3 Tips to Prepare for the Future of Localization

April 20, 2022

When organizations attempt to go global and bring their products and services to customers around the world, they turn to localization. Localization is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular region and it’s the backbone of a go-to-market strategy for a business that is expanding into a new region for the first time.

In today’s globally connected world, localization is evolving faster than ever. Soon, localization will encompass more than just product or service adaptation — it will cover everything a business needs to do to be successful in a new market.

We call this holistic evolution of localization Language Operations (LangOps). LangOps is a new approach that uses technology to power an organization’s entire language strategy — from localizing products to translating customer support conversations, marketing materials, and so much more. This unified approach allows organizations to onboard new markets in a systematic way, with an organization-wide standard for quality. It is a repeatable process that saves time as the organization expands to even more markets, and uses defined ownership of duties to ensure this process is executed properly every time. 

LangOps can be the future of localization and there are a few things businesses need to do to prepare for this new world. 

1. Embrace artificial intelligence (AI)

LangOps relies on technology to elevate an organization’s language strategy, without draining valuable resources like time and money. Specifically, AI-powered technology. AI-powered tools allow members of any department within an organization to become instantly multilingual. Consider the customer support team, for example. Your organization may serve a global customer base, but that doesn’t mean your customer service team employs agents that speak every language your customers do. With AI-powered tools like Unbabel, support agents can instantly translate customer responses into that customer’s native language. 

The best part? Unbabel’s AI-powered tools operate with “humans in the loop,” which is essentially a system of checks and balances that gut checks every translation with real native speakers to account for cultural nuance and update text accordingly. 

The technologies used to execute LangOps are also meant to be applicable throughout the entire organization, which is essential to promote quality and consistency. This is a major difference between localization as we know it and the LangOps of the future. Localization is a targeted strategy to introduce products or services to a new market. LangOps technology is meant to aid in everything from translating marketing messages into new languages, to translating customer support interactions, allowing employees within organizations to properly communicate with their counterparts around the world, and localizing products themselves based on market preferences and norms.

LangOps technology can be thought of as a centralized resource for all information needed about a new market. With this centralized resource, each department can ensure that the same translated text and cultural considerations are used across the organization. For brands, this means your customers get a consistent high-quality experience whether they are researching your product, making a purchase, or interacting with a support team.

2. Hire the right team to manage LangOps

To prepare for the future of localization, global organizations need to make sure they have the right team members in place to execute a LangOps strategy. Successful LangOps professionals must be proficient in language and technology, in order to properly implement and use the AI tools mentioned above.

Localization efforts of the past have typically relied on language professionals who specialize in translations first and foremost. Now, translators need to act as native speakers, editors, and teachers who guide AI and machine translation tools to meet their level of expertise (and integrate important cultural nuances that oftentimes are only understood by humans). They must also be proficient in analyzing data to ensure these tools are performing at a high level. 

In addition to this group of professionals, a strong LangOps leader is also needed. A LangOps leader orchestrates organization-wide efforts. Their expertise is in language, but they also understand key operational considerations like how to evaluate and onboard new tools, implement processes to ensure each department follows LangOps protocols, and train employees to adopt this new set of procedures. Strong leadership is key to a successful LangOps strategy.

3. Prepare to avoid missteps in localization

LangOps allows organizations to supercharge efforts to break into new markets. But when you expand at a rapid pace — and if you rely heavily on technology to do so — it’s easy to overlook mistakes. The biggest mistake that many companies make is their lack of consideration for diversity and cultural differences. In a recent survey of global customers, we found that 52% of respondents said poor quality translations are an issue when engaging with localized customer experiences. These poor-quality translations may use slang terms improperly, miss cultural nuances, feature imagery or language that is stereotypical and offensive, or worse. 

This is a huge problem. Our survey data also showed that these issues will severely affect a brand’s reputation and the likelihood that customers will buy from them. Organizations must proactively address these issues before they seep into their LangOps strategy accidentally through ill-trained machines that develop dangerous biases. Again, this is where a human-in-the-loop approach to technology integrations is key. An AI-powered, human-in-the-loop approach to localization allows an organization to benefit from the speed and efficiency of AI, and the sensitivity and cultural awareness of native language speakers. 

As localization evolves, expectations from customers around the world will only get higher. Match the level of quality they expect by strategically integrating the power of humans and the power of technology. 

The future is now

We’re already in the midst of undergoing this change to the process of localization as we know it. Driven by the advancement of AI translation technology and the ever-changing (and growing) expectations of global customers, LangOps can become a top priority for global leaders. In fact, 94% of decision-makers in customer service agree that LangOps could be extremely or very important for their organization’s global market strategy. At Unbabel, we’ve already proven the case for this approach with tools that allow customer support teams to scale rapidly and address the needs of customers that speak dozens of different languages. And with our recent acquisition of Lingo24, we’ve expanded that use case to address marketing content in a variety of formats. 

Don’t wait. Prepare your organization for the future of localization today so you can address all of your customers’ needs at once when you expand to new markets. 

Ready to embrace the future? Get a demo of Unbabel today.

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Content Team

Unbabel’s Content Team is responsible for showcasing Unbabel’s continuous growth and incredible pool of in-house experts. It delivers Unbabel’s unique brand across channels and produces accessible, compelling content on translation, localization, language, tech, CS, marketing, and more.