Localization Industry: Hype vs Reality

In a way, the title says it all but I still feel strongly that the end of the year is the time to look back and revisit some more provocative thoughts and observations one might come to. It is not as of recently but rather an ongoing trend for a few years now. I do find more and more content posted from all companies in the translation and localization industry on the same repeatable topics over and over again. Of course the state of progress changes and reportedly there are many different sides to explore in a hot topic but at the same time, it feels a bit “boring” to promise disruption for years with the same topics repeating.

The fear of being left out

Producing content is surely one of the best strategies ever. I am one of the biggest fans of quality content and it works perfectly for those who have the patience to use it in the right way. The same is valid for those who use the content for other reasons which I am only guessing as to what could these be like:

  • If we don’t share opinions on a very popular topic, we are not at the top of the game
  • If we don’t write regularly we will start losing traffic
  • If everyone is posting about that, I should do too

It is quite easy to get swept away by the hype, engagement, and all that comes with it.

However, I have a big BUT here, which comes as a natural outcome from the latest trends in the industry, where I see how we are talking about new pricing models, AI and the latest technologies adoption.

Technology is here to help us BUT…

I cannot help it but every single time I read something about AI and the adoption of technology and how everything is “hearts and flowers” along the way to delivering top-notch services in the span of a second to our clients, I always think “There is something terribly wrong with this approach!”. Why?

Тhink about it for a second. Have you tried to train your own chatbot to have it answer your clients? Or implement several MT engines or train your own for that matter?

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I am sure you already know that it is neither as easy as it looks nor as nice as it sounds and as simple as it is for some to adopt a single solution of their choice, once you try to scale up, things get more and more complicated. If we really want to be competitive one needs diversity and flexibility to deliver to their own clients.

I am not saying that we don’t have to leverage technology. On the contrary, we do! But I also think that we are now trying the find new pricing models and ways to leverage technology exactly because of the wrong approach we’ve adopted. That approach includes not only content creation but also building the wrong expectations for the solutions offered and this is going on for a while now.

We’ve kept our clients in the dark for a long time and delivered without explanation what it takes to deliver. And it doesn’t really matter if we are talking about end customers, LSPs or automated solutions, etc. The expectation has always been the same: top-notch, time-efficient, and cost-optimized solutions in a single click or a few emails.

Here is a very nice example from an outside niche: think about it in the same way as when you want to buy something handmade which is very simple in design. Looking at it you decide it is way too expensive as it will take the artist 5 min to do it. In reality, it probably cost this very artist about 10 years to perfect that same design to that level.

It is exactly the same for all of us and we all know it, which leads me to my next question:

Is chasing the dream doing us a bad favor?

I’ve got a few observations to share on different topics that create hype for quite a few years, if not for a decade to be more accurate. It is true the progress is there and we can see it but somehow I stopped paying attention to most of the content and headlines created around them because I already know what most of the content is aimed at.

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The hype of technology replacing humans

We see it all the time now. The promise of technology is complex and yet so easy to use that we will immediately replace some professions and stop using…designers for example. Cheap, fast, and exactly what your marketing team needs. Especially in the translation industry where marketing is something not all companies can invest in.

The same goes for machine translation where for years we’ve been promising our clients easy and cheap translation in no time with the help of technology. I am not saying that machine translation is not implemented successfully. On the contrary, we see it is growing and the latest reports state that the segment is developing well.

Making it look easy, doesn’t make us smarter

localization industry trendsWe are building the wrong expectations in our clients by placing all our efforts in a “black box” and thus eliminating the possibility to leverage what we’ve learned on the way. The time, knowledge, and efforts we’ve invested in developing the services related to MT are not visible. The client’s expectations are for something cheap, fast, and of excellent quality.

And that relates closely to some other musings of mine about pricing. All conferences right now are including a topic about pricing, the needs of clients, and the necessity of changing pricing models. Coming from outside of the industry I couldn’t stop asking myself:

What if we’ve been wrong all the time?

When I started more than 4 years ago the first thing that made an impression on me was that sales efforts were nowhere near perfect, according to my experience. Despite that fact, the industry has been growing and in many cases, it wasn’t intentional since the start. The need for “language ambassadors” in business has grown and somehow the growth of the industry just reacted to accommodate it. In most cases, a booming niche is created the other way around by investing in the product/service, then creating the demand and then filling it in and growing it.
I did my research and all around me, everyone was (and still is) selling top quality at the best price for the best delivery time besides a number of boutique agencies that have decided otherwise.
It got me thinking about the fact that we’ve built up such high expectations in clients and at the same time optimized the pricing for a very long time. It was maybe a good strategy in the past when quality was hard to achieve in some ways but I cannot help with think that this is from where our current problem with pricing models comes.

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Clients still expect us to sell top quality at the lowest price but this is not their doing. I do believe, however, that clients were ready for us to start selling them the right quality for the right price since the beginning. We just found out the easiest USPs (unique selling points) that did the work back then and because the industry was growing anyway and we were lazy enough to recognize it.
Until right now, when the almost ready-to-use text is becoming more and more accessible for our own clients.

That might be the hidden reason behind us wanting to find new pricing models not that the services are changing or that technology is advancing. The truth is we might have been leveraging the wrong thing…

All of the above is to start a conversation not to criticize

I believe that sharing my thoughts with everyone around leads to actually learning more about the business. It is obvious that I might be wrong or partially right or miss something but a different point of view is needed and that is the intention of this Takeaway. To provoke and lead the conversation in different directions.

In a conclusion, please do share your opinions on the topic above, I am 100% sure, we will all learn something on the road… Thank you!