The Case for Localization


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The Case for Localization

ComputerWorld.com – April 7, 2011

After more than 10 years in the translation and localization services industry, I never cease to be amazed when we speak with large global organizations about their content strategies.  Companies with operations in multiple markets, including those you and I would consider to be iconic brands, often give little thought to how they choose to communicate with their customers and their employees.  Even in 2011, we still encounter the mentality of, "everyone speaks English, they will get it," when it comes to global communication strategy.

Of course, the aforementioned "strategy" is really not a plan at all; it is the corporate equivalent of an ostrich sticking its head in the sand.

So, when considering your approach to growing your market share both internationally and domestically, there are a few key statistics to consider:

  • World Internet usage and population statistics show that 1,244,449,601 people are online.  This number is 18.9 percent of the population.  Eighty percent of Internet users live outside the U.S.; approximately 70 percent of Internet users are non-English-speaking.  (Source: www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm)

  • Expected to represent more than 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2020, Hispanics today command about 11 percent of the nation's disposable income and $700 million in purchasing power. Hispanics will represent 14 percent of aggregate U.S. consumer spending growth over the next three years. (Source:www.hispaniconline.com)

And industry analyst Gilbane Group, in its 2009 study, "Multilingual Product Content: Transforming Traditional Practices into Global Content Value Chains," surveyed medium to large-sized organizations about globalization. 

The study yielded some interesting results:  

  • Eighty-nine percent said multilingual communication is an important factor in major business initiatives. Citing the importance of communications in multiple languages, a vice president of global content management at Hewlett-Packard, which does 69 percent of its business outside the United States, remarked that 90 percent of its customers buy based on information content, not on touching the product.

  • Seventy-seven percent of respondents currently translate company, product and marketing materials into 10 or more languages. Fifty percent translate content into more than 20 languages.

  • Sixty-one percent said their companies would be at considerable or extreme risk if they do nothing to improve their global content value chain.

Even if we take the objective statistics out of the equation, it is hard to argue that, anecdotally, people prefer to be communicated with in their native languages.  They are more comfortable absorbing the concepts associated with a brand, and multilingual communication has shown to be one of the most valuable means of affinity marketing to prospective and existing clients (as well as employees).

In creating this blog, I hope to share experiences, provide recommendations and best practices, and raise the awareness of why communication is best handled at the most granular level - in a language that your audience can understand.  I will touch on what I feel are the main pain points for our clients and also provide insight into varying strategies to actually deploy and maintain your translated content (with or without the help of my firm).  We will cover everything from vendor strategies to software localization to machine translation to mobile application translation, and whatever else happens to be the hot topic of the day related to global communication.   I look forward to making the journey with you.

Matt Hauser is VP of Technology for TransPerfect Translations.

 
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