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How Automation and AI-enabled Translations use in Retail and eCommerce

Understand how using automation and AI-enabled translations in Retail and eCommerce will help you achieve the following:

  • faster speed to market through cutting-edge technology
  • better customer-centricity through data-driven insights
  • more budget to reallocate by cutting translation costs

How Automation and AI-enabled Translations use in Retail and eCommerce

Content Summary

Major Drivers for Change
Effective Strategies
AI-Enabled Translations

The world has changed, especially for retailers. eCommerce adoption has accelerated, pressuring retailers to a tipping point; while many have rallied through innovative technologies and marketing presence, going forward, digital transformation is unavoidable.

With change a certainty, digitalization brings opportunity: leaders are reshaping business models, portfolios and spend; innovators engaging in exciting ways; developers embracing cloud software, superior algorithms and machine learning (ML). What should you prioritize in order to maximize new growth opportunities?

Major Drivers for Change

Digital Transformation through Speed to Market, ‘Customer-Obsession’ and Consolidation

Thanks to the meteoric growth of technology, conversion to digital channels is an existing strategic initiative, key to future growth. With the sudden and significant impact of the global coronavirus pandemic, the pressure on retail to introduce or increase their focus on eCommerce has accelerated digital transformation.

Data issued by the US Census Bureau (April 15, 2020) cited the most significant decrease in brick-and-mortar retail sales in the past 30 years. Business and industry, particularly those with brick-and-mortar business models, found themselves floundering amidst a sudden and profound uncertainty. Consumer spend and the mode of spending experienced a sea change. Online shopping was suddenly the safest and often the only option.

Through innovative global technologies such as social distancing technology, cashless stores, non-invasive temperature displays, and the use of data to inform continued marketing activities, many physical retailers have kept traffic flowing through their outlets. However, to survive in this new era of eTail, retail has had to revolutionize its online presence – from a Boutique store using Shopify to powerhouse brands like Nike launching a virtual outdoor adventure to keep their customers engaged.

Indeed, despite pandemic downturn predictions, eCommerce retail spend increased by 32.4 percent in 2020 and 39 percent in Q1 2021, thanks to the fast adoption of digital channels among consumers – a shift years ahead of forecasts. Consumers are now three times more likely to conduct the bulk of their retail interactions online. This swell means retailers need to move swiftly and intelligently to online channels, embracing digital transformation.

‘At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next ten years… if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.’ (John Chambers, Cisco)

What Opportunities Does Digital Transformation Present and What Should Organizations be Wary of?

With this metamorphosis come opportunities yet also challenges – what are they? What strengths are required, and what vulnerabilities should be addressed?

The clear opportunities include:

  • Increased access: Being able to browse for a product, read product details and FAQs, order it within seconds 24/7, and have it delivered to your office or home within days is a powerful motivator for consumers.
  • Cost-and-time efficiencies: eCommerce saves your customer time and money by avoiding trips and allowing ready access to brands, sizes, information, and related products. The benefit to the retailer is the potential for increased sales with the restrictions and potential barriers of travel and opening hours removed.
  • Reduced prices: The retailer passes cost savings on to the consumer. Online distribution centers cost less to rent, outfit, maintain, and cut out various go between in distribution, display, sales, and checkout.
  • The emergence and benefit of online influencers: Trendsetters and early adopters have always enjoyed a significant impact on their peers; online influencers magnify this advantage exponentially through thousands or even millions of followers.

eCommerce is particularly appropriate for one size fits all products where examination online is close to equivalent with an inspection in-store – small durables, kitchen gadgets, books. It’s less ideal for products requiring interaction – consider clothing, shoes, makeup – albeit visualization, virtualization, detailed sizing charts, guidance, and offering effective, efficient, and user-friendly returns options can help.

Other challenges posed within the eCommerce environment to be mindful of include:

Ease of entering the market: New entrants no longer require the set up previously needed, and even small entrants cleverly marketed, managed, and automated can readily become competitors.

Cybersecurity and cybercrime: Like any other online player, eCommerce is subject to the threat of fraud and cybersecurity concerns such as the theft of your customers’ sensitive information.

Although already a primary channel for some, retail eCommerce is now a do-or-die transformation.

