Dangers of Poor Japanese Localization: Risks to Performance
As a multinational company, you are capable of entering local markets with advanced technology products that outperform local products. Multinational companies also bring a wealth of international marketing and selling knowledge, and you have an extensive global team to capitalize on. These benefits give you a significant advantage over local companies who are burdened with resource, experience, and knowledge limitations, among others.
However, foreign companies also face their own unique set of challenges. You may find yourself needing to prove that your products are a good fit for Japanese buyers; that you can provide superior services for Japanese-to-Japanese buyers; or that you have a deep commitment to the Japan market.
Technology companies are particularly vulnerable to these challenges, as customers may make assumptions about the product experience from their buyer experience. A low standard of buyer experience caused by a failure of localization has a range of negative impact, including:
- Reduced trust in your brand, products, and services;
- Casts doubt on your brand’s commitment to the Japan market;
- Reduced interest and trust in your message and content;
- Increased detractors and lower loyalty of current customers;
- Underperformance of advertising campaigns;
- Correction of poor localization delays launch of advertising campaigns, websites, products, and additional costs for editing, artwork, and asset production;
- Inaccurate data and inability to make important business decisions based on what works and what doesn’t for your marketing campaigns;
- Poor feedback from users who write testimonials or comment on your social media, damaging your brand’s reputation among your audience;
- Increased customers refunds due to inaccurate product information;
- Fines for inaccurate descriptions when working in finance or health sectors, and
- Loss of credibility with partners and shareholders, endangering financial backing
Nature of Japanese Localization
A full understanding of the local context and consumer expectations is essential when trying to break into Japan, regardless of your product type or sector. This is because of several factors, but generally due to the uniqueness of Japanese culture and society.
JAPANESE IS A COMPLEX LANGUAGE
Japanese has a completely separate linguistic origin to English and is an incredibly difficult language to master. For example: many words in the English language have no direct translation – or can sometimes convey a wildly different concept – in Japanese. There are many aspects of Japanese that contribute to its complexity, including:
- The Japanese language is highly subjective, and terms and phrasing are highly context dependent, including which generation you are speaking to.
- Japanese word order is nearly the opposite of English, therefore every sentence always needs to be restructured when translating.
- There is a close link between the language and the culture of expressing politeness. You must adapt your degree of humility by using different forms of speech.
- Japanese has less flexibility when conveying meaning. In contrast to other languages where countless variations can be used to communicate single ideas, even small deviations from the correct version can lead to confusion with Japanese speakers.
- Japan has distinct formats for displaying common data like dates, time, currency, and addresses. Getting this wrong, for example, can cause a great deal of confusion for prospective customers.
BUILDING TRUST IS CRUCIAL
Japan ranks extremely low in terms of trust in business and media institutions. It is also a nation where spending marginally more on products from a well-known and recognizable brand is preferable to choosing something purely based on price alone. Most Japanese consumers will take longer to convert and building trust with them through a keen grasp of the local language and culture is one of the most important things you can do.
ACCURACY REPRESENTS QUALITY
Many have commented (including ourselves) on the ‘demanding’ nature of Japanese customers when it comes to quality. Accurately conveying your messages and avoiding translation blunders is one of the first things you can do to ensure you’re not disregarded as a low quality brand. This is true whether you’re building a website or implementing a PPC campaign. You need to ensure quality across all your customer touch points to stand out today and compete against others in your space. The Japanese expect pure perfection rather than just accurate and error-free translation.
APPROPRIATE USE OF POLITENESS
Japan has a reputation around the world for being a polite society with strict adherence to rules and social norms. With so many different styles of speech to choose from, one must be careful so as not to unknowingly insult someone in the Japanese language or for there to be a strange disconnect between your image and way of speaking or writing. For example, using polite speech (keigo) in advertisements or on your website might help make your customers feel comfortable, knowing that you respect them as a customer. On the other hand, being too formal might make your company seem stiff and outdated. It also depends on a number of variables, such as your industry or your brand’s identity.
4 Benefits of High Quality Japanese Localization
When it comes to localizing your content, there are several specific benefits of high quality services. These become evident as you start to build relationships with your customers and clients, establish a foothold in the Japanese market, and to engage with your target audience.
1 DEVELOP STRONGER RELATIONSHIPS WITH CUSTOMERS – High quality localization allows you to engage with your customers better. Native Japanese speakers know when brands converse weakly in their native tongue. Strong localization becomes evident as long-term relationships with customers develop.
2 CONVEY THE RIGHT INFORMATION – You can convey more accurate information with proper localization. Just as with any intercultural interaction, some misunderstandings may occur in the process of translation. Moreover, weak localization may lead to the detriment of your brand in Japan.
3 AVOID DAMAGE TO YOUR BRAND AND REPUTATION – The Japanese market is very sensitive to reputation. One faux pas is enough to affect sales, trustworthiness, or perceived competence. High quality localization is thus essential in establishing your brand within the local market.
4 MORE EFFECTIVE SEO AND CONTENT MARKETING – As with any SEO and content marketing campaign, strategic communication is key to engagement and, ultimately, conversion. High quality localization leads to content that is tailor-fit for the market, targeted towards a population that is sensitive to the nuances of language and culture.
Kickstart your Japanese Localization Strategy
International marketing and communication is a complex process. To operate effectively in Japan, it is important to work with native Japanese speakers experienced in bringing foreign brands and concepts to the Japan market, supporting you in effectively communicating your message to generate intent and shape preference of your new customers.
With Japanese localization best practices and partnering with professionals that adhere to strict quality control procedures, you can reduce the risks of damaging your reputation, disappointing your prospective customers, and losing precious time and money.