Recommerce Revolution: Can Your Translation Strategy Keep Up?

September 22, 2022

“Recommerce” — the reselling of previously-owned products through online marketplaces — is not new. But today, this familiar concept, pioneered by online shopping stalwarts eBay and Craigslist, is experiencing rapid growth. 

The recommerce market grew twice as fast as the wider retail market in 2021, and is expected to reach $178 billion in 2022 and $289 billion by 2027.

Current recommerce marketplaces are a mix of the old guard — eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace — and startup recommerce-only brands such as thredUp (clothing), Depop (clothing and accessories), Hewi London (luxury ecommerce), Vestiaire Collective (designer fashion), Poshmark (apparel, decor and beauty) The RealReal (Authenticated Luxury Consignment), CompAsia (electronics), and Catawiki (special items and collectibles), to name a few.

Traditional retailers have also developed recommerce platforms: Target, Amazon, Apple, and other big-name retailers are servicing the growing number of eco-conscious consumers — among which younger consumers are leading the charge — by allowing online shoppers to resell used products for credit or discounts, or trade-in and buy-back. In fact, 3 out of 4 Gen Z consumers prioritize sustainability over brand name when it comes to making a purchase, and are even willing to spend an additional 10% more for eco-friendly products. 

Not only does this open a new, growing revenue source — 81% of first-time thrifters plan to spend the same amount or more on secondhand in the next 5 years — but it also helps companies retain some measure of control, from product authenticity to their customer base metrics.

Crucially, the recommerce revolution gives customers a way to reduce their consumption footprint, goes someway to diverting £140 million worth of clothing annually from landfill, and helps brands be truly sustainable. For many, recommerce is set into their sustainability objectives: FarFetch has set circular economy goals by 2030, and have already launched a pre-loved initiative FarFetch second life. Renowned sustainable brand Patagonia has taken this business model a step further: Recently, its CEO handed the company over to a trust in an attempt to tackle the climate crisis.

While the recommerce boom answers customer demands and offers business opportunities, it also creates new challenges. For instance, the translation and localization of recommerce content for multiple languages — a necessity in Europe, China, and any multilingual region — is rife with pain points that are unique to the resale industry.

Here, we’ll discuss the growing pains of translating recommerce content in a booming industry and how brands can deliver translated recommerce content at the speed, scale, and quality the market demands.

Recommerce time pressures and huge content volume

Most brands in the recommerce space are using translation services as part of their marketing strategy. Translation solutions may include human translators, generic machine translation tools such as Google Translate, or some combination. 

But, what works for online retailers will likely not deliver a successful customer experience in recommerce. Why? Time pressures, content volume, and unpredictable inventory.

With their own new products, retail brands have much more control. They know when a new line of sneakers or smartphones is launching. Content is translated and localized well before products go live. 

With recommerce, on the other hand, huge volumes of clothes, electronic devices, and jewelry arrive in an unpredictable manner. Product descriptions are scribbled down and there are higher tendencies to include incorrect information. It’s difficult to categorize products that you haven’t planned for, and it takes time to ensure descriptions are accurate. All this adds up to a loss of control for recommerce brands. They can’t control product inventory and descriptions when they are peer to peer, created from people outside the organization.

There are also significant time pressures in recommerce. Product descriptions need to be checked for accuracy, and translated quickly to make products live within 24 hours, boost online sales, and ensure sellers and potential customers have a satisfying user experience.

As a result of these time pressures, translation quality, speed, and scale are essential in recommerce for brands to keep up in a fast-moving market.

Recommerce requires an end-to-end translation solution

What sort of translation can meet the needs of recommerce brands? One that relies solely on humans will fall short. People excel at checking language for quality and accuracy, but they cannot keep up and translate fast enough in multiple languages to keep pace with the sheer volume of recommerce content. 

On the other hand, a translation that depends exclusively on automation and machine translation will achieve speed and scale goals, but the quality of translations will be inconsistent. 

While recommerce content is not complex (typically just a few sentences to describe the items), product descriptions are written by everyday people, and may include mistakes or confusing language that will only get worse when translated by generic services.

Recommerce is a classic use case for a translation solution that combines man and machine. With Unbabel’s human-refined artificial intelligence, machine translation tools will keep pace with speed and scale needs by translating in near real-time. But the Unbabel platform also features a global community of skilled human editors who fine-tune translations and also feed those refinements back to the machine learning algorithm so it can continuously improve.

With Unbabel’s end-to-end solution, all translations — from marketing ads and product descriptions to customer support emails, chats, and FAQs — are part of the same system that feeds into the machine translation engine.

Unbabel can also help recommerce brands optimize and streamline their translation process. Many recommerce brands check product descriptions for accuracy, and then quickly push them live in English before they are translated. Translating content after release is inefficient and slows down the time it takes products to reach their target audience. For maximum efficiency, Unbabel completes translations of product descriptions at the same time they are approved. 

With huge volumes of recommerce content and increasing pressure to get them out to new customers quickly, recommerce brands can feel like the products they’re reselling are out of their control, add in language challenges and it can feel like it’s all unraveling. 

Let Unbabel help you take back control in your recommerce efforts with an end-to-end translation strategy that delivers fast, high-quality translations at the scale necessary for a growing market.

Unbabel’s solution combines advanced artificial intelligence with human editors, for fast, efficient, high-quality translations that get smarter over time. 

Check out a real customer success story with Catawiki, plus sign up for our free trial today to see how Unbabel’s Language Operations platform can help you streamline recommerce translations.

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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.