3 Ways Software Is Fueling Localized Marketing at Scale

By Ian Woolley

Some translation experts describe the mission of translation as restoring the Tower of Babel: All the peoples of the world speaking in one tongue without cultural differences to constrain communication. Machine translation and automation appear to bring organizations closer to this reality. Plug all a company's communications into a translation engine, and a company can speak to everyone around the world in their own language.

In a sense, though, advances in machine translation are producing the opposite effect: empowering organizations to speak to customers around the world not in one universal language but in their own languages. In other words, superior translation fosters a much more localized and culturally sensitive user experience.

But just how are companies using faster and more accurate translation to localize marketing communications? And what's the business impact of localization at scale?

The software-powered shift to localization is happening in three ways: companies are using machines to translate more strategically at scale, adopting a vendor-agnostic approach, and repositioning localization as a marketing imperative and strategic growth driver, not a tactical feature of product rollout.

Using Machines to Translate More Strategically at Scale

In the early days of translation and localization services, companies would fork over reams of product pages or legal documents and ask a language service provider to translate them into a target language. Nowadays, machines allow companies to leave especially complex or sensitive content for human translators while using automation to translate less sensitive material at scale.

Consider a consumer-facing company like a reviews site that has a great deal of digital assets to translate. If they hire humans to translate every single review, the time and cost required to do so will be immense due to the sheer volume of content, its granularity, and the vast number of languages. With machines, they can translate reviews at scale, accepting some degree of imprecision because reviews are effective as long as readers can grasp their gist.

Meanwhile, the review site can hire a language service provider (LSP) to tackle those elements of their business that require very high accuracy (like their website or legal documents). This way, the company will translate far more of their materials and user-generated content while avoiding risky imprecision for high-value content items.

Adopting a Vendor-Agnostic Approach

Once, companies requiring translation services might have depended on a single LSP, who would manage the entire translation process across languages and content types. This would be relatively expensive, as well as time-consuming and would not position the client to take advantage of different localization agencies' strengths.

Now, technology is allowing companies to adopt a vendor-agnostic approach managed and enabled by software. For example, the company might hire its own internal linguist teams for high-value niche content, an LSP for Spanish because Spain is a high-value market, and an additional agency that specializes in legal work. This added flexibility is critical for organizations that want to retain control of their most valuable content.

With a vendor-agnostic approach, companies get the flexibility to hire a mix of internal resources and translation firms with different strengths to capitalize on the unique selling points of each. This modular strategy leads to faster, more adaptable, and higher-quality translation — and equips clients to localize content internationally at scale while maintaining control of their assets.

Leveraging Localization as a Growth Driver

With the ability to localize content wider, faster, and cheaper, companies are no longer viewing localization as a necessary evil of the product development process. They are adopting it as a strategic growth driver and marketing differentiator. The company that can speak to each of its customers worldwide in their native language has an edge over a rival that is forcing everyone to use its product or services in English.

Faster and more scalable localization leads to cost savings, higher ROI on translation services, greater speed to market, and enhanced ability to forecast and control translation costs. For the individuals who hire translation services, it can lead to growth-driven promotions — where translation contracts once might have been viewed as a chore.

As localization shifts from a product necessity and an afterthought to a marketing strategy lever, its importance will climb within organizations. Translation at scale isn't something for last-minute tactical to-do lists; it's the edge that can propel one company into new markets while its competitors are struggling to gain traction there. Localized marketing, then, isn't just an obligation for localization managers. It's an opportunity for the C-suite.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Ian Woolley is CRO at Phrase.