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By Lindsay Hong
As local language content is becoming a necessity for companies seeking international growth opportunities, Locaria’s Lindsay Hong discusses what you should consider when purchasing multilingual content.
“Multilingual content services have seen a huge evolution over the last twenty years, with new methodologies and technologies, an increasing number of languages requiring content, and the need to adjust to the requirements of online platforms”
Local language content is becoming a necessity for more and more companies as they seek international growth opportunities. Internet connectivity is growing across the world, with the demand for digital multilingual content being driven by exponential growth in multimedia and e-commerce. This has been further strengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Common Sense Advisory’s ‘Can’t Read, Won’t Buy’ study, consumers from non-Anglophone countries overwhelmingly prefer content in their mother tongue (1). Approximately 74% of respondents also say they’re more likely to purchase from the same brand again if the after-sales care is in their language.
At the heart of any international growth strategy is the need to execute a communications programme which drives growth. There is increasing pressure on global brands to be sophisticated with their local marketing approach in order to achieve customer intimacy, meaning a complex array of formats and channels have arisen.
Traditional suppliers of multilingual marketing have picked up on this trend and are keen to sell as many words as possible. Indeed, over the last ten years, the global multilingual marketing industry has doubled in size, reaching a total value of $46.9 billion in 2019 (2). However, as brands recognise the increasing cost of this, conversations are turning to ROI and cost reduction. Increasingly, procurement departments are being engaged to help drive down language service costs and purchasers are looking for tech solutions to help keep content budgets under control (3).
(1) Can’t Read, Won’t Buy, CSA Research
(3) AI, Machine Translation & the Future of Language, Locaria
Despite this rapidly evolving landscape, the most commonly used model for purchasing localisation or copywriting services is still a per-word rate based on the known or estimated number of words to be localised or written. In a bid to keep pricing ‘simple’, word rates are becoming highly opaque as they fail to represent the changes taking place in how multilingual content is delivered at scale, particularly for media and marketing. Purchasers are being subjected to hidden costs and suppliers are trying to make the numbers work behind the scenes.
Now is the time to improve pricing transparency in multilingual content and marketing services, build trust, and increase understanding of the true value that multilingual content brings. It is essential for procurement and brand owners to build further understanding of the processes through which effective multilingual content can be created and what is driving costs for suppliers, to be able to ask more informed questions during their procurement processes.
Locaria believes in only creating content that drives performance, not in content for content’s sake. We also see it as an important part of our client relationships to ensure transparency and control over localisation spending. “We Grow Together” is one of our core values by which we work to push ourselves, our clients and our industry forward.
What is multilingual content?
These services include but are not limited to multilingual PPC, SEO, social media, website localisation, multimedia, and market research. At the production level, this can include translation, localisation, transcreation, copywriting, transcription, subtitling, dubbing and voiceover.
Procurement teams are increasingly involved in the supply management of content service providers, particularly as larger organisations seek to bring together all the different streams of content production to maximise any economies of scale, or streamline their processes, while also driving content consistency.
For many brands, this is a relatively new endeavour for their procurement function. As such, there is an opportunity to educate and keep procurement teams up to date with the myriad processes and considerations involved in purchasing content or multilingual marketing services, so they can better evaluate potential suppliers and increase purchasing transparency.
The key stakeholders and decision-makers for purchasing these services may be many, even within one organisation. Marketing Directors, Editors, Brand Managers, Ecommerce Managers, Media Planners, Paid Social Planners, and Heads of Planning are typically all involved in creating brand or advertising content using external suppliers. Likewise, Customer Service, Legal, Compliance, and even Distribution teams create content that may need to be consumed by speakers of multiple languages, be they customers or internal employees.
Where there is a significant volume of regular content being created that requires translating into other languages, companies may employ Localisation Managers to oversee this process either by handling the content internally or outsourcing to suppliers, or a mix of both.
The principles of transparent pricing apply regardless of industry vertical, so are relevant to all purchasers. However, it will be particularly relevant to those seeking nuanced, creative content that supports brand awareness, and customer acquisition across borders, as those processes tend to be more complex, evolve at speed and have a direct impact on revenue generation.
All pricing models are built on the foundations of the relative cost of languages, the volume of content to be processed and delivered, and the methodology of delivery, which drives the expected quality of the output.
The relative cost of languages
Technology and automation continue to make an impact on content production processes, but as a rule of thumb, and certainly for creative or marketing content, the majority of language production is built on human expertise and has human endeavour at its foundation. Arguably all language service providers employ people to write or localise content, often across a wide range of languages.
These individuals often work on a freelance basis and may have specialisms such as legal translation, medical translation, or social media copywriting. They tend to charge language service providers a fee based on their word rate or hourly rate.
