Today’s globalised marketplaces present organisations with as many opportunities as they do challenges. By localising their products, services and the content that surrounds them, businesses can qualitatively engage with new consumers all around the world and distinguish themselves from their competitors.
Lingo24 has held its third Global First summit in London, once again welcoming colleagues from the burgeoning communications, marketing and e-Commerce spaces. With upward trends currently top of mind in these areas, this time around key discussions focused on the personal experiences of localising products and services in new countries. Here are some key insights from our speakers at Global First, October 2019.
Opening the evening was Lorna Whelan, Senior Director of Localisation for TripAdvisor, who co-presented a “fireside chat” with Lingo24’s Founder and President, Christian Arno. Lorna shared that her central focus at “Trip” over her nine years with the organisation has been to oversee its localisation strategy, in particular growing the number of languages that TripAdvisor’s services are available in. Lorna and TripAdvisor’s push for the democratisation of online content has seen the platform’s availability grow from under ten languages to 26, and expand into 49 markets (although depending on your definition of “market”, this number could be much higher).
According to Lorna, her current focus is on optimising content for those markets and languages, which is an entirely different challenge. Lorna explained that the TripAdvisor platform handles an immense amount of content – up to 30 different types considering content is split between internal, branded from TripAdvisor or user-generated content, and then further divided between hotels or activities, for example. Consequently, TripAdvisor’s approach to content output (for which translation forms a central component) is “value-based”. Lorna continued: “We’ve got a set of metrics where we define how valuable content is to the business, which determines the level of quality we want to achieve, how much we’re willing to invest in it and how fast we want to translate it. These factors map out the workflow that we then put in place for publishing it.”
Lorna noted that in order to achieve this TripAdvisor uses a combination of machine and human translation. Machine translation is implemented to alleviate these vast quantities of user-generated content that Trip handles, and where necessary human translation supplements the workflow. “The volume of what we have is astronomical. And so [machine translation] allows us to translate a lot more content than we did before and to a better quality. This ultimately leads to higher revenue which we do directly measure – its been a huge transformation.”
Tony Matthews, UK Business Development Manager for Russian Post and the second keynote for the evening, also focused on the practical aspects of working in the global marketplace, regaling his experience of working for one of the more unique global companies out there. He noted that Russian Post, similarly to TripAdvisor, is harnessing the power of democratising services to as wide an audience as possible. Tony noted that Russian Post’s core USP is its promise to get your package to a post office near you – no matter where you are in Russia. This reach is the secret behind Russian Post’s significant growth, and the organisation has now distributed over 460 million parcels across its 42,000 post offices in Russia. This democratisation also means Russian Post employs over 300,000 people (only beaten in Russia for employer-size by the Russian Army), and has partnered with major companies including one large online UK fashion retailer.
Tony asserted: “It’s our job to deliver to every address in Russia. All of the other delivery companies considered, if it gets a bit difficult, has to go on if it has to go down a long train line for example, we’re the ones who end up actually delivering it.”
Lorna noted that one of the central challenges that she faced as part of her role was conveying the ROI of content publication to those at the top. Lorna highlighted the stereotype of leadership teams overlooking the operational limits of time and quality and only considering the monetary value that your area of work brings. In her experience, Lorna has learned to convey the ROI of different content areas in different ways. For example, attractions sold on the TripAdvisor platform convert directly to ROI metrics, while hotel listings which link to external booking sites are harder to evaluate. Continuing, Lorna asserted the importance of publishing content with your audience in mind – for example, restaurants are more popular in Europe, but less so in APAC, forcing the TripAdvisor teams to adjust their output accordingly. Lorna claimed that in her experience, treating localisation as an ongoing process rather than an immediate return and demonstrating how content publishing benefits the whole business are fundamental when talking to the higher-ups.
Tony likewise dived deeper into his experiences and Russian Post’s internal workings. According to Tony, Russian Post accepts all packages, and trends reveal that packages that have originated from Europe are generally of much higher-value than those from China, another of its biggest markets. Tony recalled finding a package for plastic hooks valued at 10 Russian cents in one of Russian Post’s offices, comparing that to their online retailer partner who might sell items worth £50GBP.
Challenges and next steps
As one might expect, Russian Post faces logistical challenges. Tony attributed these to the size of Russia as a country, its huge population, and a bureaucratic approach to business (apparently a legacy from the Soviet era). Despite these mitigating factors, Tony reiterated Russian Posts’s impressive delivery times: Moscow, St. Petersburg and other “European” Russia centres can expect their parcels in 1-2 days, “Ural” Russia in 3-6 days.
According to Lorna, the next step for TripAdvisor is to optimise their content for local markets, in order to make Trip “truly local”. Lorna then highlighted the Localisation Maturity Model (LMM) as a good indicator for businesses who are embarking on a localisation journey. Developed by research organisation Common Sense Advisory, the LMM tells businesses how experienced they are at localisation, from an ad-hoc/reactive stance, to a proactive and fully automated posture. Lorna argued, however, that businesses should pay less attention to what particular stage of the LMM they are on, and more so treat localisation as a process integrated into their global strategy. Lorna noted: “People get quite caught up in terms of trying to find what number they are in the model but I think it’s more about just understanding where you’re trying to get to and working towards that.” Lorna also stressed CSA’s upcoming “Globalisation Maturity Model” as something to watch out for.
Tony rounded off his presentation by claiming that Russian Post, too, is evolving. According to Tony, Russia has suffered from package fraud for some time, and now Russian Post is taking steps to crack down on the issue. For example, the organisation is exploring the requirement to present ID and sign for packages to be able to collect them. Digitisation also now allows consumers to track their packages and be notified when their parcel is delivered to an office. Tony conceded, however, that there is an element of risk involved with blindly introducing “innovation”. Tony recalled as an example that he considered implementing locker solutions for parcels, but needs to examine the issue further – Tony claimed that locker delivery has not gained much traction in the UK, but around 30% of e-commerce parcels delivered in France are to such lockers. Tony also claimed he is excited about the currently-circulating rumours of long-distance railways connecting Shanghai to Russia, and extending to European hubs.
“Logistics development plays into the Russian Government’s plans to develop businesses. Because of the sanctions that have been placed on Russia from other countries, it’s very difficult for Russia to invest in businesses outside of Russia. And so logistics is one of the strategic businesses that Putin has identified as one which Russia can grow alongside oil and gas, and the digital economy as well.”
Lingo24’s Global First events are a truly unique opportunity to connect, collaborate with and learn from colleagues in the e-Commerce, communications and marketing spaces. Lingo24 is looking forward to hosting these events into 2020, and hopefully welcoming you along. Watch this space!