The global e-commerce market is expected to expand by more than $1 trillion over the next four years. As marketers focus on expansion into new markets as their strategy for growth, the savviest retailers are concentrating on their customers and working to optimize their experiences across platforms and geographies.
Having the right content in market is critical—but to be effective, it must be localized at scale. And that means it’s more important than ever for businesses to get the most out of their translation, localization, and media services. How? This article lays out the four ways you can think bigger when choosing a language-services partner, including:
- Building a strong translation memory
- Finding a partner who helps you innovate without complicating processes
- Leveraging machine learning to figure out the most optimal way to solve a task
As the pandemic continues to influence shopping behavior, the savviest global retailers are staying focused on customers — optimizing experiences across platforms and geographies.
According to a survey by Euromonitor International, the global e-commerce market is expected to expand by more than $1 trillion over the next four years, a trend accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. For example, in 2020 alone, Latin America — a region historically known to lag in e-commerce adoption — posted a 60% increase in goods sold online, Forbes reported. And with more people getting comfortable shopping via various platforms, that region and others are expected to continue their online shift.
This will undoubtedly affect global retailers across their organizations as they consider not only what products consumers will want but also how to market them effectively across multiple languages, locations and cultures.
In a recent Industry Dive survey, 40% of marketing executives reported that expanding into new markets was a key strategy for their companies in the next 12 to 18 months, while 42% said it was something they were considering. Meanwhile, research shows 70% of internet users aren’t native English speakers, and, according to Common Sense Advisory, 75% of internet users do not make important purchasing decisions unless they speak the language in which the product description is written.
Having the right content in market is critical, said Merryn Straker, chief operation officer and co-founder of Straker Translations. But to be effective, it must be localized at scale.
That’s why it’s more important than ever for businesses to get the most out of translation, localization and media services, including leveraging machine learning and AI to their fullest potential. How? The key is finding a trusted partner who can innovate and help you have impact.
The volume of content that clients need to put out in the market has grown phenomenally. But budgets haven’t necessarily [grown with it]. – MERRYN STRAKER, Chief Operation Officer & Co-founder, Straker Translations
Building a strong translation memory is essential to improving speed and cost.
Chris Reid, CEO of Stretch Creative, has seen the effect this can have. While working on product descriptions for Fortune 500 clients — in batches of 25,000 to 50,000 at a time — his team depends on solutions that achieve not only speed and scale but also accuracy.
“The way we speak about products for clients in fashion and apparel is very different from the way an industrial client might communicate about hydraulic pumps, for example,” Reid said. “Different words truly matter.”
This is where translation memory comes into play, said Indy Nagpal, Straker Translation’s chief platform officer. AI advances allow a client’s past translation history to easily influence future work.
“If a file comes in, it automatically gets analyzed,” Nagpal said. Automated systems review the copy and break it up into segments before human reviewers and validators (including a client’s own team, at their discretion) audit the content for appropriate nuance and terminology, based on localized turns of phrases or the language of a particular industry. That work then becomes part of the data the automated system will use to “learn,” making the next translation faster and more accurate, he said.
“So if a piece of content has been translated from English to Spanish in the past, the next time a similar piece of content comes around for translation, the system has the smarts built into it to figure out, ‘oh, something like this has been translated before … so let’s suggest that it be translated in this way.’ ” By leveraging machine learning, once the document gets to human review, the speed and accuracy of the translation is greatly improved, he said.
It’s something Reid sees firsthand in the work his team is producing for a client based in Canada.
“French Canadian is a very challenging language to translate,” Reid said. “So [through automation] Straker loops in all their feedback about ‘this is the tone, this is the voice.’ We have about 45 writers and editors on this project alone, and so to do this at scale, the innovation has helped get this project to the finish line without a major gap in the production schedule.”
So if a piece of content has been translated from English to Spanish in the past, the next time a similar piece of content comes around for translation, the system has the smarts built into it to figure out. – INDY NAGPAL, Chief Platform Officer, Straker Translation
Beauty of simplicity
A good translation partner should also help you innovate without complicating processes.
In the Industry Dive survey, more than half of the marketing executives who responded noted that while AI was a critical component for language services, when having content translated or localized for their markets, simplicity was still very much a pain point.
