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The importance of localization

3 April 2018
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The importance of localization by Barron Ernst, Chief Product Officer at Showmax

At the heart of Showmax is a determination not only to understand, but to meet the unique needs of each consumer. In my previous blog, ‘Launching your product into new markets? Here’s how’, I talked about the importance of understanding the customer and market you’re looking to enter. I suggested that understanding both comes down to one thing: research. In this post, I’m going to focus on the customer specifically. Because arguably, how can companies who have never been present in a given market truly understand local needs and preference?

I’d like to start by reiterating that although research is critical, it is not enough. Research is fruitless without the ability to learn and translate that learning into action. This is the ultimate weapon for any product, engineering or growth team.

There are a number of ways to drive better results by localizing your approach.

Get to know the locals
Recruiting locally is perhaps the most impactful thing you can do. It’s critical to have staff who know and understand the market you’re moving into, whether they be a senior executive or someone more junior. Your employees are often your most important testing ground and if they’re passionate about your product, they can offer invaluable insights into what attracted them and how it can be better shaped to fit consumer expectations.

If you can’t recruit locally, spend time immersing yourself in the market. There are few, if any substitutes to doing this, so don’t think that sitting in your hotel room will suffice. Get under the skin of how local retail is structured; how people buy products; and how they interact with media and advertising. When you visit a new country or region, walk into retail stores and see what’s on the shelves. Take photos of the stores so you can remember what you saw. You’ll often see that popular adverts and products are different to what you’d see at a similar store back home.

Second, talk to as many people as possible and about a range of topics — their computer and mobile usage, what apps they’re using and where they’re buying products. Combined with internet and market research, this is often your most effective approach. And if you can bring along sample products, marketing materials and your growth team for the trip, you’ll be rewarded with a richer understanding of your new market. The insights you gain will allow you to modify and refine your product.

In addition to structured research, talk to random people you run into. Ask your cab driver what apps or products they use or like and how they discover new things. Set up a simple testing scenario in a mall and pay out small amounts to people to discuss their mobile and internet behavior with you. Here are two great guides for doing user research in a coffee shop: The art of guerrilla usability testing and 7 step guide to guerrilla usability testing.

Adapting your model isn’t about starting from scratch
As an illustration, here are some learnings from the Showmax launch in Poland in 2017. Although we’d been highly successful in Africa, since our launch in 2015, moving into Central and Eastern Europe was a new challenge that demanded detailed and thorough market research. Our approach is hyper-local, so instead of just changing the language on our content or adding subtitles in a one-size-fits-all approach, we researched markets that had a high amount of internet bandwidth but lacked a dominant streaming provider. Furthermore, we looked for a market where there was a strong demand for local content and talented local content creators.

Also, key to our success was hiring a strong local team. We put in place an experienced group of marketing, business development, and content leaders who were key to unlocking the Polish market. It would have been nearly impossible to execute in a market like this without having hired and worked with a great local team. This meant our learning curve to understand the local market was shortened and we were able to launch with greater pace.

Although some of the above might sound obvious, an appreciation of local differences is too often overlooked. Success comes through combining local qualitative data with high-level market research, alongside a deep understanding of not only the collective regional consumer, but a consumer that reflects every walk of life within that market or area. This is, in my opinion, the best strategy. There are lots of opportunities for those who do the research; it’s then your responsibility to be creative in how to tap into the solutions.

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