I wrote in a recent post that I’m not really a fan of trying to measure the ROI of localization. Wow, did that ever hit a nerve! Some people agreed, but others argued that localization professionals should not lose sight of their attempt to find the Holy Grail. As usual, a lot of the disagreement boils down to how we understand ROI and what we really mean by it.
When I refer to ROI, I literally am referring to “return on investment,” in the sense that you invest a certain amount of money and expect to be able to measure that return also via an amount of money. Dollars in, dollars out. This is why I don’t think we should try to use ROI. It’s far too simplistic to be useful.
Salespeople bring money into a business, so it makes sense that you would have a direct correlation between the amount of money you spend on sales activities and the number of dollars generated back for the business. Marketing, while a step further removed, can still quantify how much money was spent versus how many leads were brought in and how many of them closed, and what amount of revenue they influenced.
Asking localization teams to figure out their ROI? That’s a bit like asking the finance department to compute their own ROI. Or the HR department. Or the facilities team. Or… well, any other function that is simply mission critical for doing business (if you’re international, that is).
Instead, I think it’s better to focus on impact.
The impact of localization can be measured! And that’s soooo much better than trying to figure out ROI!
To make this more concrete, here are some simple examples of how you can measure the impact of localization.
1. Localized Blog Posts
You can measure many aspects of localized blog posts, including:
- The % of traffic they are bringing to your non-English blog, as opposed to native content
- The # of leads generated from those posts
- The marketing-influenced revenue contributed thanks to these posts
2. Localized Offers
You can measure the following for localized offers:
- The % of total offers they account for out of the total number of in-language offers
- The # of downloads or qualified leads they contribute to the marketing SLA
- The marketing-influenced revenue contributed thanks to these offers
3. Localized Email Campaigns
Here, you can measure:
- The click-through rate (CTR) of the localized emails compared to non-localized campaigns
- Comparison of CTR compared with identical source language campaign
- Overall open rate of the localized emails compared to non-localized (which might or might not speak to the quality of the localization in the subject line)
4. Localized Web Sites
What you measure here will depend on how the site is being used and what’s on each page, but at a high level you can look at:
- Average value per visit of the localized site versus your source language site at any point in time as well as the percentage improvements, month over month, within each language
- Conversion rate site-wide of the localized site compared to source and other language averages, as well as the improvement within a language each month
- Bounce rate comparing the localized site to source language and other languages, as well as the historical improvements
- Average session duration – this is one of my personal favorites to help understand the quality of the full user experience and watch it improve over time as the overall site experience improves
- Interactions per visit is another thing you can look at over time to see if it’s improving and also to improve the UX if you’re noticing that it’s significantly lower for some languages
5. Localized Support Content
Figure out how you measure success for your English content. Is it in cases deflected / avoided? Decrease in help tickets? Sustaining a certain ratio? Usage of specific articles and then marking that they were able to accomplish a goal thanks to the content?
Once you know this, apply the same metric for your non-English content. One common technique is to ask “was this article helpful?” to provide a helpability score. Simply add the same question to all of your content in other languages, and compare how this content rates across languages. This is also helpful to look at on a per article basis too.
6. Localized A/B Tests
One area that is quite fun to work on to prove the value of localization is A/B testing. The level of sophistication you can apply here is pretty tied to the overall level of your company’s ability to design and execute A/B tests with speed and agility.
There are a couple of ways to think about this. With the most popular one, you can do a variant of a campaign (such as a paid ad or an email) in which you show the English version to 50% of users and 50% see a localized version. You can pretty quickly see whether localization makes an impact.
Another option is that you can test two differently localized versions, both in the other language. This can help you test out which option works best in another language, and give this feedback to your team to ensure the best translations and the reasons why they succeeded are clear and known. This can also be done for testing out product names in other languages too!
7. Localized “Before and After” Tests
Another way I like to look at the value of localized content is for campaigns that have never previously been localized, but have been sent out to similar groups of local recipients in the past and are displaying a similar success rate. Often, if you localize the campaign, then send to groups that have the same characteristics, you can measure whether or not it makes any impact. You might actually find that for markets with high English proficiency (Nordics, Benelux), it will make zero difference, but it may also depend on the type of campaign and the maturity of your database, as well as local awareness of your brand. Still, this “before and after” option can be an effective way to measure the value of something that hasn’t been localized, and then gets localized.
8. Localized Product Launches
Talk to the team in charge of the launch and figure out which metrics matter most here overall too. Is it the number of net new sign-ups? Total number of accounts upgraded or cross-sold? Weekly active teams or users of the new product? Whatever those metrics are, track them for the local launches as well. Look not just at the raw number of sign-ups, but the % of them as compared to the broader set of users you have or the TAM you are targeting, so that you can rank languages against each other.
The success you see from local markets might not actually point to the success of the localization itself, but rather, how well the local marketers did at promoting the launch (and hopefully your team played a big role in supporting that work). Or, it might indicate some other aspect related to product-market fit that is outside of the control of both the localization team and the marketing team (for example, pricing didn’t work for a given market). Still, it’s helpful to look at this on a per-language basis anyway, to raise the question of why it did or didn’t work, and get better insights for future launches. This will help get your team in the discussion of where in the process something might not be working right, so that you can help them solve it, thereby showing… impact!
9. Localized Product UI
There are many ways you can show impact from launching your Product UI in another language. One way is to launch a new language in a place where you already have a group of users who are not accustomed to having the UI in their language. You can do a “before and after” look at your data, as mentioned above. However, another way is if you use net promoter score or some other way of measuring customer happiness. After you have enough users in the new language, consider comparing them against a cohort of similar users who do not yet use the new language.
And of course, you’ll be able to look at the revenue generated and sales to users and customers who chose the new language for their UI. What you won’t be able to claim is that it had anything to do with localization, because there was a team involved in selling and marketing it too. Localization plays a part in it, but not the only part.
10. Localized Experience
How can you show the impact of the overall localized experience? This is the most important one of all! Three ways:
- Customer satisfaction survey. Either take one that already exists and cut the data by language, or create a new one and send it out. Then, measure the change every so often to see how you’re driving a better local experience for customers.
- NPS. If you already do a net promoter score survey, make sure it’s localized and measure the non-English versions as well as the % change you see for each language and country.
- Measure the gap. Do an inventory of the customer journey in English / for your home country. Then list what is missing to provide an equitable experience for local users. Once you do this, you can keep track of what’s missing, thereby making a very real impact on your local CX.
These are just general descriptions of things you can do to show the impact of localization at your company. It’s by no means a comprehensive list! In general, my guidance is to figure out which metrics matter to your stakeholders and lean into those. They will rarely guide you wrong.
What might guide you wrong is getting into a conversation where you say things like “localization brought us X$ in revenue” when your team only truly contributes part of that value to the company. It’s good to keep an eye on those metrics. Just don’t try to pretend that the “dollars in, dollars out” formula will yield very productive discussions. It’s better to focus on impact that you can measure, instead.