Developing a SaaS product for a global audience #InsideSaaS

More and more SaaS companies are taking off the ground. Building and selling a product to a global audience has never been easier. With great tools and infrastructure around, even small teams can build a global product.

Today’s blog post covers the challenges of developing a global SaaS product and summarizes our lessons learned from going international.

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#InsideSaaS – Our journey to global success

Usersnap and LingoHub have teamed up to share the most helpful hints for taking your business to global success in this #InsideSaaS series. Thomas started with a great analysis of the role of languages in web development teams. Afterwards I shared 7 tips for going international with your website with you and Thomas summarized 6 mistakes to avoid when launching a global website. To top it off, we’re delving deeper into the topic of SaaS development.

 #1 User experience first

Most SaaS developers trust in the freemium model or offer a free trial to acquire customers. And so do we. Getting potential customers to try your product is just the first step. Afterwards it’s time for us to convince them that our product is all they’ve been looking for. The most essential part in this process is an immaculate user experience.

Hence, a barrier- and hassle-free usage and complying usability criteria are crucial. If we’re not meeting our local customers’ expectations we won’t reach the aimed conversion rate.

#2 Validate ideas and prototypes quickly

Software needs to be useful and usable.That’s the most important thing when building a SaaS product. Being useful means that a product needs to address a relevant problem and solves it. In contrast being usable refers to the usability and the ease of use, which is, as stated in the above paragraph, a main driver for success.

At LingoHub, we employ prototype validation to pinpoint critical features. Currently we are working on a solution to facilitate website and webshop translation in order to make it a one-click-process. The first step is a live demo, which will be released soon. By making this first version publicly available, we aim to achieve two goals: On the one hand we want users to experience the simplicity and ease of use of our new translation solution. On the other hand we want to collect feedback via an integrated poll where users can rank our product.

LingoHub Web Preview

#3 Release early, release often

Numerous experts say that the speed of development and the ability to reach market soon are the sticking points when developing a SaaS product. Ship it and ship it fast to grab the first mover advantage in new markets.

This approach suits us at LingoHub very well.However, holidays and breaks need to be observed before entering a market. Timing of a launch is crucial, thus, companies depending on seasonality need to consider this as well when scheduling product launch.

#4 Follow KISS (keep it simple, stupid)

There’s a principle that seems to be pretty easy to follow. Keep your SaaS product simple! When developing an interactive self service application objectives such as simplicity, clearness and how intuitively it can be used need to be considered.

However, KISS doesn’t exclusively refer to product development. Besides functionality it addresses other issues like design and customer support for example.

Our SaaS product doesn’t need to be self explanatory for us, it needs to be for our customers. They are the ones that can best verify our platform. Hence, collecting customer feedback is a big part of the development process, which leads us to #5.

#5 Collect feedback at every possible step

Data and analytics give us an insight in customer behaviour. Still, you can actually get the best answers to user experience questions form your real customers. The ultimate win from customer feedback are deep insights into what they actually think. When you are planning to take your SaaS product global feedback from users of your target market helps you to better adapt your product for specific local needs.

If you are not planning to make complex and expensive usability tests, like an eye tracking study, there are some other less time-consuming ways of collecting feedback:

  1. Survey
    This is the basics of feedback collection. After setting up a questionnaire the link can be sent to customers, Twitter followers, basically whoever you want to. There are some helpful tools like SurveyMonkey that can be used for long or complex polls. For smaller ones we prefer creating a questionnaire with Google Forms.KISS comes in here as well. Make sure your survey is short and only ask the questions you really use.
  2. Feedback tools
    There are some great tools that can be integrated into your SaaS product to streamline your feedback process. The Usersnap bag tracking and feedback tool allows customers to take screenshots and leave comments directly on a website/within your application. Misconceptions are a thing of the past!
  3. In-app support as feedback channel
    We’ve integrated Intercom in our web application for better customer interaction. It allows our users to whether send us an email or chat with us. That way we can support them anytime needed. It’s not a typical feedback channel, still customers are likely to use it for giving us feedback on the application. I’ve learned that there are other feedback channels besides the popular ones. In terms of customer feedback our support tools plays a major role. You are challenged to find a feedback tool or channel your customers love.
  4. Direct contact
    Reaching out to your customers directly comes along with the most profound feedback. Input from customers can clarify their needs and wishes. We take that very seriously and validate feedback to deduce new ideas and features from it. Customer driven development is a way to cherish our customers.

Don’t forget to send thank you emails. No matter if you receive praise or take stick, appreciate the fact that your customers spent their valuable time to participate in your survey or gave feedback via another channel.

#6 Everything in the cloud

SaaS already takes nearly 70% of the public cloud market in central and eastern Europe. Most SaaS products nowadays offer cloud-based SaaS products and so do we.

Hosting everything in the cloud comes along with some benefits making it easier to take a SaaS product global:

  • Work anywhere. Users are completely device and location independent when working with LingoHub, hence, there are no regional limits for usage.
  • Lower costs of entry. There’s no need for users to buy hardware which keeps investment at a minimum. We provide an API that performs much of the work to get LingoHub working for you.
  • Pay as you go. Subscription plans scale as teams or projects grow and make costs predictable. Thus, entry barriers are lowered or completely removed.
  • Painless upgrades. Without further payment users profit from any update that is processed.

#7 Languages are the new must-have

When planning to adapt your SaaS the question of where to move first pops up. There are more than 2,700 languages spoken worldwide. This number may sound pretty scary when you’re up to translate your product. Start small and continuously expand the range of languages you support.

For many people English still remains a barrier. The only way to remove those language barriers is to translate your SaaS product.

Good news is that by adding just 12 languages (Chinese, English, Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Korean, Arabic, Russian) your SaaS product will cover 80% of all internet users. In 2015, 25 languages have been required to reach incredible 90% of the worldwide online audience. This number will rise up to 48 languages by 2020. Hence, to translate or not to translate shouldn’t even be a question.

Unsurprisingly we’re using LingoHub to translate our SaaS product and this completes the circle. Through seamless integrations development, testing and translation works perfectly together. We’re hosting repositories on GitHub, translate with LingoHub and use Codeship for testing. Through an integration between GitHub and LingoHub translations and texts are automatically updated. Tests (and deployment) are then automatically processed by Codeship. That way we’ve spead up our process enormously.

#8 Add multiple payment options and localize prices

Prospects mostly don’t feel comfortable paying for a product in a different currency. So localizing prices is the bare minimum you should do when selling your product in various markets. Supporting US Dollar, British Pounds and Euro, we already cover the local currency of more than 700 million internet users.

Make sure to do currency localization right. In my previous article I gave you some hints for localizing currency symbols. This time the focus will be on punctuation within numbers. While 1,000 might mean one thousand in your source country (e.g. USA), your target audience (e.g Europe) is likely to be used to a different format (1.000). Thus, 1,000 might be misinterpreted as one with three zeroes as decimals.

Once you’ve reached out to a potential user and enthuse him for your product, no hurdles in the onboarding process should stop you from making the sale. Make sure your payment methods work in your target market or implement the ones prefered by your local audience. The following infographic gives you a review of preferred payment methods in different countries.

Inforgraphic - preferred payment methods

Summing it up

Developing a SaaS product for a global audience is a strategic decision. Overall, localization is an impressive driver for sales and revenue growth that shouldn’t be forgotten. At first sight taking a business global might look like a major intractable task. Start small and make incremental investments in expanding your global presence. Going global is more like a path than an obstacle course.

About the author:
Anja Obermüller is responsible for marketing at LingoHub and currently doing her master’s degree in digital business management. Connect via Xing or get in touch on Twitter.

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