International expansion is a natural step for many SaaS businesses, but there are some pitfalls to look out for.

International markets represent a major opportunity, but expansion can be complex. It requires big changes in the way you think and operate.

It’s not enough to simply translate your website into another language – global customers will have entirely different needs and expectations.

Many leaders make the same mistakes when preparing to move into international markets. As a result, the process becomes more complicated, expensive and time-consuming than it needs to be.

Want to go global in the future? Here are three of the most frequent mistakes and how to avoid them.


1. Not planning to internationalize software in advance

Internationalization is a vital step. You probably created your app in your native language, hardcoding the text. The internationalization process replaces this text with code that references a dictionary file.

It means that when the app loads for international users, the code can check which language to use and pull the correct text from the dictionary file. If you don’t go through this process, you won’t be able to translate your app properly.

It’s a major process, and something you need to do before you even start translating. Feel daunted?

There’s an easy way around it – make sure internationalization is on your roadmap for international expansion from day one. If your team is prepared to put the right foundations in place from the start, you’ll avoid unnecessary costs and delays further down the line.

Remember that you can start on the internationalization process before you decide which countries you want to target. Once the process is complete, the code won’t need to change for each new language. All you’ll need to do is add a new dictionary file.


2. Not paying attention to translation quality

If you want international users to engage with your SaaS product, it needs to feel easy and natural to use. A massive part of this user experience rests on the quality of your translation.

Translation isn’t just about changing one language to another verbatim. High quality, authentic human translation will help you to connect with your target market. Whether it’s slang or cultural references, users need to be able to relate to your messaging on a personal level.

One common mistake is to use machine translation. A machine doesn’t understand catchphrases, culture or history. Any humor or idioms put through machine translation can lead to incomprehensible or offensive results.

In short, a machine won’t create language that builds the kind of bond with users that can properly sell your app.

Even if a translation is technically correct, there are plenty of things that can get lost due to errors or differing interpretations. Term bases record common phrases and words, helping ensure consistency.

Bear in mind that software translation is complex. Find a professional translator and make sure they have relevant industry knowledge and experience before you start the project.


3. Not thinking about creating a continuous process

So you’ve prepared your app for international markets and started rolling it out to users. You’ll make updates in the future, but you’re done for now – right?

Wrong! This is a common mistake that will ultimately cause delays and bottlenecks. It’s crucial to see localization as a continuous process, rather than something that you start and finish.

Since your product is constantly evolving, you need to have highly automated processes in place. Continuous localization means your team won’t be tied to making updates on an irregular basis – a change should automatically trigger the need for a specific section to be updated.

You’ll need automated processes for things like:

  • Sending content to translators
  • Formatting translation files

These processes should be as quick as possible and directly integrate with the tools your developers already use.

Essentially, you need to make things as simple as possible for your developers. Managing translated content isn’t your developers’ responsibility and will quickly cause a bottleneck if it’s a manual process.

A streamlined system for translation management will give your team the space to focus on other projects and priorities.