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Tag: going global

How To Scale Your Personalization Strategy & Go Global

Personalization and Design

Businesses of all shapes and sizes make major personalization blunders on a regular basis.

Although the spread and advancement of the internet has made large-scale personalization easier from a technical standpoint, it hasn’t made it that much simpler. It still takes a lot of thought, research and careful execution.

Whether you’re looking to sell products or services, or just move your content into fresh markets, here’s how you can expand your personalization methods across the world.

Anticipate potential legal concerns

With GDPR having recently come into effect, a lot of people are concerned about the dangers of dealing with segmented data at all, let alone on a widely-international basis. They don’t consider that personalization strategies don’t inherently need to involve specific real-world customer data. It’s entirely possible to stick to generalized buyer personas and forgo the granular analytics.

Even so, every new country or region with its own national and local laws could present a new challenge to your operation, requiring your designs and materials to adhere to a slightly different set of regulations. The moment you start eyeing a market, do some research to learn about its restrictions, and be sure that you can straightforwardly navigate them before you approach it.

Research trends

Keyword research is invaluable for getting an idea of what things are popular in different places and discovering what kinds of terms get used by searchers in those areas. Add in tools like Google Trends and you have free access to an enormous amount of information you can use to better personalize your content for specific regions.

In addition, try utilities such as Answer the Public or KeywordTools.io to glean some of the most popular questions people ask about your particular industry niche. If users in a specific country are highly curious about an element of your business that isn’t as popular elsewhere, you can think about producing some detailed content on that element for that market.

Make use of local experience

The farther afield you go, the more likely you are to run up against regional differences that are quite difficult to break down. Differences in media consumption, pop culture, slang terms and even relatively mundane habits vary from place to place.

While you can certainly nail the basics of addressing particular demographics regarding things like income, age and occupation, it’s a lot harder to address more complex differences, and rarely a good idea to ignore them entirely.

Because of this, you should make good use of local experience by consulting area experts, such as localization service providers. Essentially, you’re looking for people who know the culture in detail and can both explain its nuances to you and review the materials you provide to see if they are satisfactory.

When local experience gets ignored, you see wild PR blunders, often involving phrases that are very tricky to translate accurately or terms that refer to entirely pedestrian things in some places but shockingly taboo things in others (think “fanny” in America and in the UK).

Differences in media consumption, pop culture, slang terms and even relatively mundane habits vary from place to place. Click To Tweet

Regional sites versus language selection

Your website is the cornerstone of your online operation, and thus your entire global operation, as you can’t have a genuinely worldwide office — but you can certainly have a worldwide website.

You have two options for catering to a global audience with your website: you can make it multilingual and provide a language selection option, or you can separate it into regional sites or subdomains.

For the sake of parsimony, having a single multilingual site is preferable in most cases, at least for smaller businesses — it also avoids the content cannibalization and language identification problems that can result from having a similar page for each of a variety of languages and/or locations.

Anyone running a store on an extendable CMS will at the very least be able to find an add-on, plugin or extension to assist with basic product translation. For instance, Shopify’s quick-setup ecommerce builder doesn’t offer native multilingual support, but Langify is a viable add-on. Magento, meanwhile, can handle multilingual store views out of the box (though the languages still must be installed as extensions).

The advantage of using a plugin of some kind of do this is that you can avoid the complications of trying to implement hreflang tags manually. When stressed developers set them up incorrectly, it causes lasting damage in rankings across various regional search engine variants.

Remember that people only vary so much

The global market isn’t all that scary, despite how much it varies, because people only differ to a certain extent. We all go online, use services and buy products to solve our problems and make us happier and more content. That applies whether you’re selling in Europe, North America, China or Australia.

Think of global personalization as a process of making minor tweaks, adding to what works in a certain locale and taking from what doesn’t. It isn’t something you need to overthink, and there’s no need to obsess over minor details — your localization vendor can help you do that, if that’s the route you’re going.

Keep your eye on the big picture, get the basics right, avoid any major errors, and focus on your fundamental business model. If you can do that, you’ll set yourself up for a successful global expansion.

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Patrick Foster is a writer and ecommerce expert from Ecommerce Tips — an industry-leading ecommerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Check out the latest news on Twitter @myecommercetips.

Making the most of machine translation

Localization Basics

Machine translation (MT) is ever-present in the translation industry. The technology is being used to shorten project timelines for language service providers (LSPs) and reduce costs for clients as they localize content around the globe. At this point it has become obvious, however, that MT cannot be used as a sole means of translation due to issues with its accuracy. Applications such as Google Translate have proven to be a successful way to translate documents or segments of words generally, but are not able to capture specific vernacular traits that human translators are capable of deciphering.


