international flags hanging in an alley
'There may be global products, but there are no global people' — businesses serving a diverse audience need to keep this advice in mind PHOTO: Andrew Butler

To create content that is culturally relevant for local markets and individual customers means delivering locally relevant and engaging experiences. It requires a customer-first focus, regardless of where your customers live.

In her book, “Global Marketing and Advertising,” Marieke de Mooij writes, “(W)hen companies go global, they are production driven. They talk about products, brands, and markets, not about people. There may be global products, but there are no global people. There may be global brands, but there are no global motivations for buying those brands.”

Elements of Effective Global Content

When we talk about local markets, we're talking about people. Serving those markets is about making a brand, product, service or corporate message understood and relevant by all of your audiences — to each customer, as an individual.

This is where translation matters. Language is among a variety of variables that include other personalization elements, including buying preferences, culture, location, seasonality, cultural nuance, behavior, technology and touchpoints. Language is about being understood.

The more sophisticated brands know what content is high-touch (such as marketing or sales content) and requires cultural adaptation in addition to translation (i.e., transcreation). They also know what content, such as catalog content or user generated content, can benefit from the efficiency and cost effectiveness of greater automation in the form of machine translation. 

Global Digital Transformation

Why is speaking to your customers so relevant today?

Digital transformation is top of mind for many. A recent SAP report suggests 85 percent of surveyed leaders “say transformation efforts have increased market share” and “70 percent of leaders say that they are already seeing increased customer satisfaction.” 

According to the report, the focus of transformation is first and foremost on customer-facing functions.

One of these customer-facing functions is delivering global content. To date, many organizations still lack basic integrations between content management systems and translation management platforms. Forrester found only 29 percent of enterprises that work with a language service provider or translation management systems have a direct integrations with their web content management system, resulting in subpar manual processes for most.

Operating globally requires scale — from creating content to updating existing content and from translations to delivery across channels. The number of variables for customizing content — across channels, brands, languages and touchpoints — is so vast that truly personalized content is impossible. 

Automation is simply a requirement, and one in which we see great transformative translation technology as already benefitting global content, marketing communication, customer care and the customer experience.

Automation Increases Ability to Scale

Automation addresses many of the issues associated with global operations: whether that’s managing and launching web content that maximizes reuse, applying automated translation processes that are integrated within content management systems, or dynamically delivering targeted content across channels.

Artificial intelligence now offers the promise of highly customized content that uses data for a multifaceted customer view, enabling prediction and personalization. Our ability to harness its potential, in part lies in the quality of data available and on our ability to ensure data security.

Machine Translation Has Come a Long Way

Companies are now adopting machine translation (MT) for user generated content — with the acknowledgment that translating this influential content simply increases effectiveness when working in multiple markets. 

Machine translations have progressed from unusable to merely serviceable for limited types of content, to a highly efficient means of transforming content into multiple languages, often requiring increasingly less human editing. The technology continues to improve from its initial rules-based approach, to statistical approaches and now neural networks, based on the latest machine learning technologies.

With so much content to be translated, human translators will continue to provide linguistic expertise for high-end and premium content that requires specialized knowledge. The more advanced MT engines now enable real-time improvements to machine translation engines through direct translator feedback.

MT requires data and human input to train the translation engine. Some systems now use a deep learning architecture for translation engines that industry-specific terminology, corporate language, style and branding — learning the meaning of text, rather than associated words in a sentence.

Back to the Customer

At its foundation, the customer experience is about acquiring and keeping loyal customers through excellence in delivery — differentiating by creating new and better ways of interacting with and supporting customers. 

Sometimes, the customer gets lost in the execution: in the big plans for campaigns, in expanding markets, in the details of operationalizing strategy.

Digital transformation should simplify execution to do things better, faster and more effectively. The tools and technology used to enable the creation, management and delivery of global content needs to fit in with the processes and priorities of the organizations they serve. And for customer-centric global organizations, technology should facilitate that customer experience, personalized and market-specific, with the benefits of global scale.