This is where connecting with existing platforms can make all the difference.
For example, Straker provides an enterprise translation API called Stingray, which enables easy automation and streamlining of the complete translation process, Nagpal said. Through Stingray, untranslated content from platforms the marketers already work with, such as Magento or Adobe Experience Manager, can easily be sent across for translation.
These connectors can also be custom-built inside a client’s existing CMS to manage and validate translated content from its native environment, feeding back into it while maintaining appropriate branding.
“So if you have Adobe Experience Manager, for example, you can just hook into our connected system without having to worry about figuring out different workflows,” Nagpal said. “It just automatically does the job.”
Dig into data
According to the Industry Dive survey, 80% of marketing executives agreed strongly or somewhat that a good translation partner provides data and insights that can help them innovate. However, almost three out of five marketing executives (59%) said they were not gaining valuable data and insights from their translation-services partners.
One way data can be a useful tool is by leveraging a language services partner’s machine learning to figure out the most optimal way to solve a task.
For example, if content is coming to Straker via an API integration, the right systems and processes must be in place to address that content at scale — without compromising speed or quality, Nagpal said.
“So, in computerspeak, it’s a problem that you need to solve, but by way of a workflow,” he said, adding that AI can drastically improve the speed at which these problems are solved.
“For example, because we have a lot of data points, we can do things like figuring out who is the best translator for a given job,” he said. This builds efficiencies into the project, he said, which can also serve as a vehicle to lower costs and speed up delivery of translated content for the client.
80% of marketing executives agreed strongly or somewhat that a good translation partner provides data and insights that can help them innovate.
This approach also helps improve accuracy, Straker said. “We have translators who specialize in particular subject matter domains,” she said. “So it’s not the same translators you would be using for human resources content versus marketing content, versus sales or technical content. … We can use our data to understand the best translators that should be working on a job.”
But data can also be used to automate translations when particular words, phrases or concepts come through the system more than once.
Nagpal has seen firsthand the effect this can have for clients.
“If a client in the past has done work with Straker, we already have a whole bunch of data and metrics we can leverage to speed up the translation process the next time around,” he said.
If a client in the past has done work with Straker, we already have a whole bunch of data and metrics we can leverage to speed up the translation process the next time around. – INDY NAGPAL, Chief Platform Officer, Straker Translation
Trust is everything
Perhaps the most important thing to optimize working with a language services provider is the ability to maintain a trusted relationship with them.
Stretch Creative’s Reid said this is not only critical but also a key factor in whom his company chooses to partner with.
“If we’re going to work with someone, and we’re going to do business with you, I want to make sure that we can trust you,” he said. “No matter what kind of project you’re working on, there are always going to be challenges. … Some [vendors] are not listening to what your pain point is. Straker listens to understand. And then, from there, we create a plan.”
Straker agreed that trust was essential in the language services business. For some projects, especially legal translations, this means adhering to strict industry standards when sourcing linguistic teams. ISO 17100, for example, is an industry standard, outlining training requirements for linguists and editorial-review practices. Straker works with its clients to ensure their projects are staffed to the level and expertise they require, taking out unnecessary manual labor through automation and smart algorithms.
“What you’re having to do is build trust in your language services provider that they can go out and source the right linguist to be doing this work and deliver for you the right service offering that you’re looking for within your price point,” she said. “We partner with our clients to have the best outcome.”
Speaking the language of the future
Straker said she could envision a future for language services with rising AI capabilities, in which machine learning and human input blend together even more seamlessly.
In her early days of building the company with her husband, they could see — even a decade ago — how machine learning was poised to disrupt the entire industry, she said.
“We actually had a firm belief that this was going to disrupt a pretty traditional industry and that it wasn’t going to replace humans, but that it was going to really be about humans and machines working together,” she said.
Nagpal shares her vision. He expects advancements in continuous delivery and natural language processing — known in the industry as the “continuous translation model” — to continue to shape language services, while helping companies optimize their own digital transformations.
“[Imagine] the ability to continuously have translations coming in. So if something gets updated, it automatically goes for translation, comes back, automatically gets published,” he said.
Think about when you used to have to call a cab. You don’t have to think about it anymore. That’s where we are heading. – INDY NAGPAL, Chief Platform Officer, Straker Translation