While their experience, training and industry expertise will have a bearing on their rates, in general, the biggest driver of differences in pricing is the language pair they provide the service for. Most localisation is still English going to the target language, with the target language being the driver of the cost. Broadly, language costs map to relative GDP, but there are always notable exceptions for “rare languages” and dialects, where there may be fewer qualified linguistic resources, or when demand for a certain language spikes.
An example of a rare language could be Norwegian. Norway is a wealthy market, however, the population is small and has a scarcity of linguists which means that demand outstrips supply and inflates pricing. Similarly, events such as the Chinese New Year or the Olympics may attract a spike in demand for certain language combinations.
The word or hourly rates charged by the individual writers or translators form the basic building blocks of the cost of production, so underlie all pricing models.
When procuring multilingual marketing or content services, it is worth considering which languages and markets will drive the highest demand. Purchasers must also understand that the cost to suppliers of serving Nordic markets, for example, will be significantly higher than Latin America. If this is not evident in pricing, it is worth asking why. As the rates vary by market, this should be considered in the business case for creating content for a specific market.
Economies of scale? When the word count makes a difference
The concept of a word count seems simple enough at face value. It is essentially a tally of all the words in a piece of text. This is important because many straightforward translation projects are still priced per word on a word rate, so as a purchaser, if you count repeated words only once, the total number of words reduces and therefore lowers the cost.
A translation memory is a database of translated words and phrases which can be gradually built and used to reduce unnecessary repeat translations. When purchasing content services, it is important to consider the repetitiveness of the content you’re creating or localising and to ensure that the right technology is used by the supplier to maximise the benefits of any repetitions.
If purchasing on a word count basis, you should always ensure costs are calculated on the weighted word count.
However, it is important to be realistic about how repetitive your content is and recognise that there are no economies of scale across languages, so a high volume of content, made up of lots of small pieces across multiple languages, will be unlikely to reduce costs.
It is important to work with a supplier who can leverage language technology like translation memories to make the most of efficiencies where they exist.
Online content is booming
Online content is booming, with growth in non-English markets fuelling the need for smart approaches to multilingual digital content production that avoid spiralling costs and low ROI.
A variety of content creation methodologies are available to respond to this demand, each with different results in terms of output quality.
These methodologies require increasing levels of creativity, time and consideration, which cannot always be well-represented in a word rate. Additionally, while advances in machine translation are exciting, it remains only one part of the content production process. The effective use of this new technology requires careful planning, management, and quality control, which again requires human resource, so cost savings may not be as appealing as initially expected.
It is important to ensure both purchasers and suppliers have a thorough conversation about the definition of acceptable quality for deliveries. This conversation can be greatly aided by ensuring business outcomes drive the choice of methodology.
It is not always necessary to localise everything, but more important to deliver appropriate quality for the desired outcome. This may not reduce overall costs, but increase ROI on content production spend.
When it comes to pricing models, word rates are still relevant for simple projects with repetitive content and significant volumes. However, to really drive customer engagement, a more consultative approach to content creation is necessary, with ongoing research and optimisation utilising marketing expertise and hard data. This effort also cannot be well represented by word counts.
Instead, expected throughputs or time spent should be reflected in commercial models. Retaining a team can be a better investment than purchasing on a project basis, and will ensure your content is both consistent and competitive.
An Evolving Landscape
Multilingual content services have seen a huge evolution over the last twenty years, with new methodologies and technologies, an increasing number of languages requiring content, and the need to adjust to the requirements of online platforms.
Navigating this landscape is complex and requires a multiskilled team that can fuse data with creative skills to deliver the best ROI on localisation spend. Companies like Locaria provide such skilled teams who can help brands ensure that content production meets business needs and is not focused on simply creating content for content’s sake.
As a result, the human contribution to multilingual content production is more important than ever and should be clearly and transparently indicated in commercial negotiations. This means moving away from simplistic word rates to more sophisticated pricing models, such as retainers with rate cards that can be monitored in real-time and give brands control over where effort is focused.
At Locaria we believe that providing pricing which truly represents the value-add of our services not only leads to better commercial decisions, it also allows purchasers to ensure all the steps required to deliver high-performing content are actually being done. We are passionate about taking the subjectivity out of multilingual marketing and helping purchasers make informed decisions, even when they “don’t speak the language”.
Key Considerations in Multilingual Content Purchasing – Increasing quality, cost and time
Statistical Machine Translation & Human Post Editing:
To learn more about how Locaria can help you build consumer trust through localisation and translation, call on +44 (0)20 3948 6800, email email@example.com or request a quote via locaria.com
Lindsay Hong, COO, Locaria. As a member of the board, Lindsay is responsible for setting the company strategy, owning the brand, and overseeing the people, process and evolution at Locaria. Prior to Locaria, Lindsay worked client-side in e-commerce, developing new businesses and expanding into international markets with some of the world’s leading brands. Lindsay is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, having lived and worked in the APAC region, and serves on the council of the Association of Translation Companies.