Product Internationalization: Expanding to Global Market- Interview with Gernot Schwendtner of WeGrow
What’s product internationalization? How to effectively design and implement your internationalization strategy? How important is it for SaaS companies that are planning expansion to foreign markets?
We caught up with Gernot a few weeks ago for a chat about scaling up your business and entering new markets. You can watch the full interview below:
- Product internationalization is preparing the product for global expansion by making the design flexible and easy to adjust for different markets.
- Product globalization is a broader process and involves everything that is necessary for products to succeed globally, like marketing.
- Localization aims to make the product feel natural to potential customers in the target market.
- Translation into a different language is only a part of the localization process. People in many countries speak English but they have very different cultures. Localization takes such differences into account.
- Customers in different countries use products in unique ways and this needs to be a part of your localization strategy.
- Product internationalization prepares the ground for product localization for many new markets, not just one.
- The internationalization of your product helps you gain customers in other countries and increase income.
- Internationalized products offer a greater user experience to target users in local markets.
- Digital products designed with global expansion in mind are easier to localize and launch in a new market.
- Before you start going global, make sure you have Product-Market Fit in your original market.
- Next, research what it will take to achieve PMF in the target market.
- Running soft launches will let you test your GTM strategy and identify obstacles.
- It is easier to enter some markets than others so do your homework and choose wisely.
- Understanding the local market is essential for a successful expansion.
- To enable successful scaling abroad, you may need a dedicated local team and office.
- Having a detailed plan for your expansion means you have the right resources and clear focus at each stage.
- WeGrow can help you do the market research, raise capital and find the right talent for your team.
- Userpilot uses AI for one-click translation of user onboarding flows and can easily help with the localization of your product.
What is product internationalization?
Product internalization is the process of designing your product to make it easy to deliver to different markets and be used by customers in different geographical locations or speaking different languages.
Big players in the tech industry like Google or Meta have long recognized that product internalization is the foundation of a successful global product strategy.
Don’t mistake product internationalization with…
Internationalization is often confused with globalization, localization, and translation. Let’s have a quick look at how they are different.
Globalization is a much wider process.
It covers not only the product design but also its marketing and everything else that contributes to the product’s success. Internationalization must be a part of a successful globalization strategy.
Localization is the process of adapting the product to the needs and habits of customers in a specific location.
The translation is just one aspect of localization. Its focus is on the language only which is usually not enough to localize the product well.
While all these terms describe different processes, in practice they are closely interconnected.
Product internationalization vs product localization
Product internalization and localization go hand in hand and one is dependent on the other.
In a nutshell, product internationalization is the foundation for product localization.
The internationalization process is wider and involves researching the target market and users and preparing your product and business for operations abroad.
From a tech standpoint, it is about making the product design as flexible as possible so that it can be easily adapted to the needs of a target audience.
Localization focuses on adjusting the product to the specific local market so that it is accessible to local users and meets their unique needs.
People often mistake localization for translation, but it is much more than translating the copy. Localization involves lots more changes, for example, to take into account cultural differences.
Successful localization is very difficult when the product has not been internationalized properly. For example, translation into a new language may mean text expansion because of different string lengths, and that requires changes to the UI.
If you want to see a great example, it’s enough to have a look at McDonald’s. Their business model is very flexible and has been successfully used around the world.
Some of their core products, like fries, are the same pretty much everywhere. However, the local franchises offer different burgers to meet the needs of their customers.
That’s why you will be out of luck next time you’re after a beef burger in their Delhi restaurants.
Why you need product internationalization
The global English-speaking markets are becoming increasingly more saturated and consequently more competitive, so it is difficult for tech companies to make their mark.
Global expansion allows you to grow your client base and increase profitability but to achieve that, your product needs to be ready. You need to internationalize it.
From a business point of view, if done right, product internationalization allows you to scale easily in other countries while keeping the risks and costs down. It will also let you offer an amazing user experience and delight customers, which is the foundation of product-led growth.
From a tech standpoint, the internationalization of your product at the design stage reduces the time of localization and the implementation cycle. Single internationalized source code makes maintenance easier and allows faster product releases. What’s more, you can be sure that your product is compliant with international standards.
Product internationalization strategy
Let’s now explore how to develop your internationalization strategy.
PMF – Is your product ready?
Before you start thinking of an overseas expansion, make sure you have achieved a product-market fit in your local market.
After all, what’s the point of moving into another market if your product still isn’t established properly on the market it was designed for originally?
To start with use a PMF survey to assess your product-market fit in the current market. If you’re not there yet, put your ambitions to enter other markets on hold and iterate until you nail it on the home turf.
