International travellers have spoken! And it turns out they speak all sorts of languages. The buzz among consumers of digital content is that they’re tired of English-only content. They want content in their own language and would really rather buy from a brand that accommodates them. It’s matter of trust, you see.. With so much competition out there, what better way is there in this context to differentiate a travel brand than with multilingual content?
What the world is speaking today
Once upon a time I was a smug little English language teacher, plying my trade in South East Asia, South America and the Middle East, thanking my lucky stars I was master of the world’s lingua franca. The world of consumerism is changing.. And while plenty of folks are still paying big bucks to become English-proficient, the travel trade is dealing with an evolving, sophisticated consumer. They can come from just about anywhere on the globe and they understand their purchasing power. They have a growing desire for some personalised content, a good smattering of TLC in the service they pay for, and they know they can demand it.
Would it surprise you to know that English is no longer the most widely spoken language in the world?
In the category of native language speakers, the most spoken languages worldwide are topped broadly by ‘Chinese’ languages at 14,1% and Spanish at 5,85%. English comes in at a surprising 3rd at 5,52%, while 3 Indian languages, Arabic, Portuguese, Russian and Japanese make up the rest of the top 10.
Whose language is it anyway?
If you can present it, you can sell it. While it still makes sense for English to be the language with the highest online purchasing power currently, there are opportunities going begging in other language groups. Here we’re not simply talking about native speakers, but also second language practitioners – those wonderfully bi- or multilingual folks who can thank the bad old days of colonialism for their linguistic prowess. In a recent Common Sense Advisory study, Japanese ranked the 2nd most powerful language with a spend of $4,745 billion, followed by German with a spend of $3,468 billion, Spanish with a spend of $3,447 billion, and simplified Chinese with a spend of $3,214 billion.
According to TextMaster, the travel industry represents a much higher online sales revenue than other industries like fashion, electrical appliances, books, sport, leisure and cosmetics.
Their study of European e-commerce habits points at Spain being more prolific than the UK, for example, over a recent period of years. Add almost all of Latin America and Hispanic enclaves in the USA, and it just about doubles the Spanish language audience.
Translate: a much bigger market, un mercado mucho mas grande..
From an e-commerce point of view, with online shopping becoming increasingly popular around the world, it would appear that a multilingual strategy is a good start at accessing a share of those billions of dollars. And here, content translation enters the fray.
Many companies, like brand- & style-sensitive luxury travel companies, use Machine Translations in their translation processes.
A Transperfect World
The relevance of multilingual content
An increase in global Internet usage has led to an increase in online content in other languages to match changing appetites. Apart from English, among the most popular languages for websites, a Web Technology Survey identified Russian, German, Japanese and Spanish. Another study by Common Sense Advisory determined that 71.2% of online users spend the majority of their time on websites in their native language.
If the entire point and purpose of great digital content is to engage consumers for longer to reach a better informed decision and take action – not to forget, minimise friction in the process – then content in their own language makes good business sense.
In the last 20 years…English content has decreased from 80% to 50% and the number of English-speakers online has dropped from 80% to 26%.
A recent PhocusWright study also showed the top consumer markets displaying the trend where consumers are inclined to research travel and destination content on their smart phones and tablets include: India (with its host of languages); Brazil (Portuguese); Japan; South Korea; USA (English but increasingly also Spanish); Australia and the UK; and France. We already know that modern travellers are accessing the bulk of their travel content on their mobile devices, which is obvious in any language: digital strategy must merge with multilingual strategy.
How translated content benefits business
Business is always open to new markets opening doors to better prospects – keeping a sharp eye on trends is key. Personalisation, or the human-centric approach, is a major marketing trend in 2019 to service global travellers with more targeted content addressing their particular needs and wants. What’s more personal than the languages they speak?
Access to content in multiple languages opens up your business to multiple opportunities.
- The missing non-English-speaking market: the vast majority of online content being in English effectively excludes the larger proportion of Internet users who aren’t native or fluent practitioners of the language. Here’s an opportunity to explore and develop!
- Growth in global Internet usage = growth in online sales prospects in more and/or new territories
- Building or developing an international brand
- Boosting traffic to websites and social media platforms – where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Consumers of multilingual travel content will naturally engage deeper for longer with brands that speak directly to them, even share the content with their online communities.
- Multilingual content management and distribution from a central digital access point is a cost-effective way to present a brand to agents and re-sellers in new territories, without creating more work for them.
- 1st adopters enjoy advantage over the competition; so lead the rest and be 1st at paying attention to the previously ignored!
For those with limited English, the preference for mother-tongue purchases increases to 80% or more.”
Striving to be the brand that provides a better consumer experience is an easy point of departure. Some brands can back up the online presence with multilingual customer service, others don’t have the manpower. But it’s a good start to building relationships.
It can take a brand from providing content that’s merely acceptable to providing content that is preferable.
So what is machine translations?
The concept is nothing new: that button you click on a website to translate the entire site into another language.. I’ve seen some funny-looking sentences and wonky turns-of-phrase. Fortunately, translation technology continues to evolve and collaborates well with human input.
Artificial Intelligence is becoming even smarter by the day and applies really well to content translation. Translating existing content (whatever the language of origin) into a number of other languages, can be costly to do with human translators doing all the work.
When there’s loads of content to translate in a short space of time, automation is a handy, quick fix solution.
The happy medium is to have human and machine translations (MT) working in tandem – they’ve been known to complement each other in terms of productivity and quality. Even professional translators use this hybrid model to churn out engaging content for quicker results.
Although the ideal goal of MT may be to produce high-quality translation, in practice the output is usually revised (post-edited). It should be noted that in this respect MT does not differ from the output of most human translators which is normally revised by a second translator before dissemination.
Essentially, it offers an immediate solution to the problem of accessing markets previously unavailable and unattainable. Perfection in proverbial language, poetic expression and colloquialisms don’t form part of the package – there’s only so much a machine has the cultural intelligence to construct.
The ideal, which identifies as Localisation, is about adapting products or content to a specific locale or market. That gets into the nitty gritty of dialect, cultural and linguistic nuances, and the kind of soft touch that human intervention and deeper research into analytics and client persona bring.
MT offers a competitive advantage to brands who want to differentiate themselves by communicating effectively with international markets, from other brands that remain inaccessible to international audiences.
It starts a conversation or relationship with consumers in need of content they can trust.
As long as it can provide information and make it easier for the non-English speaker to navigate the buying journey, it’s a bit of a no-brainer!
The writing’s on the wall, and it’s not all English: people simply prefer to shop in their own languages. Travel professionals should be able to interact with a diverse, multicultural and multilingual market, and overcome the traditional barriers to global expansion. It’s all about giving travellers content they can believe and a brand they can trust. For the first adopter, it means a competitive edge with AI providing a solution that won’t break the budget. For travel brands, it means enhancing customer service, to not just #KnowThyClient but also to speak to them in a language they’re more comfortable with, with translated content.