Claire Tsai, Head of Globalization at Cloudflare, kicked off her presentation at SlatorCon San Francisco 2019 by sharing with the audience Cloudflare’s journey to “going global.”
Cloudflare, which, as it happens, went public the day after SlatorCon in a very successful IPO, has its roots in a 2004 project to track email spam. Today, it is a cloud platform that offers website users secure and efficient network services.
Over 1,000 Cloudflare employees work in offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and, as Tsai noted, over half of Cloudflare’s revenue is derived from international customers outside the United States, making Cloudflare’s globalization a necessity.
Tsai’s background made her well-suited to lead the effort. She grew up multilingual in Taiwan, speaking Chinese, English, Japanese, and Taiwanese, and started studying localization after coming to the US. After graduating, she got her education in multimedia localization by working at a professor’s specialized agency, and then she moved on to the client side via a company that handled SaaS business and needed significant website localization. As Tsai progressed in her career, she started using data to measure the effectiveness of localization.
When Tsai started with Cloudflare in January 2017, she was a one-man globalization band and had to prioritize how to use her limited resources. “We decided we’ll just let the data guide [us] on our international expansion journey,” she said.
But choosing the right data to follow is critical in today’s tech-saturated environment, where users can be seen bouncing from a company’s website to its app to social media and back very rapidly. With so many touch points, Tsai explained, it can be easy to get caught up in superficial “vanity metrics” (i.e., those that measure mere page views rather than actual viewer conversions).
Tsai said what really matters to the bottom line is conversion, which is based on how users interact with the company. In practice, this means focusing on how easily an existing customer can find support information, rather than the volume of traffic to a website.
To that end, the research Cloudflare conducts aims to understand a customer’s intent and buying behavior, and includes analyzing first- and third-party data, running focus groups, and talking with customers. The goal: a seamless customer experience.
Less Is More: Localizing Selectively
Instead of trying to mimic other companies by translating millions of words in one go, Cloudflare decided to localize specific aspects of the customer experience.
Localizing, say, the check-out experience — including currency, payment, and tax details — can have a more immediate impact on the bottom line than localizing an entire API portal or knowledge base. Future options might include using machine translation for knowledge base content or crowdsourcing for community and social media channels.
Their data-guided strategy has led Cloudflare to build a framework that can be customized according to the needs of different markets. The company invites industry specialists and local experts to contribute test recommendations that are then built into the framework.
From there, the framework allows Cloudflare to run different tests and focus groups to confirm if the new recommendations improve the user experience. If the changes pass muster, the updates are integrated into the product.
Just Getting Started
By the very nature of Cloudflare’s work, Tsai knows that her now five-person team needs to be attuned to the latest trends in localization. Looking ahead, Tsai predicted that Cloudflare will launch in a number of new languages: “Right now, we localize about 10 to 17 languages for consumer apps […], but we do see the need to localize beyond CCJK [Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, and Korean] and FIGS [French, Italian, German, and Spanish], and go deeper into emerging southeast Asian countries as well as European languages.”
As Cloudflare’s globalization work expands to include more languages, the company sees new translation combinations and directions. Traditionally, Cloudflare has set up operations and tech to handle translation from English into multiple target languages; but also on offer now are other languages into English, or even into languages other than English.
While acknowledging that advances in language technology have had an impact on Cloudflare, most notably in terms of faster time to market with lower-cost translation, Tsai assured the audience that the company does not plan to replace human suppliers with machine translation anytime soon.
“We need closer collaboration in terms of building all the processes to help automate and to innovate,” Tsai said. “We need people to lead us to innovate strategy.”
SCSF19 Presentation Claire (Cloudflare)