Health Tech Startup Oura Drives Multimarket Growth Through Localization

Localization and Language Translation at Health Tech Startup Oura

At Finnish health technology company, Oura Health, localization is regarded as a revenue driver and crucial to multimarket growth. “Localization is an investment we are making in not only global growth, but also as part of our mission to enable people globally to take ownership of their personal health,” said Tarja Karjalainen, Localization Program Manager at Oura.

Oura Health was founded in 2013 and is headquartered in Oulu, Finland, with offices in Helsinki, and San Francisco. The company is best known for its flagship product, Oura Ring, a wearable smart ring that delivers personalized sleep and overall health insights. Worn on any finger, the ring works in tandem with a mobile app that gives users daily guidance to better understand their body, improve health, and reach fitness goals.

Karjalainen was hired in April 2020 to pilot a localization project, which has since evolved into a full-fledged, company-wide program, with Finnish, Japanese, and German added to English in 2020.

Oura plans to gradually scale language support in 2021, adding more languages and expanding the reach of currently supported ones. “We are currently shipping to over 100 countries and, as part of our growth plans, we aim to strengthen our presence in those markets through localization,” Karjalainen said.

She added, “Localization is part of a cross-functional program management team in the Product organization. This cross-functionality has really been helpful as I’ve been able to assist the entire organization develop localization-friendly processes in all platforms and functions.”

Factors to Consider When Translating Content

Localization and Language Translation at Health Tech Startup Oura_in line

As Oura’s Localization Program Manager, Karjalainen serves as the single point of contact for all things localization and internationalization across all platforms: “I do everything from project management to strategic planning and vendor management. I also work with different functions in our company to create processes for content and internationalization.”

“Language support is also about accessibility and inclusivity”

Karjalainen told Slator, “I’m a one-person team at this point, but the internal team will grow as we scale. Different localization project management roles are the first ones we’ll see, for sure, internally.”

She said Oura is in the process of “building a centralized loc team spread between Finland and the US” (Karjalainen sits in Finland), and their “well-functioning, remote-work culture” allows this.

At present, they work with a single localization vendor and “all translation work is freelance-based,” Karjalainen said, adding, “I like to think of my partner and freelancers as part of my team. We talk on Slack every day. It really feels like I have a big team instead of just being on my own.”

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Karjalainen described the factors that go into Oura’s decision-making process around localization.

Which content to translate

  • App content – Localized “first and in full as this has the most value to our users. The Oura app is very content-heavy — we help our users interpret their data in a helpful, human-readable way. So the app has a lot more content than your average health app.”
  • Help content – Biggest demand in terms of pure volume, but not everything is necessarily localized for each market. “We look at user behavior to establish where the most pressing needs for localization are, and what content is relevant in which market.”

“We don’t use machine translation (MT) for customer-facing content. We don’t find that useful due to the nature of our content. But we use MT for some internal processes…”

How to handle translation

  • Automated but not fully – “We don’t use machine translation (MT) for customer-facing content. We don’t find that useful due to the nature of our content. But we use MT for some internal processes where it makes sense for us, such as understanding customer feedback when it comes in languages we don’t understand in-house.”
  • Many iterations – “Our content goes through a lot of iteration for source and target languages. Our tonality is very important to us, so we do a lot of testing to get it right. We use integrations to help us centralize localization technology as much as we can to eliminate unnecessary file back-and-forth between different systems. For instance, our design teams can push content for localization straight out of their own design tools, which is greatly beneficial for everyone.”
  • CAT & TMS – Oura uses Lokalise for both translation productivity and management.

“We don’t really look at translated words as a KPI. At this stage, when we’re building localization from ground up, we focus more on looking at the impact.”

What to consider when adding a new language

  • Market opportunities – “When adding new languages we look for markets where there are opportunities to grow and where localization would make a difference. From there, we establish the level of localized support and investment per market.”
  • Customer satisfaction – CSAT is important, Karjalainen said, because they want to provide an excellent user experience no matter where that user happens to be. “Language support is also about accessibility and inclusivity, and we want to be accessible to our users around the world and help them take ownership of their own health.”

As for Oura’s translation volumes, Karjalainen said, “We don’t really look at translated words as a KPI. At this stage, when we’re building localization from ground up, we focus more on looking at the impact. But as we start focusing more on growth we will definitely see an increase in volumes, especially from our marketing functions.”

According to Karjalainen, 2021 will definitely see the addition of more supported languages. “We have only just started on our localization journey and look forward to making our product accessible to more people around the world,” she said.

Images: Oura Ring, dock, and mobile app; courtesy of Oura Health