The importance of localisation in your digital communications

Innovation and Development

The importance of localisation in your digital communications

Posted 02 February

In your communications strategy, remember that the internet is local as well as global.

At Galway Business School, you can take up a Certificate in Business Communications programme as part of the Springboard scheme, but what are the challenges for digital communications across a variety of territories?

The internet is, to put this technically, Quite Big. It also goes all round the world. And while it might surprise you that ‘only’ 59% of the world’s population are what they call ‘active internet users’, that’s still 4.6 billion people. There ought to be enough customers in that number to keep a company’s accountants happy.

But if that company’s products and services are available to consumers around the world, that does beg the question as to whether that organisation could fulfil the demand that it hopes to create. That’s a question of their logistics and business strategy. 

For a communications strategy, though, it raises some key questions about how a brand can create a digital presence which has local resonance on a global platform.

Many companies make the mistake that, when it comes to digital communications, one size, pretty much fits all. They may have country landing pages for particular markets. They may have different domains and a very similar website on a .IE site as on a or a dotcom. 

Many sites don’t bother with translation - they view English as the world’s business language and assume that, if someone wants to do business, that they will speak the lingo, or that Google will auto-translate it for them.

Others will translate for their bigger markets, in Europe perhaps, but not the ‘small’ ones (and will not ask themselves the obvious follow-up question as to why those markets remain small).

But any level of translation helps to some degree for search engine optimisation and it does no harm to pay lip service to the needs of the users, but to really integrate a brand into a new market, it takes more than mere translation.

Localising a digital product in any region is about more than changing the words (and the design templates for those languages which go right to left). A company needs to take into account not just a variety of languages, but also cultures, religions and political differences, which will require, effectively, a separate content strategy. 

That strategy may pull in content from a shared repository on a global website but will need to be considered as a separate process and even then filtered through the lens of each country in the region. A company can use geotargeting so that users in each country are sent to the correct country domain version of a site.

The importance of localising products

The importance of localising products

Even with an overlap of content requirements, a company needs to understand a country’s market to create better content which speaks to its core customers. Only then can there be a website structure and user journeys which will make sense for the user. They would need to be scoped out. 

While much of the content will be common to the platform across all boundaries, there are a number of other issues:

Government Compliance

What are the country regulations for a company, it’s product or its service. It may be there are safety regulations, a requirement to register for a licence to operate or to employ locally. In the EU, such regulations might be common across Europe, but, of course, the UK has made things more complex and it’s trickier still in other parts of the world. There is no point beginning the communications work until that is done (operational, not communications strategy again), but you also have to show that compliance in your communications work.

Religious Compliance

In certain parts of the world (the Middle East for example) there might be issues with certain products and services due to religious laws. Betting services that are illegal under Sharia law or food processing needing to be Halal. Again, operational issues need to be addressed in communication, or a project might be doomed.


The impact of culture of communications can be tricky to sport. Some cultures take a more formal approach to communications than others. The Western approach can be quite wry or ironic, but other cultures can seem rather more sincere and would take phrases at face value. That can lead to significant culture clash issues.


Terminology is often an issue in industries with a high degree of technicality and the issue of how you understand your users and their degree of sophistication in language is tricky in every territory. But there are also terminology issues in similar cultures with a shared language. Let’s assume you want to sell trousers in the US. They call them pants over there. Over here pants might be found under the trousers. Which they call pants. Even that isn’t easy.


Imagery needs to be accessible, relatable and not capable of causing offence. To take another simple example. Some countries in the Middle East might expect a woman to have her head covered in pictures. You might not agree with that, but that might not be a battle to enter, so a company which defiantly offers pictures of bare-headed blonde women, may not make inroads in their market. If the requirement for women to cover their heads (and faces) in certain countries is annoying to you, then that’s a justifiable position to take, but maybe not a commercial one.

Relevant case studies and success stories

Relatable and accessible also counts for case studies. A company in Nigeria may not find a tale of customer satisfaction from Stockholm all that relevant to them. If a company can’t find a success story in Nigeria, then it should at least find one in Africa. Customers want to feel they are not taking the first steps, they want the comfort of others.

Even with these covered off, there are number of elephant traps for the unwary which only the use of local knowledge can uncover. And that will take a process of constant refinement of the digital ‘products’, the iterative processes which all organisations go through. 

But the prize is in opening up those new markets.

At Galway Business School you can learn to deliver innovation through a Certificate in Business Communications programme as part of the Springboard scheme

Or browse all of the Springboard business courses we have available.