ROI of Translation Tech: Where Do Brands See Big Results?

The interviewed organization realized 252% ROI from its translation technology deployment, with a payback period of less than 12 months.


Speaking your customer’s language is a mantra familiar to everyone from search engine marketers to technical support professionals. When your business is expanding into a foreign market, however, that common catchphrase becomes a literal requirement.

Before committing to a localization strategy, though, data-driven executives still need to know their expected ROI of translation. Smartling recently addressed this issue by commissioning an independent analysis from Forrester Consulting.

The firm’s resulting Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study examines the potential ROI that may be realized by companies strategically deploying enterprise translation management technology. Its findings were derived from a combination of three sources.

First, Forrester mined its existing research for insights into the current marketplace for translation management solutions. Next, analysts spoke with representatives from Smartling to confirm its platform capabilities. Lastly, experts interviewed a business service provider with several years of experience as a Smartling client to gather tangible data regarding risks, benefits, and costs.

This economic analysis ultimately revealed that the interviewed organization realized 252% ROI from its translation technology deployment, with a payback period of less than 12 months.

These results are impressive on their own, but the context of how they were achieved should be just as interesting to companies still planning their translation and localization strategies. The study suggests that brands looking to maximize the ROI of translation technology would be wise to implement tools aligned with three main mandates.

Reducing Time-to-Market

Every extra hour it takes to translate website content is one more hour the business must wait before that content can drive conversions and generate revenue.

On a smaller scale, extending translation time by 15 days might cost a clothing retailer an opportunity to grow quarterly revenue by 5%. On a larger scale, extending translation time by 15 months might cost an electronics brand the opportunity to gain first-mover advantage in an emerging market.

The right translation management software can help companies reverse this equation, saving time with features designed to support:

  • Seamless Integration. APIs and connectors adapt to, rather than disrupt, key systems.
  • Process Automation. Automation and alerts accelerate review and approval.
  • Workflow Customization. Processes flex to fit unique requirements and user preferences.

Within Forrester’s analysis, specialized software enabled the interviewed company to enter foreign markets 18 months sooner than it would have leveraging legacy systems. This accelerated timeline resulted in several million dollars worth of incremental revenue for its subscription services.

Minimizing Translation Process Costs

Purchasing best-in-class translation software is a serious financial decision that requires thoughtful consideration. But as with many corporate technology investments, the upfront cost can quickly be offset by efficiency gains.

Several factors define the potential cost of translation. Content scope, content format, and target language are among the most important, but software won’t have much influence over these relatively fixed requirements. The process by which demands are addressed, however, contains much more variability.

Translations can be completed by machines, humans, or a complementary configuration of the two. Translations can be executed by native-speaking staff members, agency partners, or individual freelancers. Translations can be overseen by line-of-business leaders, centralized localization managers, or turnkey vendors.

In order to optimize all these variables for maximum cost efficiency, companies can seek out software that enables them to leverage:

  • Agile Resource Allocation. Needs are confirmed and forecasted in real time, encouraging smarter recruitment and deployment of assets.
  • Multiple Translation Options. Methods are matched to content requirements and business strategy, reserving premium translation resources for high-value tasks.
  • Translation Memory. A dynamic database of past translations is automatically leveraged to eliminate repetitive tasks and ensure brand consistency.

The marginal efficiencies that can be exploited at each step within the translation management process may be tough to appreciate in isolation, but their collective impact is easy to see.

Software solutions are currently empowering the business service provider studied by Forrester to publish content in 15 foreign languages using a localization team of just three full-time equivalent (FTE) employees.

Preserving Consistent Translation Quality Modern marketers are typically encouraged to test, analyze, and optimize until they discover a data-driven best practice. When launching a market penetration initiative, however, the emphasis quickly shifts toward getting customer-facing tasks right the first time.

Brand management is one factor driving this decision. Companies attempting to establish themselves in a foreign market have little margin for error when making a first impression. Content deemed inaccurate, confusing, offensive, or otherwise unacceptable by local audiences can easily spoil an entire business venture.

There are also more practical concerns at play. Identifying translation errors, confirming their causes, and publishing timely corrections is an expensive process (in every sense). As a result, savvy global marketers should preserve their resources and reputations by implementing translation technology that prioritizes:

  • Contextual Support. Text strings are presented as they will appear in production, aiding accurate translation and accelerating editorial review.
  • Custom Styling. Proprietary style guides, glossaries, and grammar rules are automatically learned and consistently applied.
  • Efficient Communication. Discussion between all project stakeholders is proactive, transparent, and fast.

Mastering the foundational principles of quality assurance will take time, but gaining a reputation as a global content authority is certainly worth the work. Since initially implementing a translation management platform five years ago, the company surveyed in the Forrester study has since seen international sales rise from 15% to 40% of total annual revenue.