Everybody understands English, right? Well, they don’t. Very many people on Earth can speak (at least some) English but it doesn’t mean that you should feed them a constant flow of English content. It won’t make them your customers. People can hear your message but it takes more than that to create a true feeling of understanding. Those who live in a small country and speak some minor language know how good it feels when something is said with their own language.
If you have ever studied a second language you can see the point as well. Just look at your smart phone or other devices. How many apps do you use in that second language? If your second language is anything but English there will probably be very few foreign apps in your everyday use. However, if your second language is English then you are likely to have many foreign apps in your device − but only because there’s no localized option available. English isn’t that common if you count only people who use it as their mother tongue. Like they say, Broken English is the most used English dialect.
The developers speaking a minority language know that they need to translate the app. Otherwise the potential user base would be limited to the speakers of their language. This may be one reason why small countries like Finland have managed to create international stars to the app markets. They also have another advantage. If you have a common language with dozens or hundreds of millions of people around the world you have no idea what it feels like to find one app that speaks your language amongst all the zillions of similar apps. The Finnish developers do.
The problem with foreign apps is all about insecurity. People feel doubt if they are not completely sure whether they understood everything correctly. The risk of making a mistake and purchasing something that they don’t know how to use is real. Studies repeatedly show that people hesitate to buy from foreign language web stores. Likewise an app in a foreign language can feel distant or scary.
The goal is to make things easier for the user. Apps aren’t difficult or complicated, and people tend to learn quickly how to use them. However, the learning requires some mental commitment and time. These are costs to the user. Focusing all attention on new apps and gadgets voluntarily is something that easily gets postponed over and over again. Until they find a competitor’s localized app to fulfill the same need. Localization removes all the possible excuses. It smoothes the road and decreases the effort needed to start using the app. Often, app localization isn’t a matter of resources to the company because apps usually contain little material to localize and because modern localization tools make the work easy.
If an app works impeccably but is available only in any foreign language and if there’s another app that is slightly less finished but is localized, the ordinary user is likely choose the latter one. Of course there are always people who are confident about using many languages. Still, the majority of people prefer their own language. The competition in the app markets is so harsh that there’s always someone willing to stand out with a localized product. Can you afford to not localize?