Time to See Language as an Investment and Not a Cost – Webinar Highlights

welocalize March 15, 2021

Although localization drives global growth, opinions vary as to whether investment in Localization Expenses is a cost or revenue generator, even within the same company.

Welocalize webinar, Time to See Language as an Investment (And Not a Cost), is an expert-led discussion, featuring Cristina Triviño, Marketing Localization Team Manager, Atlassian, Nancy Ferreira da Rocha, Senior Localization Program Manager, FedEx and Alison Toon, Senior Analyst at CSA Research. These experts share analysis and real-life experiences as to how to change the perception of localization within global organizations. Click here to view full recording.

The session generated so much interest and discussion, it seemed this topic struck at the very heart of what localization and translation managers are dealing with in their day-to-day activities. In addition to the webinar recording, we thought we’d share some of the key highlights from the discussion:

1. Look at the way you measure localization expenses

Using data drawn from localization expenses and activities can help to validate the value of language. Knowing whether turnaround times are being met is good from an operational perspective but doesn’t help the business case as to whether generating a global content campaign in French, Chinese, or Spanish has impacted the business and generated more revenue. Localization KPIs and metrics need to focus on the positive business outcomes of developing content in each language. You can use data to validate decisions on which languages to prioritize:

“At Atlassian, we’re starting measure localization ROI – or ROLI as we call it. An example of a measure we use in ROLI is looking at the non-English revenue and dividing by total localization spend. It’s about showing the positive business trends and returns and giving a baseline for measuring year-on-year localization performance.”

“Once you have established localization resources and teams within your organization, you can start to think about dashboard and datapoints to measure performance. We have a language prioritization framework which considers different data points to validate or reject some countries where we support localization and identify future opportunities. Some external datapoints can include GDP and English proficiency to identify the right regions for language investment.” Cristina Triviño, Marketing Localization Team Manager, Atlassian


2. Speak a language that stakeholders understand

“When we talk with localization teams about metrics, we still hear about the old measures: Cost per word, turnaround time, translation errors, match rate, translation memory and more. These metrics by themselves are pretty meaningless at the executive or the company level. You really have to translate localization and language into CEO speak: ROI (return on investment), TAM (total addressable market), CSAT (customer satisfaction), NPS (net promoter score). These are all the sort of terms that the executive level talks in.” – Alison Toon, Senior CSA Analyst, CSA Research

By connecting the dots and showing how localization programs are helping to achieve high level business objectives, you are speaking a language that executives understand.

3. Does your organization see localization expenses as a necessity or ‘nice-to-have’?

According to CSA Research 2020 report, ‘Can’t Read, Won’t Buy,’ 76% of online shoppers prefer to buy products with information in their native language and 40% will never buy from websites in other languages.

“Our business [FedEx] is global by nature and we’re present everywhere in the world and cater for people in multiple countries. Having content localized is a necessary requirement and much more than just a cost – we know we need to speak the language of our customers, wherever they are. To demonstrate the value of language strategy to key stakeholders, localization professionals need to be more data oriented and link efforts to the global business goals and objectives.” – Nancy Ferreira da Rocha, Senior Localization Program Manager, FedEx

For ambitious brands, investment in language and localization expenses must be seen as a necessity for global success.

What’s the cost of not localizing?

By dropping a language (i.e., cutting the localization expenses), this could result in loss of business as customers won’t be able to interact with the brand in their own language and will go to a competitor where they can.

4. How can existing technology enable and measure localization ROI?

Accessing meaningful data can be a key challenge for demonstrating the value of localization. Translation Management Systems (TMS) generate operational data that can be leveraged for ROI purposes and identifying areas that could be improved.

“We’re reliant on the data our translation management system (TMS) generates and as well as monitoring activities such as translation memory (TM) leverage, we can dig deeper and identify data points to help see how languages are performing to help make business decisions and where we can increase automation in the localization workflow.” – Nancy Ferreira da Rocha, Senior Localization Program Manager, FedEx

5. Make localization strategic – think about it from the start

It is important to take localization into consideration from the beginning so that it is not seen as an expensive afterthought. It’s only when you don’t think about it from the beginning that then it is perceived as a bottleneck and something that is rushed and an additional cost to the budget. If it is built into the global content, product or marketing strategy, it becomes a valuable business component that contributes to campaign performance and ultimately more revenue.

