Here’s a thought experiment to test if your organization is ready for the future of localization. When you think about your customer and employee experience (CX and EX), do you think about what it’s like in each of their languages? Or do you unconsciously assume a monolingual experience? If we’re honest, many of us, especially in the US, don’t consider CX/EX in other languages as equally important. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard marketing leaders describe localization as a “necessary evil.”

That perception is dangerously outdated. Leaders who cling to it are opening the door to competition from providers that treat localization as an investment in growth.

To benchmark localization in B2B, Forrester conducted a public survey and also interviewed 20 localization service providers (LSPs), LSP customers, and vendors with customers who perform localization in their platforms (e.g., content management systems). Five lessons emerged:

  • Great customer experience requires localization. Localization means making experiences appropriate for a locale: language, plus elements such as currency, culture, and information. It’s core to becoming a trusted brand, and B2B orgs are notably out of sync with audience perceptions on this. The most dramatic result from Forrester’s Q4 2021 Future Of Localization Survey was this: Employees who use a different language than that used at headquarters rated localization as much more important for customer centricity, market access, and competitive advantage, by an average of 21 percentage points. This is a huge blind spot.
  • Customer expectations will disrupt B2B localization. Now that we’re all online all the time, have you noticed how easy it is to get fast, free translations? That affects us in B2B, whether we want it to or not. Among B2B buyers in our survey, 75% said it was important or very important to have sales materials in their language, and 67% wanted a localized website. If we don’t provide localized content, then buyers will use those free tools — and those tools know nothing about our brand voice or quality standards.
  • Organizations that treat localization as a tactical afterthought will fall behind. Those of us who still have decentralized localization without a modern, integrated tech stack and skilled leadership need to get with the program. That traditional model is insanely expensive and slow. It cannot scale, and it cannot be agile in any sense of the word. In our survey, only 38% of respondents reported that their HQ and regional offices are aligned on localization strategy, ownership, and execution.
  • Localization will become technology-driven, connected, and ubiquitous. Localization technology has exploded. Over 700 tools are available for translation workflow management, software and audio-visual localization, machine translation, speech recognition, interpretation, quality management, integrations, and platforms. Organizations that invest in future fit localization — people, process, technology — report enormous ROI: massively expanded capacity and speed, simplified workflows, and higher customer engagement and market penetration.
  • Future-ready localization strategy is pragmatic and outcome-driven. Highly successful localization leaders interviewed for this study share several characteristics. First, they incorporate localization into planning and production, recognizing that the same investments that improve localized content and software also improve overall efficiency, scalability, and effectiveness. Second, they assess localization quality in terms of whether it drives desired behaviors — higher registrations, lower support costs, higher conversions — instead of on subjective quality judgments. Third, they break silos and treat localization as an enterprise-level function.

Forrester clients who want to learn more about the future of localization and the results of this study can read the full report here.