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Localization into Indonesian – 5 Important Things to Consider

Posted by Anne Q. on November 09, 2021.

Indonesia is well-known for its diverse languages, cultures, religions, and politics. On the one hand, this diversity attracts millions of tourists who are eager to discover the beauty of this country every year. On the other hand, it poses some challenges for international businesses in terms of language and culture barriers when planning to enter this market.

So before kicking off your Indonesian translation projects, here are 5 important things you need to acknowledge and take into consideration.

1. There are Over 700 Living Languages in Indonesia

You read it right. There are over 700 living languages being spoken in Indonesia, which are classified into 9 categories (national language, local indigenous languages, regional lingua francas, foreign/additional languages, heritage languages, languages in the religious domain, English as a lingua franca, and sign languages).

Indonesian, which is a standardised form of Malay, is the official language of Indonesia. It is estimated to be spoken by over 94% of the population and is the primary language of only 20% of the Indonesian population. Meanwhile, Javanese, one of the country’s indigenous languages, is the most common primary language, with over 30% of the population using it as their mother tongue. Sundanese, Madurese, Minangkabau, Buginese and Palembang are the next largest indigenous languages in Indonesia.

8 Regions in Indonesia

8 Regions in Indonesia

One interesting thing is that most Indonesian people speak at least two languages. One is Indonesian – the national language and the other(s) is their indigenous language(s).

The question is what languages should you choose to translate into when entering the Indonesian market? The Indonesian language is used in education, government, business, and national media in Indonesia. If you target the general audiences, then Indonesian is a safe choice. However, if you want to get closer to audiences from a specific region, then using its indigenous language will be more effective. Either way, you should always consult an Indonesian localizer or work with professional Indonesian translation providers who can give you insightful advice about your language choice.


2. It is a Mobile-First Market

Indonesia is currently the world’s fourth-largest smartphone market, trailing only China, India, and the United States. It is estimated that in 2021, the number of smartphone users in Indonesia is going to reach 199.2 million with a smartphone penetration rate of 72.07%. The figures are expected to increase steadily and reach 82.45% in the next 5 years.

Smartphone penetration rate in Indonesia-1

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The figures speak more than words. To get closer to Indonesian audiences as well as securing your chance of being successful in this market, make sure to have a user-friendly app. If you think having an app in English is enough to persuade Indonesian buyers, you are mistaken. Indonesia is actually classified as a low English proficiency country, ranked at 74 out of 100 according to the report by EF EPI 2020. That means you need to localize your app into Indonesian. And make sure that you use professional Indonesian localization services for your app. Otherwise, accuracy cannot be guaranteed.


3. If It is Cheap Enough, Indonesian Customers Will Come

It’s no secret that Indonesian people are notorious for bargain hunting. The locals are willing to sacrifice their time in order to get the best deals. For example, they can queue in line for hours just to get a discount on the latest Samsung gadget on a weekday.

Indonesians love discounts

Data from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) research shows that Indonesian shoppers actively hunt for promotions and bargains. According to the findings of this study, more than 60% of the general population enjoys looking for promotions and discounts while over 70% of the country’s affluent population claims they also enjoy seeking out deals. In fact, to attract more buyers, many smart companies entering the country choose to launch their market entry with deep discounts.


4. Indonesia is the World’s Fourth-Largest Unbanked Population

According to an Oxford Business Group report from 2020, Indonesia is the world’s fourth-largest unbanked country, with 83.1 million people without a bank account and 62.9m unbanked micro, small and medium-sized enterprises as of November 2019. That means a large number of Indonesians do not conduct online transactions.

If your business relies heavily on credit card transactions in your home market, your payment strategy in the Indonesian market must be modified to accommodate Indonesian people’s habits. Allowing for a variety of payment methods, such as cash on delivery and ATM transfers, would make it easier for customers to complete the transaction.

When it comes to e-commerce, during the pandemic, the proportion of people in Indonesia using digital or mobile wallets increased significantly to 29%. However, bank transfers and cash were still among the most popular payment methods, accounting for 23% and 15% of payments, respectively. If you run your business on e-commerce platforms, these figures will assist you in determining the best default payment option for your customers.

E-commerce payment method in Indonesia

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5. Important Indonesian Translation Details and Locale Specifics

When entering the Indonesian market which is one of the world’s most culturally and ethnically diverse countries, you need to pay close attention to many rules and locale specifics to avoid misunderstandings or confusion for Indonesian audiences. Below are some must-know Indonesian translation details we would like to share with you:

    • In Indonesia, colours are intertwined with traditions, customs, and beliefs. Colours have different meanings for different groups of people in Indonesia. They do, however, share a common understanding of colours. For example, the colours of the Indonesian flag, red and white, are considered sacred. The colours red and white represent brave and spiritual life, as well as purity.
    • Indonesian people use the metric system of measurement (kilogram, meter, etc.)
    • The date format is date-month-year.
    • There are three time zones in Indonesia (Western, Central, and Eastern Indonesian Time). In spoken Indonesian, the 12-hour format is preferred to use and adding the time indicator after it. The 24-hour time format is likely to be used in written texts.
    • The address format is the street name and house number, subdistrict, district, city, province, and postal code.


Let’s Summarize

Undoubtedly, the growing Indonesian market has countless potentials for international businesses to invest in. But opportunities also come with risks. To enhance your chance of success in this 277-million-population country, carefully researching the market and implementing smart Indonesian localization strategies are a must. We hope the 5 insights we provide in this post will help you gain more knowledge about the Indonesian market and contribute to your upcoming Indonesian translation projects.

What to read next? Check out 6 best practices for English to Indonesian translation services.

Translating your content into Indonesian can be challenging, so let GTE Localize’s experienced native Indonesian translators help you. We are based in Jakarta, Indonesia with a network of native Indonesian linguists who have at least 5 years of experience in handling Indonesian translations from numerous languages. We promise to bring you the most value-for-money Indonesian translation services in town, i.e. best quality translations at a budget-saving rate, starting from $0.06/word.

Indonesian translation services - 4 things to consider

Don’t hesitate to drop us a line. Our Indonesian localization experts will gladly give you a free consultancy and quotation.