All the latest industry news from Matinée Multilingual

Matinée Multilingual – delivering outstanding value translation, voice recording and subtitling services from the UK, for over 30 years

Localise Asian Market

How to localise to an Asian market

Revised: May 2021

If you haven’t yet looked towards the rapidly growing markets in Asia, you really should. The Asia Pacific region is home to half of the world’s population and has experienced a sustained economic growth.

There’s a wealth of opportunity for British and European companies to enter. Here’s our top tips on what you need to consider to localise in an Asian market.

First, it isn’t just one market

Asia is made up of 49 countries, where people speak a multitude of languages with completely different cultures and radically different economies. So first, don’t think of it as a single market.

According to Furio Fu writing in the travel journal Sapore di Cinal, “selling to developing countries is a big challenge, too big of a challenge for most small businesses. I suggest beginning with targeting the developed parts of Asia that includes the following countries and regions”:

  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Singapore
  • Taiwan (Republic of China)
  • Hong Kong (People’s Republic of China)
  • People’s Republic of China

“China is last on the list because it is still very regulated, and especially when it comes to imports”.

localise to an Asian market - Asian Photography

Forget about competing on price, your products are worth a premium

It’s not possible to compete with suppliers in the region on price. Not only do these countries have a huge pool of cheap labour, they can also offer lower shipping costs. Asian consumers generally consider western products to be luxury, of higher quality and value them more than local brands and are willing to pay if you position it right.

Play up the British ‘kitsch’

Fly the flag. British products and services in particular are increasingly popular in Asian markets, so don’t be shy about using and evoking British traditional motifs. You might be surprised about the cache that “Made in Britain” brings.

Recent research from Barclays Corporate Banking shows that 61% of Chinese consumers are more likely to buy a product if it displays the British flag. 

Listen and watch

With the exception of the large global names, Asian consumers are far less likely to know or care about which western brands are leaders and which are brand new. Indeed, Asian companies do not generally want to buy a product or service that has come straight off a shelf in the west.

They want to see that you have adapted the product for their needs. If you get the branding and marketing on point you can punch high above your weight.

localise to an Asian market - Asian Shoppers

Make sure your web presence is up to scratch

Asians, and particularly young Asians are highly adept at buying over the Internet – the digital buyer penetration rate in China is edging on 57%. Make your product’s web pages available in the target audiences’ language(s), simplified Korean, Taiwanese and Chinese are usually the most desired. Also, make sure your website works on mobiles – most internet traffic in those regions is done on a smartphone rather than a PC.

Reaching a billion plus consumers is the next challenge, so get your products listed on the major domestic e-commerce sites such as China’s Tmall, South Korea’s Coupang or India’s OLX.

Learn to market and sell across a variety of channels

You’re likely to need to adapt your marketing strategies. What works back at home may not work in the local market. Money spent on TV, radio, print, and the internet are unlikely to give you the same returns compared to outdoor ads, mobile messaging, in-store promotions, and educational campaigns.

localise to an Asian market

Be prepared for plenty of negotiation

You also need to adapt the way you sell. Be prepared for plenty of negotiation when selling to Asia. It’s very unlikely that your first proposals will be accepted so always try to reserve sufficient margin for further price reductions at a later stage.

In the end, it’s all about relationships

This is true of all business anywhere in the world, but in Asia it’s absolutely about the relationships. Any salesperson must be prepared to be ‘friends’ with a potential customer. This is where getting a partner involved that knows the local market, the important contacts and business culture can pay dividends.

Take a look at a previous blog, “5 things to consider when selling abroad”.

If you do look to expand into Asia, above all, you should do all you can to learn about your new customers. The organisations that succeed are the ones that adapt rather than just ‘copy and paste’ what they do in their home markets. If we can help you on your journey, contact us at Matinée Multilingual to provide you with localisation options.

Perhaps you have some experience of selling in Asia that you can share, what was the most challenging and most rewarding thing? Tweet us, or post on our Facebook page, or via Linkedin.