Some final key takeaways from our experts…

“Be that translator that we all are – translate how localization performs into a language that executive stakeholders understand.” – Nancy Ferreira da Rocha, Senior Localization Program Manager, FedEx

“Localization teams are almost like mini-start-ups. You need to maintain operations, make a business case for resourcing, manage partners, develop your strategy, and deliver results based on what your global business needs.” – Cristina Triviño, Marketing Localization Team Manager, Atlassian

“Don’t think you have to count everything – you don’t have to boil the ocean. Keep track of meaningful data and present it to executives in a language they understand.” – Alison Toon, Senior CSA Analyst, CSA Research

Click here to view full webinar recording.

Webinar Q+A

In the live webinar, we received a lot of thought-provoking questions, some of which we didn’t get round to answering. Here are answers to some of the questions, provided by the webinar team:

What would you say is the most useful and convincing data to present to buyers to prove the ROI of localization?

That vary companies, contents, and campaigns. What might be convincing to one global organization is not to another! At a granular level, for digital content, useful data points include total number of clicks, page impressions, conversions. For website translation, you can monitor how many new user sessions for each language and whether they go on to purchase (if it’s an e-commerce site). For more high-level data, as Cristina covered in the webinar, data such as measuring non-English revenue, by language, and dividing by total localization spend can be incredibly powerful for proving ROI. Further Reading: How Do You Measure Impact of Localized Digital Content?

What are the main criteria you consider when choosing a vendor to work with? What is the decision-making process?

There are many factors involved in choosing a Language Service Provider (LSP). These range from scope of services, scalability, cultural fit, technology/innovation, reliability, reputation, and specialization – for example, life sciences and legal organization typically need a vendor who has demonstrated experience in the industry. The selection criteria may depend on who is choosing the vendor – for example, if this is driven wholly by procurement, price and cost per word rates may be the priority. It is best to have several people involved in the decision-making process – otherwise you could end with a vendor who is cheap but produces poor quality content and has a more transactional/project-based view on the relationship rather than a long-term strategic partnership which is always best for long-term global growth. It’s important that you share core values with your LSP vendor and see them as an extension of your own teams.

How important is language quality in localization? Is “good enough” good enough? Is that maybe industry-dependent?

Quality is always a big topic of conversation in localization and there is no right or wrong level of quality. Content purpose affects how quality levels and measures are set. For example, if the content for localization is high impact marketing collateral, quality has to be high and the message consistent with other locales. For customer support or social media content, you may put that through an MT engine for gisting and the raw output may not be ‘good enough’ for publishing but is good enough for you to understand what’s being talked about. In highly regulated industries such as life sciences or legal, translated content has to be very accurate and often meet regulatory standards.

How much do you rely on TMS data versus other systems and reporting tools?

Many localization and translation programs rely wholly on data extracted from the TMS and system that are connected to it – as Nancy mentioned in the webinar. Other data sources include web analytics and performance statistics from digital marketing campaigns. It makes sense to have a reporting tool such as MS PowerBI or a customized portal from your vendor that displays all relevant data sources that can be used cumulatively to help make improvements and better decisions.

Have you had to pitch for data specialists’ time or buy in for the purchase of reporting tools?

That depends on if you have a dedicated data resource. Some localization teams are starting to recruit data analysts, so they already have that resource in-house. Data analysts can then advise and implement the necessary tools and instrumentation and create a framework to which the overall team and program works from.

How important is to be prepared for another pandemic and business decline (for LSP’s) and how could they all see language as an investment going forward?

For any global business or organization, the pandemic has had a major impact – some more than others. It makes sense to be prepared and to learn from the success and mistakes made with the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding your market and future language opportunities can help you be ‘pandemic-proof.’ For example, seeing growth language markets, such as Asia, India in particular, improving on digital content and customer’s e-commerce experiences, and promoting a positive, adaptable, and diverse culture within your organization are examples of how we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What points should be touched at initial conversations with the CEO and executives in order to get their attention to make localization investments?

It depends on what are business priorities for CEOs and executives. If there is a focus on supply chain optimization and efficiency in processes, then as Alison was discussing in the webinar, looking at whether you issue a PO for every translation process is recommended! If the CEO has a global growth objective to expand into an emerging market such as India or Africa, then language data and analysis could be incredibly valuable at helping achieve this goal. Read Welocalize white paper: Partnering for Success in India

Watch Localization Expenses Webinar Recording Now

For more global insights, you can view all our on-demand webinars here.