Harnessing the Human Touch: Going Global in a Digital Age

by Eleanor Pyne Figaro Digital

More and more companies are looking to go global, however many are still using outdated strategies. For growth-minded businesses, expanding into new countries and navigating international markets is a key aim. This can be a daunting task and success often rides on adopting the right approach.

A report published today (27 February 2020) by SDL, a global leader in content management and language translation software and services, reveals the majority of brands are still missing out on the human touch of a localised, digital-first globalisation strategy, instead focusing their efforts on deploying a local sales team when entering new markets.

The pursuit of “going global”

It is undeniable that “going global” is the objective for many businesses. Responses to SDL’s “Digital-First Globalisation Strategies” research showed that 80 per cent of companies surveyed have global expansion plans over the next two to three years. Often driven by ambitious executive leadership, companies aspiring for global growth are seeking to move into multiple different countries – approximately a third of companies are planning to expand into up to three countries, whilst another 30 per cent plan to expand into up to as many as six countries. For such an entrepreneurial yet challenging mission, it is important that businesses have the most productive plan of action.

Sales representatives over digital-first strategies

Many companies are still using traditional methods to expand internationally. Two thirds of respondents in the report prioritised deploying local sales representation as their growth technique. These companies rely on their local sales representatives to find new customers through the conventional methods of business directory searches, client referrals, and cold calls. However, this may not be the best method to capture new leads in a digital age when the majority of potential customers are online.

Thomas Labarthe, Chief Revenue Officer at SDL, emphasised that, “in a digital world, improving customer experience and reach through relevant, culturally nuanced, and localised content, wherever the customer is located, is critical to business success.”

Plenty of businesses do see the benefits of a digital-first globalisation strategy – which is considered less risky in terms of execution – yet they still do not rank it as their top strategy. Whilst there is value put on content, and companies understand it can lead to better customer satisfaction and retention, contribute to better customer experience, and increase brand consistency and revenue, companies are choosing to “stick with what they know” by focusing their attention on local sales representatives.

Labarthe warned that by not implementing a digital-first strategy, “companies risk losing the huge benefits of using personalised content in the customers’ own language to build up their sales pipeline in new markets”.

More content, more languages, less time

Digital-first approaches clearly bring great benefits but they can also come with their own hurdles. There is more content, more languages, and less time. Enterprises seeking to go global are increasing content production, translating their content into more languages, and translating more content faster.

The report found that 40 per cent of respondents believe content volumes will increase by more than 30 per cent in the next two years. Handling this amount of content can be challenging enough, but this is further compounded by the need to translate the content into numerous different languages. Companies are producing external digital content in 15 languages on average, and up to 21 languages for larger companies who have revenues between $500 million – $1 billion.

To further complicate matters, companies are expected to translate their content quickly and accurately. Approximately 40 per cent of a company’s content is expected to be translated within 24 hours and the demand for turnaround times is even higher for the legal, advertising, and marketing sectors.

How should companies deal with this dilemma? “By investing in machine translation and automation technologies, alongside services that enable nuanced content,” says Labarthe. To ensure global companies are maximising the impact of their contact on a global scale, companies need to find ways to rapidly translate and personalise content. Human-first approaches are unlikely to match the speed companies desire, and so employing intelligent technologies may be the way forward.

If companies are able to deliver personalised content across multiple languages to any device, they are likely to capture the attention of new and potential customers. A global growth strategy that recognises the importance of the customer experience, and ensures content is tailored for the right platform and region, is likely to convert clicks to success.

The full report can be accessed here.