Once you have the PMF figured on your local market, try to identify what it looks like in the target destination.
The example of McDonald’s we mentioned before is a case in point:
“…McDonald’s. In most of the countries, they have a different recipe for a local burger or those kinds of things… we all understand that you will have a certain burger in India versus France versus Sweden or the UK…”
Run soft launches experiments
Soft launch experiments can save you a lot of money and time and increase the chances of successful entry into the new market.
Such experiments will let you test your positioning or messaging and whether your product actually meets the local needs.
For example, to get the PMF in the target location you may need to add new features, like Prowly, a Polish PR SaaS, when they first entered the American market.
When Prowly realized that their local competitors were offering media databases and this was what the American clients expected, they added that feature and that helped them achieve the PMF.
“The feature that helped us grow was a media database… That’s not something popular in Poland because the professionals rely on their own contacts rather than buying contacts from a third party. Once we added that feature, our number of conversions really started to grow.”
Chose the right market to expand
If you are only starting your expansion into other markets, aim for those that are easy to enter. Going after the low-hanging fruit increases the chances of success in the long run.
Making a list of possible markets is the start. Do you already have any customers there? If so, start by exploring these to assess their suitability for scaling.
Gernot Schwendtner believes the key is to focus your resources on one specific market.
Your concentrated efforts will render results sooner. Once you start cashing in, you can use the profits to fund expansion into new markets.
“focus also on some core markets where you can really gain traction because this will then help you to attract new funding and not spread your resources too thin and not make progress anywhere“
Understand the local market
Understanding the local market and all its nuances is essential for successful expansion.
The best way to achieve that is by enlisting local experts who have intimate knowledge of the market, the customers, and cultural norms.
This is exactly what weGrow does.
“…we have all those different nationalities on board, and then we have around 100 experts that we can pull in from different geo areas that can make you understand the local market.”
Build the organization to support that market
When you decide to enter a new market, you need to make sure you have a structure in place to support it.
There are a few calls to make here.
Do you need a dedicated team for that market, or could your existing one do the job? This depends on the size of your organization and whether you have any underutilized resources.
If you build a new team covering the market, do you need local people there or are your compatriots enough?
Having people with local knowledge could be advantageous but finding the right talent is not always easy. A blend of these can be the best course of action to start with.
Another thing to consider is opening a local office. It will definitely increase the cost but may be necessary for products or markets which require face-to-face interaction.
Finally, make sure your product is localized for the foreign market.
It may be obvious, but some products require considerable adjustments to ensure that customers from different cultural backgrounds and speaking different languages get the right user experience and feel as if the product was originally designed for them.
Have a plan: don’t skip directly to the execution part
Creating a plan and following it will help you make sure that your idea to scale up in another market is viable and that you have adequate resources to pull it off.
Planning will also help you identify the best ways to market your product. Finally, it will give you a realistic timeline and a clear idea of where to concentrate your efforts to get the best results.
How can WeGrow help you expand to global markets?
WeGrow specializes in supporting tech start-ups to realize their ambitions of fast and sustainable global growth. Here’s how.
Market and product assessment
To start with, weGrow can help you assess whether your business is actually ready for international expansion. The last thing you want is scaling your problems, so this is essential!
Next, they will help you identify the most suitable markets where your product is most likely to gain traction in the early stages of your global expansion.
After choosing these target markets, they’ll investigate how you can achieve product-market fit.
Finally, they can assist you in developing the GTM strategy and its execution.
Finding partners and local talents
Experts with a good understanding of the local market, be it the country manager, head of sales, or head of marketing, will increase the chances of your success.
Thanks to its connections all over the globe, weGrow will help you recruit the right people for your teams in the new market.
The same goes with partners.
The organizations with the right fit for your business might be hard to find if you are not familiar with the market. WeGrow will help you develop these valuable connections.
Capital and fundraising
Moving into a new market requires serious resources and this is another area where weGrow can help. Thanks to their network, they can help you secure the necessary funding from investors that are the best fit for your SaaS and have the right industry expertise.
If you are interested in how weGrow could help your business, why not get in touch?
Hit us up for a free consultation for 45 minutes and we give you feedback and work with you on your go-to-market and expansion questions. So I’m here, my colleagues are here and we’re happy to provide feedback on that.
How can Userpilot help you with product internationalization?
And the tooltip content will automatically be translated for the right users.
Here’s a quick tutorial on how you can enable localization of your flow.
For SaaS companies that want to expand their customer base and increase their revenue, scaling up globally is inevitable. Solid product internationalization will help you lay foundations for your international expansion once you decide to make the move.
If you would like to see how Userpilot can help you to gain global domination, click here to book a demo!