The Expanded Product Experience: What It Is and What It Means for Localization

RWS-SDL Product Experience

In an increasingly connected and digitized world, the product experience has evolved. Our experience of physical products is now frequently influenced by a digital experience, delivered through a software interface or companion app. And parts of the customer journey that may previously have been considered to be distinct from the product itself — such as marketing and sales downstream of the purchase, and support and training upstream of it — are now often seen as part of the expanded product experience.

All of this can have implications for the localization process in terms of scope, volume and, especially, consistency.

Where does the product begin and end?

In a connected world, products have fuzzy edges. Where product localization may once have focused almost entirely on the product itself, its packaging and essential documentation, there are now rings of content radiating out from that core product experience — all of which should ideally be localized in one seamless offering.

This erosion of the traditional edges of products is driven largely by digitization. For physical products, there’s increasingly a convergence with the digital world through connected digital user interfaces or companion apps. As an integral part of the overall product experience, these need to be localized with the same care and consistency as traditional elements of the product experience.

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Additionally, whether a product is physical or digital, customers are increasingly looking for product-related content online, from demos and how-to videos to online FAQs, knowledge bases, interactive assistants, and e-learning modules.

This shift of product-related content, from a physical to a digital format is not new, but it goes beyond a simple format change for user guides, or an evolution in the delivery of in-software help. In many cases, it signals a fundamental blurring of lines between the product and what happens both before and after it is purchased.

When research and purchase of a product take place online, the product arguably “begins” with its online marketing presence. This is especially true for software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings. Similarly, if a product’s users don’t distinguish between “product documentation” and “support documentation” — and may expect to find these in the same place — then support content is very much part of the product experience.

As developers of software, we’re experiencing this expansion of the product experience ourselves. Rares Vasilescu, Vice President of Software Engineering at RWS, sees it in the expansion of his product development role: “My role has definitely evolved to reflect new customer expectations. Their experience with my product starts with what they encounter online once they’re interested enough to dig into how it works. So I now share responsibility for this with marketing. Even if I didn’t, I’d want to make sure that customers see how their expectations are matched by the product I’m responsible for.”

How does this impact localization?

For LSPs and enterprise in-house localization teams, this means one of two things. Either you’ll be faced with new expectations for a wider range of content to be localized. Or there’s an opportunity to add value by raising awareness of the need for a more consistent localization approach across different types of content, and how you can help your clients or internal customers to deliver a better end-customer experience as they go global with their products.

Either way, you do need to be able to manage this expansion of scope. If you’re not geared up for efficient localization of a variety of ‘non-traditional’ content types — video, voice assistants or AR/VR content, for example — now is the time to think about expanding your competencies or partnering with an LSP that has them. And if the translation management tools you’re using can’t give your project teams the scalability and versatility to manage larger volumes of material as well as diverse content types, now is the time to consider investing in new technology, or creating more automated end-to-end workflows with what you have.

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One of the most important, and familiar, implications of the expanded product experience is the growing need for more effective linguistic asset management (TMs, termbases, MT) to achieve consistency across the many content types and touchpoints that product users will experience. Regardless of how you organize these assets, it’s time you were able to assign them to projects in more sophisticated ways than is possible with standard “grouping” functions in the traditional TMS.

One useful emerging tool is the translation engine that we’ve built into our TMS and translation project management technologies. This lets you pull together any number of TMs, termbases and MT services as a single, persistent group of assets for assignment to different projects and translation environments. It lets you give each asset a different weighting and determine the order for preferring one over another. It lets you specify that one TM should be lookup-only, and another is to be updated.

So, for example, if it makes sense to have a TM for support content that is separate from the software TM, but you want to leverage the work done on software localization for the support content, this is easy to do through a translation engine — along with ensuring that approved brand terms and other terminology are adhered to and your choice of MT engines used. All through one, easy-to-configure linguistic asset management tool.

Grabbing the opportunity

The expanded product experience challenges localization teams to step up to manage greater volumes and diversity of content, and work smarter to maintain consistency. For those that do step up, it’s a great opportunity — every business that wants to launch a product internationally will need to tackle its localization, and should be doing so across the expanded product experience.

If you want to explore this opportunity with product management or development teams, our e-book, Four Principles of Successful Product Globalization, will help you do so. It addresses the expanded product experience among other localization challenges, and explains why product teams need to take localization seriously.