Not content with destroying legacy movie rental services like Blockbuster and convincing millions of people to stop paying for cable TV in the United States, in recent years Netflix has made international expansion the key to its continued success. The company operates in over 190 countries, and in 2018 international streaming produced more revenue for the company than domestic streaming. Meanwhile, the US no longer boasts the most extensive library of Netflix titles. That honour now belongs to Japan.
What’s the secret to Netflix’s global appeal, and what can other businesses learn from it? Here are five localisation strategies that have helped Netflix achieve world domination.
Localisation strategies from Netflix: Start with baby steps.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was Netflix’s global empire. As the Harvard Business Review observes, Netflix’s localisation efforts started small, with its 2010 expansion to Canada. By 2015, Netflix was operating in 50 countries. This slow start gave the company a chance to perfect its localisation procedures. By 2018, just three years later, Netflix had expanded to 190 countries.
Localisation strategies from Netflix: Be authentically local.
If you want your international expansion plans to succeed, in most cases it helps if your potential customers feel like you understand them, their needs and their cultural values. (The exception to this rule would be if foreignness is part of the appeal of your product).
Netflix understands this. That’s why they offer a mix of international content translated into local languages and local content created specifically for specific markets.
For example, in a keynote address at Content London, Erik Barmack, vice-president of international originals at Netflix said:
“In terms of programming strategy, where we are coming from is that a show has to feel true and authentic to the country it originates from. If we do a show in India it has to feel loved in that market first for it to have any strategic value for us. Sacred Games [the Hindi-language thriller that debuted on the platform in July] feels sincere and real and there’s something different our consumers are experiencing.”
How does this apply if you’re not in the streaming business? Odds are you’re using some creative content to sell your product. So, consult with local marketers. Use native-language language copywriters to transcreate marketing and advertising when necessary.
Localisation strategies from Netflix: Use the internet to overcome traditional gatekeepers.
One one hand, Netflix focuses on producing authentic local language content. On the other hand, they also help movies and TV shows bypass traditional gatekeepers (like Hollywood) to find audiences around the world. According to Barmack:
“The audience is finding shows around the world and they are not necessarily going through Hollywood. Language is neutralised by platforms like ours: we are dubbing and subtitling, we can have consistent windows around the world. Members can participate in social conversations all at the same time.
There’s a broader lesson here for businesses looking to expand into new markets. It’s never been easier for customers from around the world to discover your business. All you need is a localised website and a solid multilingual SEO strategy.
Localisation strategies from Netflix: Technology matters.
Language isn’t the only thing that matters if you want to be successful online in a new market. Companies must also take local differences in technology use into account. For example, in some markets, mobile Internet use outstrips desktop use. If a significant number of your customers are accessing your website on their mobile phones, you’d best make sure your site is optimised for it.
As it’s expanded, Netflix has made it a point to improve the user experience for mobile customers.
Localisation strategies from Netflix: Don’t let your branding get lost in translation.
One challenge Netflix faces is text expansion: As text is translated from English to other languages, it tends to expand horizontally (and sometimes vertically). This can degrade the user experience in foreign language versions of the site. Text gets cut off, calls to action are only partially visible, and the layout just looks wrong.
To address this, Netflix came up with an ingenious solution called “pseudo localisation” that allows designers to see how the text is likely to appear once it’s translated. This makes it much easier to create a design that works well in additional languages.
That said, building your own solution isn’t always the most practical choice. Fortunately, an LSP with a great web design team can fix UI and layout issues that crop up during the localisation process.
Another typical design and branding issue has to do with translating the titles of popular shows. How do you maintain the visual branding elements that make each title stand out when translating into languages that require a different script? This gallery on Behance shows how Netflix titles were redesigned to accommodate the Greek alphabet.
Here again, this demonstrates how an LSP with a multilingual typesetting and design team on staff can be a real asset to businesses expanding into new markets.
Where is your business going this year? If you’re planning to expand your international operations, our team of talented translators, copywriters, web design experts and designers stands ready to help you talk to the world. Take a look at our language services and feel free to contact us for your next project!