Retailers already established and operating digitally find themselves ahead of the pack and thriving. No other group has benefitted as much from the pandemic. Amazon, already tending to dominate across most verticals, saw a close to 200 percent growth in profit since the start of the pandemic, with positive results set to continue given their digital positioning. Netflix recorded a massive boom in subscriptions, adding over 36 million in 2020 and exceeding 200 million at the height of the pandemic (albeit growth has slowed substantially post-vaccine). For others, the shift necessitates a fundamental reshaping of business models and mindset, not just retail goods but also for entertainment, communication, even health care.

A big part of this understanding as a recovery line is developing a digital channel within an omnichannel strategy. The focus is on optimizing customer ease and maximizing the online experience: retail needs to meet the consumer where they are right now, and ‘when’ they are, to solve the customer problem of ‘I want it when I want it.’

This transformation warrants a sharp increase in digital resource funding, including establishing a presence, leveraging and relying on available technologies, greater supply chain transparency, increased data, and relearning how to operate remotely in many instances.

‘Clearly the thing that’s transforming is not the technology — it’s the technology that is transforming you.’ (Jeanne W. Ross of MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research).

Effective Strategies

How do Major Corporations Achieve Digital Transformation in a Hurry?

IT leaders are reprioritizing, including embracing cloud software, creating algorithms to hone logistics, and implementing machine learning (ML) software to streamline how products travel through eCommerce supply chains.

Alone, these tools won’t yield transformation; together, they can work synergistically to reflect changing priorities and create digital fitness:

  • Be courageous: This is the time to go big in scope rather than remain cautiously incremental.
  • A culture leaning into change: A culture leaning into change is essential. Create an organization biased toward transformation.
  • Co-create: Successful transformation requires systemic change. Collaboration and buy-in across the organization are vital to changing company culture, where business leads own and set the vision in liaison with IT developers.
  • Learn agility: Adaptive design allows you to anticipate consumer needs and related tech design.
  • Collapse ‘silos’: Combine development with operations for quick software iterations. Adopt flexible paths and fluidity of resources to meet the requirement. Ensure you have the right talent on hand to mine big data sets and navigate increased reliance on AI and ML.
  • Take risks: Spur and support risk-taking and encourage your team to ‘make decisions, fail fast, and learn’, a key element of successful agility and adaptability.

‘In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility; that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable, everything else you create somebody else will replicate.’ ( Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon).

PepsiCo brilliantly demonstrated agility and speed to market

The group responded to the pandemic by rapidly launching two new direct-to-consumer (DTC) sites:

  • Customers can order bundles of the brand’s best-selling pantry favorites or choose from over 100 preferred snacks, with augmented selection over time.
  • Although bundles grouped products intuitively consumed together to ‘resonate’ with consumers and increase impulse buying, ranges were also diverse to ‘give the consumer as many choices as possible to shop for our products whenever, wherever, however, they want to shop.’ (Gibu Thomas, PepsiCo Senior Vice President and head of eCommerce).
  • The choice of two rather than one combined site, each catering for a different need, shows the group’s sensitivity to customer preferences; the focus on speed to market and consumer needs instead of finalizing a full product range indicates the same.
  • Notably, the introduction went from idea to launch within a month.
  • The group made a related move away from traditional linear Above-The-Line TV advertising to more addressable digital channels for consistency.

‘When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.’ (George Westerman)

Achieving Speed and Agility using Supplier-Led Innovation

One way of approaching transformation and achieving speed and agility is through longestablished but underutilized supplier-enabled innovation (SEI).

  • By tapping into the expertise of supplier networks and supplier-led innovations to streamline processes and facilitate faster new product launches, you expand your research and development team exponentially.
  • Results can be synergistic, and the outcome greater than the sum of its parts. Collaboration works particularly well when partnering with suppliers offering specific and relevant capabilities, such as packaging, logistics, or even translations, which are also future-facing and trend-vigilant.
  • Evaluate suppliers based on development budget bias and their vision and strategic goal trajectory. Then, look beyond the current supply chain to enlist innovative, complementary, and supplementary suppliers to your transformation objective and resources.

Set up your procurement team to source and drive these collaborations, providing the connection between players – what Johnson & Johnson has labeled ‘innovation scouts’. A small ‘a’ agile approach is found to significantly impact speed to market: empower teams while ensuring regular contact with customers.

