content localization strategy for your customer education program
If you are localizing the entire company’s content, finish that process first. Once you have locked in the previous steps with the rest of your organization and localized the company’s content, you can begin localizing Customer Education content. But not before! This order of operations is critical to remember.
Approach this process in steps to make it more digestible and break the content categories into three buckets: infrastructure, text, and multimedia.
Start with your end goal
Localizing training program content is the last piece of the puzzle to creating a fully localized user experience, aka, your end goal. However, remember that localizing content is a step-by-step process.
For example, you could start by localizing fundamental courses or courses with the highest registrations. Focus on where your customers are finding the most value right now instead of tackling your course catalog as a whole. Release one piece of localized training content and iterate as you go.
Another caveat to consider is that fully localized will look different for each project. This could look like different languages for different projects or including or not including text-to-speech voiceover. Each project will have its own version of fully localized.
Set up your infrastructure
Picture this: you are a Spanish-speaking customer that has completed a training course and is finally ready to take the certification exam. Your boss has paid for the exam and it is timed. High stakes! The exam questions have been translated into Spanish, but elements of the user interface (UI) that tell you how to move through the exam haven’t been translated. You start to feel stuck and hopeless.
This is not the learning experience you want your customers to have. If you have the right infrastructure set up and in place, before customers take your exam, you can think about how to improve your experience.
A learning management system purpose-built for external training can mitigate this error. Here are two examples of how to localize the customer experience using an LMS.
- In Skilljar, customers can add and manage language packs per domain to translate the (UI). Translating the UI is a critical step for localization. This means that Skilljar admins can see the base language in English in one column, the translation provided by Skilljar in the next, and an override text column. The override text column is a great option if you use terminology that’s different from what the language pack provides.
- After configuring your language packs, take a look at the homepage user experience. How can you bring languages to different users? If you only want to surface the intended language content chosen by a user, you can reflect that experience in two ways. One way to do this is by using a language picker drop-down that’s automatically built when you add language packs. This changes the language of everything on the homepage, from text to buttons. But what about translating more than buttons? To help customers get to content in their preferred language, add filter groups via tags on published courses. You can surface this option on your homepage or specific catalog pages, for example.
Format the text translations
Once your infrastructure is in place, it’s time to think about text. Text could include objectives, key points, or additional resources housed in your course lessons.
It’s important to consider the text formatting you’re sending to localization teams to translate. Oftentimes, an Excel spreadsheet works well for such efforts. For example, you could format the spreadsheet to use a different sheet for each lesson or dictate formatting rules like consistent italics or bolded words. Whatever method you choose, make sure to pull text from all published courses and learning paths or catalog pages to cover your bases (don’t forget to include course titles!).
Organizing this process is key to eliminating potential miscommunication between teams and helps your Customer Education team easily find the translated content once it’s finished.
It’s now time to tackle multimedia translation. This is trickier than translating simple text because multimedia or audio-visual translation (AVT) can include subtitles, screen recordings, or text-to-speech voiceovers (TTS).
When creating a new course or lesson, start again by asking yourself a few questions. Will you provide subtitles only? Or will you provide full TTS voiceovers? If you know a course series consistently performs well, start there with TTS voiceovers. For the rest of your courses that need additional analytics to prove value, stick with subtitles. Be thoughtful about where you’re investing your localization team’s time and your program’s dollars.
Another question to consider is, will you modify subtitles for the best user experience or make specific requests of linguists on translation? Meaning, some languages require 40 characters but are translated to 20. Keep in mind that text expansion will create longer subtitle segments. To curb this risk, you can impose character limits for subtitle translations.
Perhaps the hardest question to answer and fulfill is, will you adapt visuals on screen? This requires a ton of time and may not be a viable option for your customer training team (or Learning Experience Designers) to rerecord several videos in different languages for one course. If this isn’t feasible, shift your focus to iterating current training videos in English and localizing those instead.
Measuring content localization success
Once the localized content is published, Customer Education teams should take time and set up a cadence to evaluate the performance of the content over time. Gather all the possible data you can, and then determine what you can get out of the data to draw conclusions of how to improve down the line.
For example, one success metric to analyze is engagement. Are customers registering and completing localized content courses? Product engagement leads to increased renewals. In order to continue building out the localized content catalog, education program owners will need to demonstrate that there is a need and a value.
Some of the data may not be quantitive. Sometimes, the feedback may be more qualitative, like customers reporting misspelled words. Whatever the case, it’s still valuable data.
Audience size is also a factor to how you measure localized content success. For example, a course in English may appear to have more completions in your LMS compared to the same course in Spanish, but the audience sizes are not the same. Consider the audience size and adjust your expectations and performance metrics when analyzing results head to head.
Ultimately, you want to ensure that your English (or primary language) content and non-English content both point to the same company KPIs. Study the historical data and performance data mentioned throughout this post to figure out if your Customer Education program maps to those KPIs. Monitoring ROI is also important to the bottom line. Localization is not cheap, from time to people to dollars, so consider this commitment against ROI to make your business case.
7 best practices for creating a content localization strategy
1. Be vocal!
Set clear delivery expectations for your stakeholders. Communicate to them the amount of time and effort a localization project can take. Or, if you want to make smaller commitments, take a crawl, walk, run approach and start by just translating text and iterate from there.
2. Always test and QA
As you’re rolling out the updated content, go back through with a fine-toothed comb to QA for any potential errors. You may find that a page hasn’t been translated or a link leads to a 404. Catch them before your customers do and notify them that you’re in the process of correcting the mistake.
3. Consider each project individually
Think about every project within your localization strategy as a separate project. For example, start text-to-speech on your most popular course series instead of across the board. Iterate on individual projects to keep timelines and expectations in check.
4. Approach each language separately
Every new language that you add to your content is a new experience. You will run into new challenges and opportunities with each of them, so be mindful of this and how it affects the customer experience as you’re adding new languages.
5. Utilize translation memory
Translation memory, or TM, is a database that stores words, phrases, and paragraphs of previously translated text. Utilizing this process saves time and money from translating over and over in the future. It ensures consistency and eliminates untranslated duplicate content.
6. Be mindful of budget
It’s exciting to think about providing a new language for a new region. But if you have little experience in that region, it might be more difficult to localize than a closer region. Be mindful of how this can eat into your budget and communicate that to stakeholders making the request.
7. Organize and partner early
Communicate with your internal and external partners as much as possible. It takes a village to create a fully localized customer experience, so lean on your external teams (localization team, LMS) for help and guidance and your internal team for support.
It’s critical to consider how the customer experience will change from region to region as you build out your Customer Education content. Content localization is about more than translating text. It’s about considering, testing, and preparing for the entire customer experience to adapt to each language. As you build out Customer Education content for new regions, keep these tips and best practices in mind to create a global learner audience.