The continuous emergence of new technologies keeps pushing businesses from all sectors and of all sizes to change, or even reinvent, the way they operate. With the promise of simplified workflows, increased productivity and reduced costs, these “disruptive” technologies constantly evolve and bring about an ever-expanding portfolio of applications relevant to many, and perhaps to any, industries.
While a large number of companies may opt for a more cautious approach towards such new technologies, those with a more “thrill-seeking” culture appear eager to embrace disruption, not only to transform their traditional processes and workflows, but also with the aspiration that this can ultimately serve as a competitive differentiator. Living in the era of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the possibilities for businesses to set themselves apart from their competitors and reach out to new audiences and markets can be endless, and so can be the challenges, with localization being one of them.
Companies are increasingly focusing on creating a “brand experience”, one that evokes feelings and inspires consumers, and does not just depict specs and prices, and such approaches can only be effective when they “speak” in the targeted consumers’ language(s). With the average attention span being as low as 8 seconds, as recent studies show, the importance for brands to be omnichannel and reach out to different audiences in a way that is relevant and appropriate for each locale is greater than ever.
So how do all these affect the localization industry and which are this industry’s challenges when it comes to disruptive technologies? Below we take a look at applications that some of those technologies have in two business areas, those of marketing and customer service, and attempt to identify certain key points for what the future, or rather the present, holds for localization services.
Marketers around the globe are putting on their “all-things-digital” hats and combine, or radically transform, their traditional marketing campaigns with digital tools; pay-per-click (PPC), email and web banner marketing are just a few of those tools, but social media (SM) perhaps stands out as the tool with the most potential. With the number of SM users having grown on average by 21% globally – and as high as 73% and 46% in countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, respectively – in the past year (Digital in 2017 Global Overview by We Are Social), social media platforms prove to be more than just about cat videos, and so marketing campaigns are increasingly becoming “social”; they are enhanced by social media profiling techniques, channeled through a variety of social networking platforms and launched with the objective of reaching out to the world, engaging with specific audiences and achieving higher rates of conversion. Social videos become a powerful tool for raising brand awareness, while SM features like Facebook’s Marketplace boost the web presence and visibility of even the smallest businesses worldwide.
Tired of all the hassle of calling Customer Service when your credit card is not working? Quite a few banks are already using chatbots integrated within their proprietary apps to simplify communication and improve their customers’ overall experience. Chatbots are enabled by cognitive computing, what one could characterize as a “subset” of AI, and this is just one of the fintech tools that the banking sector is using for enhancing its services. Except for chatbots and their various applications in different sectors, further AI technologies, such as neural networks and machine self- and deep-learning, are also penetrating industries like those of healthcare, education and transportation (how would you feel driving next to a driverless car?), while retail adopts Augmented Reality (AR) technologies to facilitate consumers in choosing the right products for their individual needs.
Seeing how disruptive technologies are re-shaping these two business areas, it is no wonder that the client requirements for localization are shifting too. The content that the companies are creating is changing; multimedia assets are replacing lengthy texts, bringing about a “video revolution”, and thus more and more videos require subtitling or dubbing, depending on the habits of the targeted locale. Specialized Content Management Systems get into place, and thus new file formats and tool integrations are brought forward. The agile nature of digital marketing also calls for agile localization processes, stressing the need for global resource teams and “follow-the-sun” workflows. Additionally, with cloud computing being on the rise, cybersecurity and secure file exchange are more than ever critical for all businesses, rendering the standardization of related processes a high priority.
But apart from these technical aspects, the localization industry is also to undertake their clients’ biggest challenge, that of speaking to local markets in their local language. Social marketing is about conveying messages by means of an original, genuine and consistent “brand voice”, regardless of the language itself, so when it comes to going global, perhaps translation is just not enough, and so transcreation comes into play. In a company’s expansion to new, emerging markets of strong growth potential, localization partners are increasingly involved in providing their clients with cultural insights, or asked to conduct locale-specific research relevant to their branding strategies. And with time-to-market shrinking, new language solutions emerge, such as Neural Machine Translation (NMT), aspiring to address the increasing demand for fast, quality translations across all contexts, genres and formats.
These being just some of the ways the localization services are affected by the technological disruption of how businesses operate, they help illustrate that the partnerships between localization service providers and their clients are evolving and becoming broader, in an attempt to best handle and exploit the advancements and almost revolutionary changes that the new technologies render possible across all industries and market settings.