Guest Blog by Paige O’Neill
Imagine you’re on vacation; you’re walking down a street crowded with storefronts searching for the perfect souvenir. One of the store’s signs shouts “Get your Typical Trinkets Here!” while another’s loudly displays “Traditional Toys for Sale!” which store would you choose to go into?
Walking around Prague it’s easy to find yourself in this very situation. “Typical” translates for many Russian or European tourists to mean “authentic,” but when retailers are promoting their wares to these customers they are missing the opportunity to connect with Americans who read “typical” as “predictable” or “common place.”
Whether it’s on the street or online when it comes to customer experience, global brands need to take into account a number of variables to communicate with consumers in a way that is personalized and relevant. Knowing the customer’s location, time zone, language, gender, device and preferences are all important to making the brand experience as contextual as possible. Language may seem like an obvious component to communicating with a customer appropriately; however, true language translation often goes beyond traditional translation and can be the differentiating factor in creating an exceptional customer experience.
Today there is a wide array of tools available to marketers looking to create a unique customer experience; in his recent industry analysis Scott Brinker cited 1,876 marketing technology companies competing in the crowded space. Every day there seems to be a new tool available to personalize, contextualize and better the customer experience which often leads people to forget the most important first step in global customer experience, translation. A popular example of translation gone wrong is a chain fast food brands expansion into China. When globalizing the brands signature slogan, what English speakers read as “Finger-lickin’ good” was translated to “Eat your fingers off”. Though it’s now comical, at the time no amount of personalization or contextualization alongside the phrase “Eat your fingers off” could overshadow the company’s faux pas.
Not only is having a correct translation important but there are other cultural nuances that need to be incorporated to speak your customers language. For example a global retail campaign promoting a sale on Boxing Day would be wasted on consumers in the U.S. or Latin America but is highly relevant for consumers in Canada and the U.K. Additionally; other words could make sense in translation but could have different meaning determined by spelling. Retailers selling sports equipment worldwide might sell a soccer ball in one country but a futbol in another, while it might make sense to translate futbol to football you’ve completely changed the product as well as your customer. Promoting a football to a Real Madrid fan won’t get you the same result as targeting a Patriots fan. Regional culture isn’t the only thing that you have to consider, as language is also a critical part of brands focusing on niche industries. Every industry has its own set of lingo and jargon which may not translate appropriately with machine translation technology. Brands need the ability to overcome the differences among industries in order to speak to their customers. You wouldn’t want to promote a dress suit to a lawyer looking for help with a civil suit.
Marketers are becoming more in tune with why overall customer experience is important for brand awareness but it’s critical to note that language translation as a key part of customer experience can also affect the bottom line. According to an SDL study, thirty two percent of millennial consumers in English speaking countries prefer a language other than English and 46 percent of millennials are more likely to purchase if information is in their preferred language. In the global economy, cultural borders can’t always be defined, so retailers need to be prepared to translate customer language preference to not only foster brand awareness and loyalty but to make sales.
Global retail brands are faced with multilingual customer reviews, website localization, product catalogue localization, international SEO and online support, and it’s clearly critical that they have the right language translation to help them speak their customer language. While a translation disaster could cause customer backlash, having translation and localization built into your customer experience management strategy from the onset will go a long way with your customers. At the end of the day, speaking the language of your customers pays off for the relationship and ultimately your bottom line.
Paige O’Neill is Chief Marketing Officer of SDL.