MT is a relatively new technology, having origins in the early 20th century and not being considered a completely realized tool until advancements in the field in the 1980 and 1990s. George Artsrouni and Petr Smirnov-Troyanskii worked individually on ways to create MT in the 1930s, with Smirnov-Troyanskii laying the groundwork for what was needed in an MT system. Namely, Smirnov-Troyanskii suggested the system would require an editor familiar with a source language to convert words to base forms before sending them to a machine to turn them into equivalent forms in the target language. After this, another editor familiar with the target language would edit the machine translations.

Attempts to create a successful MT system continued into the 1950s and 1960s with the advent of computers and, in 1954, IBM partnered with Georgetown University in an MT a demonstration widely circulated in the media and considered to be quite a feat at the time. Although advancements continued in the field, the thought of translating languages digitally seemed less and less like a possibility and more like a flawed experiment.

Hopes were diminished to the point that the United States government created an advisory committee on the technology, ALPAC, that released an unflattering report of MT’s progress, saying research wasn’t progressing at it should. The report put a stop to MT research until important developments resurfaced in the 1980s.

MT research and development boomed in the 1990s and 2000s as we moved into the digital age. Neural machine translation (NMT) is making waves in the industry today.


MT serves a number of functions for companies within different verticals, including legal, life sciences, manufacturing, information technology, finance and consumer products. Businesses attempting to localize content have had success using MT to reduce costs and more efficiently convey global messages.

MT has many features that help to expedite translation projects, including:

  • Language Identification. A function that can quickly go through a large number of documents and decipher what languages the text in these documents is written in
  • Keyword search. This allows users to search for certain terms that come up often in documents.
  • Ocular Character Recognition. OCR is a technology that allows for the recognition of printed characters using digital technology

Right now, MT allows users to get the gist of a translation without having to use a human translator to do so. There are instances in which the new technology can be a boon for a business, but, at the same time, its limitations outweigh its abilities if used the wrong way.

Very recently Google and Microsoft started using NMT with their translation systems, a relatively new technology that is on pace to replace phrase-based machine translation (PBMT). NMT employs artificial intelligence that can understand entire sentences or ideas using neural networks, while PBMT can only decipher words, or segments of a sentence, at a time.

When MT works for business

Before using solo MT — without any linguistic editing — for business, users should ask themselves a handful of questions to see if the solution will be a successful one. The decision of whether to use MT should rely heavily on the following:

  • Is quality an important part of this project?
  • Is a quick turnaround time necessary?
  • Will this be distributed externally?
  • Is cost-effectiveness a priority?

Right away, companies should identify what kind of project they need to complete when deciding whether to use MT. If quality of utmost importance, it will be impossible to use solo MT to receive accurate translations without the help of a human interpreter.

At the same time, if a law firm needs to quickly identify a large number of documents and find out which need to be translated for trial, using MT as a tool can be very helpful. A strong language identification tool can act as a time-saving and cost-effective feature for assignments that require going through a large amount of foreign language text before translation.

This feature can also be helpful for those facing tough deadlines, as MT can go through text much faster than an interpreter to sort what needs translation and what doesn’t. But if a translation project is going to be distributed externally or to clients, it is imperative that one uses a human translator or a combination of machine translation and post-editing.

If cost is an issue, companies can leverage certain MT tools to mitigate their expenses. For language identification or in order to basically understand foreign language documents, MT is far cheaper than the use of a certified LSP.

When MT doesn’t work

The biggest setback of MT is its inability to pick up on linguistic nuance and metaphors as humans can. This truism was proven by AlSukhni, Al-Kabi and Alsmadi in their study on using Google and Bing Translate to translate passages from the Quran.

For projects that necessitate quality, MT cannot be used as the only translation tool for businesses. Projects that should not rely only on MT include:

  • Those in highly regulated fields such as medical device
  • Projects that will be distributed for external use
  • Projects that require the translation of nuanced, complicated texts

In Ryoko, Hirono, MJ and Takahiro’s article examining the usability of MT among nurses in Japan, it was discovered that respondents found MT was “not useful enough” when deciphering medical texts in a foreign language. The study also emphasized the fact that a stronger knowledge of technical terms in other languages made for a better experience using MT.

Know your audience

MT is an extremely valuable asset to businesses that know how to use it properly. MT tools used in a secure environment can be strong assets for those in any vertical. Maybe most importantly, businesses interested in MT need to know how they want to use the technology and what the scope of their project is to employ the resource effectively.

MT should never be used as the only resource for translating documents unless they will stay inside of a company. Even still, companies should always be aware of the fact that mistakes are likely to occur when only using MT.




A former newspaper reporter and native Minnesotan, Jake Schild is a staff writer in the marketing department at ULG.

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