Utilize Data-driven Decisions to Save Time and Money

Making decisions based on robust, reliable data collected, organized, and analyzed in order to yield insights informing your decision is essential. With data-driven innovation (DDI) becoming a key pillar of 21st-century growth, DDI can increase productivity, enhance resource efficiency, and optimize economic competitiveness and social well-being.

This method of data-driven decision making (DDDM) assists in predicting future outcomes based on past information and behaviors, helping to provide concrete, objective, bias-free feedback to guide decisions. Use of primary data in conjunction with other big data sources for analysis, statistical and diagnostic modeling helps to reduce risk, optimize investment and increase understanding of consumer attitudes, behaviors, and needs.

This approach saves time and money by avoiding costly production mistakes, allowing for more efficient distribution of funds and resources, and through alignment with your business transformation goals helps to accurately address consumer expectations sensitively, specifically, and timeously. In addition, big data makes a significant contribution to personalizing customer experiences, important for consumer engagements.

Another way that data saves you time in the translation process is through advanced Translation Memory (TM). Access to data speeds up each project, as does centralization – one supplier means your TM, especially global TM, is all in one place, readily available, and secure. In one case, a multinational company’s translation memory equated to a 90 percent reduction in time over a previous similar project cost.

‘A data-driven approach to facilitate deep understanding of your organization, customers and competitors is fundamental to overcoming ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma.’ (Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School)

Key Customer Experience Drivers in eCommerce

‘Businesses want to think in terms of categories. Consumers want us to think in terms of their needs.’ (Clayton Christensen)

While most organizations are revenue, product, and cost-driven, some of the most successful entrepreneurs attribute success to a simple truth: that – as Jeff Bezos asserts – the customer is ‘the most important person in the room’. Focus on the customer’s ‘jobsto-be-done’ (Lynn Hunsaker, founder of CX company ClearAction) and delight them by anticipating and solving or obviating their pain points and exceeding their expectations.

‘It doesn’t matter what the brand says about the product; it matters what the customer says about the product.’ (Emily Weiss)

Consumers have increasingly high demands from customer and digital journeys and experiences. On average, consumers utilize nine channels throughout the journey, including browsing, finding information, and purchasing. Difficulty and disconnects, even minor niggles, cause carts to be abandoned and websites rejected. Ensure experiences are easy to navigate, personalized, intuitive, and linked.

CX experience transformation can’t be achieved in isolation but in concert with process transformation, requiring broad-ranging, customer-centric, systems thinking, even adoption from other industries. Don’t stop at asking ‘What?’ or ‘How?’; Understand the ‘Why?’ To optimize customer experience. Interrogate the why behind abandoned carts, customer churn, dissatisfaction, and any other points where you leak customers from your funnel.

Consider the following when implementing customer experience change:

  • Put the customer first: Use data and data-driven decisions to personalize journeys that are relevant and provide value, including digital experience platforms.
  • Provide consistency and centralization: Centralize your digital ecosystem to ensure your staff has the data they need to enhance customer experience at every destination on their digital journey.
  • Ensure exceptional customer service: quick response to customers and high-quality customer experience are major future business success drivers.
  • Utilize AI: Automated responses result in higher sales conversion rates – live chat and chatbots and automation marketing such as abandoned cart follow ups.
  • Keep communications open: maintain an updated FAQ page on your website.
  • Offer speed and flexibility: As in business transformation, agility is crucial for real-time adaption to changing consumer, or even to a particular customer’s, needs. Rely on data to guide decisions.
  • Focus on Omnichannel strategy: The ever-increasing blurring of on- and offline interaction warrants an omnichannel retailing strategy to provide customers with an integrated and consistent shopping experience. The approach mimics conventional brick-and-mortar interaction with mobile browsing and online purchasing, which is crucial to meeting consumers ‘where’ and ‘when’ they are.
  • Innovate: make your interfaces and tools a must-have for customers.
  • Leverage technology: Create interactive ‘shopping’ experiences, including virtual experiences through Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), essential for online clothing and footwear marketing. Examples of fashion brands leveraging AR and VR include the Gucci app’s Virtual Try-on of trainers, eyewear and nail polish, the ASOS virtual catwalk, and Obsess and ByondXR’s 360 degree, 3D virtual showrooms and stores.
  • Offer alternate payment options: Beyond traditional payment methods, offer streamlined and digital options, including payment plans.

AI-Enabled Translations

What do Businesses need to know about translation?

