Three ways to improve your ecommerce translation ROI

Is going global worth it?

When it comes to your translation return on investment (ROI), there are a number of factors involved. Did translating improve traffic? Did it grow revenue? Did it boost customer engagement, satisfaction or reduce some sort of cost, like customer support needs? Whatever you’d like to improve, creating a better translation/localization program will help you out on all fronts by reducing costs and time while increasing quality.

There are three key components in improving your translation ROI:

  • Start fresh with clean source content
  • Create a baseline report
  • Be smart about workflows, technology and vendors

This process varies by company and content type, but we’ll focus here on examples for translating ecommerce content.

Start fresh with clean source content

At first glance, it seems as though the complexity of your source text shouldn’t matter, especially if you’re translating with skilled human translators. Isn’t that part of what you’re paying for? As it turns out, reducing costs starts with your writers, developers and designers.

Authoring for a global audience improves localization ROI by up to 15%, according to SDL. For writers, this means creating style guides for your brands and product lines—if your brands are targeting different demographics or lifestyles, define in your guides how you’d like for each to sound. Avoid jargon and write simply. If you’re using translation memory where technology is matching words and phrases across all of your content, consistency is imperative with product names and feature descriptions.

Even content that appears to need a technical translator, if free of jargon and stilted technical-speak, can in some cases use non-specialized translation. We don’t recommend doing this with content that has safety implications, but with something like product descriptions, it’s usually possible to simplify a bit. If you’ve already simplified your text as much as possible but still need to include important details and specifications, include a glossary to open up your content to cheaper, less specialized translation services.

When it comes to design and production, be aware that the more text you include in images, the more work you’ll need to do when localizing that content. Similarly, when creating your website or configuring your site’s content management system (CMS), make strings of text easily editable across languages instead of burying them in poorly-structured setups that may be easier to set up but will cost you tons of time when it comes to maintenance.

In summary: Help translators help you with clean, simple source content. The more time you spend writing, coding and designing cleanly, the more you save in time and cost. Simple source content is easier and faster to translate, and also allows for you to use cheaper, less technical translation services. If you include glossaries and style guides, your quality gets a boost, too.

Create a baseline report

Without tracking translation performance, it’s hard to see where your budget is going and justify translating content—when going global, the impact of translation can (and must) be measured just as clearly as other important metrics. You won’t know if you’ve made good decisions if you don’t have an idea of how your content was performing to begin with.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) will tell you where you can improve and by how much, helping you answer the following important questions:

  • How much more will we sell if we localize content for a certain market?
  • How many new customers will we gain?
  • How can we improve our translation process to reduce costs, increase efficiency and reach our goals?

Because there are many performance indicators that you can measure, start small, track against larger goals, and keep KPIs simple—what is critical for growing your business? The KPIs marked here are most appropriate for ecommerce companies; media companies, for example, may want to measure different indicators.

Impact KPIs show how translating impacts overall business goals. These include:

  • Revenue (vs. translation cost)
  • Conversion rate (how many more people purchase?)
  • Traffic (by country, by language, by source)
  • Number of new customers
  • Market share

Translation KPIs show where to reduce costs specific to translation. These include:

  • Profit per project
  • Percentage of on-time project launches
  • Cost per translated word after expenses

With ecommerce, for example, you may want to track performance on a set of product listings using machine translation vs. human translation. Before applying the new translated text, give ample time to see how your listings were performing before in whatever area you’d like to track. From there, it’s easy to determine whether your investment in higher quality translation was worth it (did conversions go up or down by listing?). You can repeat this by language, by country/market and a number of other ways.

After baselining your performance, you can pull different levers to create an action plan for meeting your goals.

In summary: You can’t measure progress unless you know how your pages/content performed beforehand. Measure two sets of KPIs around translation: 1) goals that translation impacts, like traffic and conversion rates, and 2) translation-specific information like costs and efficiency. Be sure to repeat by language, country, project and so forth.

Be smart about workflows, technology, services

Lowering translation costs and improving efficiency can boost the performance of your impact KPIs, netting more traffic, conversions and sales. You can do this by using the right tools/technologies, services and workflows:

  • Right quality: Translating different kinds of content with different levels of translation (by complexity) can save money. For example, maybe you’ll pay more for your terms of service, but less for your thousands of product listings or user reviews.
  • Translation memory: Translation memory stores words and bits of text that can be recognized and reused across translations at reduced cost per word/unit or for free. For ecommerce companies who have thousands to hundreds of thousands of translation orders, this can reduce costs and save time that translators spend on each batch of text. You should closely monitor how services are using translation memory for your projects, however—used improperly, it can end up actually costing you money.
  • Tech, tools and workflows: News portals and ecommerce companies can have thousands of pages, reproduced in multiple languages. Proper content management systems and translation management systems like Transifex are a need, not a want when you get to this level of site complexity. Automate as much of the process as you can, like inserting new content onto pages. Streamline communication and notifications to remove unnecessary steps.

In summary: Isolate and track all of your tools, vendors and workflows to see which are performing as expected, and if any can be improved. Is communication slow with translators? Are your integrations buggy? Can anything be automated?

With all of these pieces in place, you can translate hundreds of thousands of articles, products and posts of every kind knowing that you have everything you need to get the most out of it.

Learn how you can use Gengo for ecommerce.

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Sarah Siwak

The author

Sarah Siwak

Sarah manages content production for Gengo's marketing team. A native Detroiter and fluent trilingual, she's passionate about finding creative ways to communicate ideas across different media and languages. She spends her free time exploring digital worlds and whipping up late-night omelettes.

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