As global markets become increasingly shaped by the emerging on-demand economy, many businesses face the challenge of delivering products and services that are fully translated, personalized and localized for multiple international target markets. In addition, the new marketplace mandates that the front doors to a business, the e-Commerce web site, must also be properly localized, not simply translated.
Marketing of content to an audience immersed in a different language, culture and value system is a risky venture at best, and can lead to disastrous and reputation-damaging results. Every year, business magazines compile lists of major brand failures that stem from inadvertent cultural faux pas and poor translations.
In 2009, for instance, HSBC Bank launched an international marketing campaign based on their new coy catchphrase “Assume Nothing.” Unfortunately, in many markets, the tag line was essentially translated as “Do Nothing” — which is what consumers ended up doing — ultimately requiring the bank to launch a new $10 million rebranding campaign and a lot of public relations backpedaling.
The global landscape is littered with similar marketing tales of woe, clearly showing that localization has always been a tricky business. To accurately translate web site copy, especially nuanced marketing language, takes a lot of effort and attention to detail — and every public incident with jargon “lost in translation” invariably results in lost sales and unimpressed consumers.
Fortunately, localization technologies are undergoing revolutionary changes. As artificial intelligence (AI) and language services converge, the process of recreating the English-language e-Commerce experience for a global audience is becoming a lot more rapid and accurate.
While AI and machine learning have long been back engine contributors to language services processing in functions like text-to-speech, this landscape is evolving. Recent developments and an onslaught of accessible global data have been the key to exponential improvement in how AI platforms handle language-related tasks, to the point of enabling an almost fully automated and pain-free localization process.
This can be particularly effective in structured environments such as e-Commerce inventory presentation and online sales workflow processes. Given the state of global connectedness and the vanishing of commercial borders, this maturation couldn’t come at a better time.
Those who are concerned AI is a job-killing menace that wields power unchecked and uncontrolled must know that the human component of language services has never been more critical, and employee talent will be needed long-term, in the foreseeable future, to train machine learning solutions the basics of reading and comprehension of English and many other languages. Human resources also will provide the crucial quality control role, reviewing and modifying machine translations, ever improving natural language processing models with authentic human understanding and feedback.
AI is already used in a wide array of translation solutions, making the localization of your web site, product and services easier, faster and better than ever before. For those looking to take their global customer outreach to the next level, here are some important tips for initiating the process.
1. Localize, don’t just translate
Too many businesses mistakenly believe that simply running their e-Commerce site through a basic translation service will be “good enough” to maintain their presence in a non-English speaking marketplace. It’s a big mistake. When a web site mangles the local market’s language, consumers lose confidence in the brand, merchandise or services instantly and take their business elsewhere. Be sure that your site is fully localized with all its content presented in both languages, and adjusted to appear idiomatically correct and stylistically appealing to the target market audience you’re hoping to reach. Remember that marketing content localization is almost always a creative process, oftentimes requiring significant changes in the translated content to factor in sociocultural characteristics of the target locale.
2. Account for local units of measurement, currency and trade regulations
Currency and prices must be all adapted to the local market. Your product description also will need to be localized: weights, measurements, clothing sizes, etc. need to conform not only to local norms but also any applicable government trade regulations. Shipping terms and limitations, local phone numbers, delivery address format, postal carrier names and accepted payment options (such as Alipay in China) must also be accounted for. Import taxes or other considerations may be applicable to goods shipped internationally.
3. Be mindful of coding and UX design elements
Customers in different markets may have grown up with different preferences when it comes to site design and user experience (UX). Color, image and layout all play important parts in making the web site visitor comfortable and ready to explore your company’s offerings. Similarly, the way your e-Commerce site is coded must conform to any character restrictions being employed by your fulfillment and product databases.
4. Expand globally/SEO locally
Search Engine Optimization content also needs to be localized based on regional search algorithm priorities. This likely means establishing new SEO practices, from keywords to content creation, based on the market you’re entering. Content may be king everywhere, but how customers find your content and how your site is promoted varies by country.
5. Ensure privacy compliance
As sensitive an issue as sales rhetoric and marketing practices are, privacy issues also vary widely by market. It’s critical that your e-Commerce site abides by the local privacy laws of the region you’re targeting, and that your business only collects data it’s legally allowed to. Failure to comply with all applicable local privacy laws may result in not only fines but bad press and, potentially, your future ability to do business there at all.
6. Be entrepreneurial but cautious
This market is evolving quickly, and new opportunities should be examined to see if they can support your strategic plans. New opportunities and online sales channels are best considered as a component of strategic business initiatives.
As AI-enabled localization tools become standard and affordable to everyone, the concerns of taking a business enterprise global start to appear less daunting. For now, even if you’re only thinking of expanding to just one new non-English market, it’s best to seek assistance from a professional language services provider, and join the growing number of companies that are localizing with great ease and success thanks to AI and machine learning technologies.
Jonas Ryberg is Vice President of Pactera EDGE Digital Globalization Solutions. He and his team provide AI-infused language services, global data curation for AI/ML and global marketing services. Ryberg has 20 years of experience in the Language Services industry in various roles, from solutioning and linguistics to sales and management, both as executive and as company founder.