  • Speed to market: Inadequate or inconsistent translations and slow and inefficient translation processes will slow you down and cause you to lose your vital first-mover advantages in accessing and gaining a customer base and establishing market share. Fortunately, the proliferation of progressive technologies such as AI, machine learning, and other technological advances can accelerate your speed to market.
  • Translation complexity: While you may assume that simple translations are adequate and easy to commission, what about legal or financial documents? Translating becomes more than switching words for words and more of a strategic undertaking in localization of software, apps, websites, marketing content of data insights.
  • Cultural sensitivity: Digital transformation means you’re more global than ever before, available for purchase and delivery across markets. Going global means considering the culture and language of all your audiences and understanding the role of these elements in purchasing decisions.

What are businesses now doing to improve their translation and localization processes?

Current trends identified by Straker include:

  • Reflective assessment: To inform, guide, streamline and optimize their digital transformation, multinationals are evaluating internal processes, technology, and talent. Partnering with suppliers already using cutting-edge technology and best-in-class processes will free up your time and your resources for business focus.
  • Auditing and benchmarking: Auditing translation performance is a must to meet your demanding speed to market deadlines.
  • Data-driven decision management: Being guided by hard data warrants improved capture and analysis processes, allowing deeper insight into translationrelated processes, projects, talent, and resources.
  • Centralization: Multinationals are streamlining procurement, curating a single supplier to align with their business, transformation, and localization strategies.
  • Supplier-led innovation: A critical step to maximize development and innovation, using strategically aligned suppliers offers amplified and synergistic outcomes.
  • Peace of mind: Along with an increase in online engagement has come a surge in cybercrime. Safeguarding data, communications, processes, and IP is vital, including securing the translation process. As a result, corporations are looking for language service suppliers and localization consultants with high-security priorities and compliance.

Case Study: Global Fashion Retailer with over $24bn in revenue worldwide

The global pandemic pushed this retailer to require better online shopping experiences for customers and needed to launch multiple localized sites in new growth markets in APAC.

The identified challenge was “speed to market,” but hindering them from delivering the product marketing roadmap were the following major challenges:

  • Magento 2 platform and complex infrastructure in place
  • A fragmented supplier base in translation services
  • Translation being ordered at random with no processes, structure, people, or consistent technology framework in place
  • Rogue/maverick spend
  • Inconsistency in the quality of translations – which was slowing projects down
  • Lack of project visibility or transparency
  • No centralized translation memory data
  • Increased resources/lack of efficiency, having to manage each translation supplier separately

‘For this client, speed to market was the key differentiating factor and strength against the competition. They needed to bring out 42,000 new products to their online shoppers into two major markets in record time, and waiting for thousands of words to be translated was not an option.’

‘It was not about the translation spend itself, but about the speed at which these quality translations could be delivered that mattered most to the client.’ (Jan Cheneler, Head of Production, Straker)

Fast and Efficient Translation to Get You into Your Market on Time

We understood that this retailer needed to appeal to many people in various languages and cultural nuances in a hurry. We recognized that they needed one centralized supplier for fast and efficient service, one contact, one fee, and access to:

  • A transparent budget, process, and timeline
  • Simplified and standardized structures and performance measurements
  • Fast, accurate translations of consistent quality
  • Access to multiple languages, dialects, and culturally knowledgeable consultants
  • Technology that ‘remembers’ your translations to save you time and money next time
  • Innovative storage of your translation memory where you can readily access it, and a trusted localization advisor

‘We successfully delivered 42,000 products in record (time) with only 7 product descriptions getting minor adjustments to the final translation.’ (Jan Cheneler, Head of Production, Straker)

What are the Benefits of Enhanced Translation to Digital Transformation?

Improving or optimizing your language services by sourcing an innovative, multilingual, intellectually robust supplier with comprehensive capabilities will set your organization apart while benefiting your schedule and budget. In addition, consider having access to state-of-the-art software capable of employing AI, machine learning, smart algorithms, and Translation Memory functionality, all of which offer you:

  • Accelerated turnaround
  • Enhanced productivity
  • The ability to measure your translation performance
  • Minimized translation costs
  • Increased spend visibility and transparency
  • Minimized risk and strengthened security measures
  • Access to team efficiency and effectiveness
  • Optimized localization with an established and innovative translation technology player
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