How Localization Is Run at Nike, Bose, and KAYAK: SlatorCon Panel Insights

Enterprise Localization Panel at SlatorCon Amsterdam 2019

What single biggest value-add can a language service provider bring to a client’s organization? This would likely be top of mind for any LSP looking to hear insights from a panel of language industry buyers.

At SlatorCon Amsterdam 2019, the Enterprise Localization Panel featuring Vinicius Britto of Bose, Álvaro Merelo of Nike, Andrea Guisado Muñoz of KAYAK, and Balázs Benedek of Easyling, sought to answer this and much more.

Vinicius Britto, Global Localization Manager at the consumer electronics powerhouse, said the biggest added value an LSP can bring “would not necessarily be project management, but global account management. Today, the way I approach LSPs is if you have native speakers doing the translation, edit, and review, that’s the baseline. What are you adding on top of that? What account management can you provide to make my job easier?”

Álvaro Merelo, Senior Global Localization Manager at sneaker giant Nike, said, “For me, it’s about the Swiss Army vendor: Solve my problems. It’s my job to formulate them in a way that makes sense and it’s the vendor’s job to educate me on how to solve them and then help me solve them.”

Asked if getting to that kind of copacetic relationship was at all painful, Merelo replied, “That is where good account management comes in, where they anticipate your needs and help you understand what it is you need; which is slightly different from a good salesman. Very close, but it’s not exactly the same thing.”

He added, “This is something that has been lacking in the localization industry for years, good accounts teams to partner with the clients. This is something that marketing agencies have done a lot better and the localization industry needs to catch up on: Sending people who will educate you, help you understand your needs, and formulate them in a way that is useful.”

According to Andrea Guisado Muñoz, Senior Localization Architect at travel search engine KAYAK, they mostly work with an in-house team and freelancers. “We rarely work with LSPs,” she said, “but I could see where they could help in situations when we need scalability very quickly.”

More Words Than Dollars

At KAYAK, Muñoz said, they also consider using machine translation (MT) whenever they receive new requests for content to be translated. She said, “We run evaluations considering the scope, volume, and visibility of this content. Then we would evaluate the accuracy, fluency, if we have to post-edit, what would be the effort, and then compare it with the actual cost of localizing, comparing the end quality. And if we decide to go with MT, we would integrate it with our development team, which is relatively easy.”

As a tech company that helps LSPs and enterprises to localize their websites, Easyling has dealt with two scenarios where machine translated web content makes more sense, according to Co-founder and CTO Balázs Benedek.

He said they recently came across an interesting use case around fora where, instead of having silos where people discuss similar topics in different languages, the approach would be to “bring them all together where everyone can read the same posts, all the posts in their own language, and then post a comment also in their own language.”

Benedek said such forum conversations can happen in real time using MT and then his team would “optimize the user experience and the translation process so not everything has to be translated every single time and new content is properly managed.”

“MT would be the better option when there are more words than dollars” — Balázs Benedek, Co-founder and CTO, Easyling

The Easyling CTO also singled out another scenario where MT would be the better option: “When there are more words than dollars.” He explained, “There is a lot of content but not all of it can be translated with professional human translation or even transcreation.”

In what he described as a bottom-up approach, he said they would “use MT to translate everything into all the target languages — and then start measuring where traction builds up. Then, whenever necessary, just do the proper post-editing or even human translation, and SEO optimization.”

“SEO is important, but it isn’t magic that happens automatically,” Benedek said. “The very first step is to get the original side, say in English, done right. If not, SEO-related mistakes will just roll over to all the other language variations. But if you get that fixed first, then it becomes very easy.”

For his part, Nike’s Merelo shared how they “have played around with the idea of optimizing SEO glossaries.”

He added, however, that it “will only take you so far because it’s not a very dynamic framework and it’s based on an outdated idea that SEO is about keyword management. So it will help, but you will run into a few problems. For marketing content, the SEO glossary might not be the one your brand wants to use. It helps, but that’s not the answer.”

From Friction to Value-Add

The SlatorCon Enterprise Localization Panel also touched on the dynamics between localization and other parts of the business. According to Global Localization Manager Britto, while his unit sits within creative services at the speaker giant, “our localization is completely decoupled.”

“We always have to convince people of the importance of localization for a global company in the B2C market” — Vinicius Britto, Global Localization Manager, Bose

Britto explained: “While I’m responsible for workflows and business processes, each of our teams has their own project manager who sends content out to our vendors to be translated. So we don’t have an internal team that takes care of either project management or small translations. It is all outsourced. In that regard, all our teams work semi-independently and I’m responsible for making sure they’re using the right workflows, all our tools are aligned, and that our vendor is really doing the job they need to deliver on time.”

On whether localization is a cost or revenue driver, Britto said, “Some groups will think that translation is a cost rather than an opportunity; so we always have to convince people of the importance of localization for a global company in the B2C market.”

As Senior Localization Architect at travel search engine KAYAK, Muñoz oversees all tools and workflows used by the localization team, making sure they are optimized to deliver the best quality.

“When we develop a new product or a new feature, before it even gets to the translation phase, we try to be there to spot design or localization issues for any specific language” — Andrea Guisado Muñoz, Senior Localization Architect, KAYAK

Muñoz said, “KAYAK is a technology company so our localization team tries to be involved in the early stages of product development. When we develop a new product or a new feature, before it even gets to the translation phase, we try to be there to spot design or localization issues for any specific language. And then we work very closely with the developer so we can find a solution before even a string is created or gets to us.”

Nike, meanwhile, has already emerged from its “maturity journey,” according to Senior Global Localization Manager Merelo. “There used to be friction but, right now, localization is seen as a value-add,” he said.

The have already developed a global team of language specialists, he said, and “they are part of the localization team and the brand functions. They are the interface that allows us to serve our internal clients exactly what they want and expect in a very seamless manner.”

Merelo described the Nike localization team as “pretty unique” in that they are globally distributed. He said, “Usually, Nike has a global, a geo, and a local layer. We actually cut through that because our delivery times are very short. We cannot afford the luxury of having all those layers. And then our internal clients are in the three layers. My production team is based in Amsterdam and Portland and then my language specialist team — the brand specialists, if you will — they’re in the national offices.”

“It’s my job to formulate my problems in a way that makes sense and it’s the vendor’s job to educate me on how to solve them and then help me solve them” — Álvaro Merelo, Senior Global Localization Manager, Nike

According to Merelo his team has “a very consolidated vendor portfolio and we have clear KPIs for delivery time, quality, etc. We work with creative teams internally and brand teams. It has been a journey from a place where there was distrust in the localization function (e.g., output comes back to the stakeholder and it reads like it came from Google Translate) to more of a rapport, where we say, ‘We can do this right. We just need to understand what you want.’”