Neural Machine Translation and Native Customer Experience

January 4, 20196min

In this digital age, an increasing number of brands are expanding internationally and attempting to reach new customers and audiences across the globe.

The necessity of being able to speak to these consumers in their own language is more vital than ever before.If you are able to speak your customer’s language, which involves both literal translation and demonstrating a deep understanding of local customs, etiquette and traditions, then you are far more likely to deliver a consistently high quality Customer Experience (CX).

After all, really good CX is always about speaking to your individual customer in his or her proper local language. And this something that is far more than a linguistic, cultural or grammatical exercise – particularly when you’re looking to engage with potentially millions of customers.

With brand loyalty no longer a given, and CX becoming just as important as product or service quality, getting it wrong is not an option. Revealing that you are not a native brand or wrongfooting the customer with poor translation can mean an increase in churn. Worse still, it risks pushing your customer into the hands of competitors.

Business lost in translation

Translation is therefore a key part of any strategy looking to grow your customer base globally. So why are so many brands still failing to adequately value high quality localised content?

After all, in this digital age where brand loyalty is often hard to maintain, a glitch in translation, or a seemingly minor absence of local or regional awareness can contribute towards losing a customer. Dolce and Gabbana’s recent cultural  blunder in China is testament to just how important it is to take into account local nuances, which is something machine translation is striving to help companies avoid in the future.

This is why machine translation is the backbone of great CX. And of course, you will likely already know that improving CX is, according to a recent study, the top objective for 75 percent of companies.

Neural machine translation explained

Neural Machine Translation (NMT), using artificial intelligence (AI) lets businesses and brands translate massive amounts of content from around the world in seconds. Not only does it facilitate speed, but it is already helping companies provide natural translation that fits in with its surroundings with more accuracy than ever before. By generating analogies that capture the sentiment and emotions behind the words, NMT is constantly improving on previous systems.

Whether this content is for internal use throughout the organisation (such as company-wide email notifications) or externally for customers (on a website, or a mobile app, for example), machine translation allows you to communicate effectively with people at in any language.

High quality localised content can be generated by NMT rapidly and cost-effectively, which is why marketers and C-suite executives must start to see it as a ‘must-have’ element in the broader business strategy.

Understand cultural nuances and etiquette

Quality NMT helps businesses and brands understand and automatically respond to local cultural nuances such as differences in etiquette. NMT is only the first step, as deep understanding of local customs, cultural differences and rules of etiquette must originate from humans.

Successful communication requires both learning and speaking the local language, in addition to tapping into a deeper understanding of culturally specific messaging.

So, for example, the colour red symbolises ‘danger’ in most western countries, yet in China red symbolises ‘good/ prosperity’. On Wall Street in the US, stocks that are up are indicated in green, stocks that are down are indicated in red. Yet in Taiwan, it is the exact opposite.

In terms of etiquette, calling somebody by their first name is common practice in the US. Yet in Japan it is often highly frowned-upon, and you would very rarely address an elder or a child in the same way. And brands also have to understand these local specificities, norms and rules of communication in order to speak to their customers in a direct, personalised way.

This is why combining the human element with NMT is so essential to reaching global consumers. Receiving a personalised experience every time results in people wanting to repeat that same experience again and again.  The fact is, according to research, only 18 percent of the 50 percent of people speaking English, would convert through a marketing funnel, unless they see content in their native language. This equates to a 91 percent attrition rate if companies aren’t using translation services.

The real promise of NMT: putting your brand directly in touch with the consumer in a personalised and relevant way, enabling more meaningful brand loyalty.


Mihai Vlad

Mihai Vlad

Mihai Vlad is VP AI & Machine Learning Solutions at SDL.

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