It’s a fact, infiltrating new markets is the key to increasing profits, and the first item on any company’s internationalization checklist should be to make sure it communicates product information in a way its target customers can understand.
In 2006, Common Sense Advisory (CSA) identified that 73% of consumers read content in their native languages, and 42% prefer to make purchases in their native tongue (Can’t read, won’t buy).
Leading on from the 2006 research, CSA’s updated survey in 2014 was based on a sample of three thousand global respondents, and it reinforced earlier results by showing that 55% only buy from websites in their native language. This jumped dramatically to 80% in cases where the buyers English language ability is limited.
When it comes to selling internationally, tapping into new revenue streams demands translated content. But, what happens when you have thousands of product descriptions that need to be localized into a plethora of languages?
This is where the fun begins for localization teams with well-established traditional translation workflows in place. Their existing method seems fine…but when it’s time to scale up, this is when cracks in the process begin to appear.
The translation workflow works best when it matches the scale and velocity for the content created whether it is product descriptions, manuals or online help documentation.
The challenging part –
How to translate product descriptions with velocity and to scale?
We have heard a great deal of arguments for and against machine translation and one of the most well known against arguments is “the quality is rubbish, sentences translated by machine translation are garbled and incomprehensible”. We in the language technology field hear this frequently and often shudder in disbelief at how these conclusions have been reached.
Generic or free machine translation systems in most cases do not produce great results, expecting such a system to produce publishable quality MT results or using it as benchmark for all MT systems is akin to extracting blood from a stone. Achieving good MT output takes time, care and the ability to customise the MT system properly.
Any company that is serious about breaking into international markets should also be serious about their MT strategy. They should be considering a customised MT solution that is tailored to their needs, not just by going for a cheap and/or supposedly free option.
Why is MT customisation so important?
Statistical machine translation is based on machine learning and pattern recognition. Segments with multiple word phrases or n-grams as they are known are identified with probability algorithms that select the most probable translation match. Generic or free MT systems typically have been built on a broad mix of content styles and types. This means it’s much harder for the MT system to identify the most likely or even relevant matches in generically built engines.
When the MT system is customised specifically for content that comes from a single domain, such as product descriptions for a specific categories e.g. Home and garden, fashion or electronic devices, the syntax, style and phraseology used will make sure that when an MT match is generated there will be a higher probability that the match will be closer to the desired output, resulting in a much more accurate translation.
How important is saving costs?
Of Course Machine Translation can save costs – if done properly, significant savings can be made. But, saving costs is often not the end goal for implementing a serious MT strategy. The real gains come from increasing productivity without a compromise in quality. Why translate 2000 words a day when you can machine translate and post-edit 8000 words with no loss of quality? Really it can be done! See an example first hand (Netthandelen’s case study PDF download).
When it comes to eCommerce and selling hundreds of products online the words to be translated are counted in billions not thousands, and without MT, traditional localization budgets would become more and more expensive, so MT is really the only practical solution. But, if MT is considered a way to save money by cutting corners then it is doomed to fail from the outset.
It will fail because it’s not sustainable, the effort and costs required to fix bad quality MT output are too great, and if fixing is neglected by publishing the content as is, it will result in angry customers who shop elsewhere – and they will, as the choice available now is greater than ever before!
- Generic free MT will not generate the same quality as customised MT
- Investing in a robust MT strategy will save time, costs and headaches in the long run
- Keep focus on communicating with the customer, in their language and your eCommerce business will thrive
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or want to learn more about how Machine Translation works for product descriptions.