What does 2018 have in store for international businesses and those looking to expand into new markets? While I don’t have a crystal ball, several trends have developed in the last few years that look set to continue for the next 12 months and beyond. In this post I share some the linguistic challenges and opportunities that businesses and organisations face in 2018.
- Lack of language skills
As highlighted in my recent post on Languages for the Future, many UK businesses and organisations lack in-house language skills. While this is not a new challenge, the UK’s imminent exit from the EU has brought the skill shortage into sharp perspective. Our reliance on English as ‘the language of international business’ has meant that in many cases languages have not been a priority for business operations or strategic planning. While the increasing need for language skills may be a challenge, I think it is also an opportunity. By prioritising languages in 2018 there is an opportunity to differentiate your company, compete with international businesses, and get ahead of the domestic competition.
- Cross border e-commerce
For many e-commerce businesses, the domestic market has reached maturity. In January to March 2017, 89% of UK adults used the Internet and approximately 87% of UK consumers shopped online during 2017. On the one hand, these high-penetration rates mean that the UK e-commerce market is in good health. On the other hand, there are fewer opportunities for individual online businesses to grow once established. Although there is still growth in the domestic e-commerce market, notably in the area of m-commerce, there are other opportunities overseas. Less mature e-commerce markets offer UK retailers and online businesses the chance to grow their business in a less competitive market, and reach overseas customers with new products or services.
The challenge is to communicate effectively with consumers in a new market. That involves translating and localising website content, translating marketing materials, and ensuring that customer services are also localised to provide overseas customers with the support they need.
- Taking control of user-gen content
We’ve seen an explosion of user-generated content being created across all business sectors in recent years. No longer are social media interactions, reviews and other digital content confined to consumer products, now we’re also seeing B2B consumers generating this content and sharing it with the world! This presents a great opportunity for businesses to engage with their customers, clients and end-users, and use this content to reach new customers, build loyalty and great customer relationships.
The challenge is to take control of this content. That involves understanding which platforms your international customers use, what is relevant to them and how to harness the power of user-gen content in different markets. For more on this subject, check my blog that shares tips for translating user-generated content.
Low productivity in the UK, and other countries, often makes the headlines. There are numerous reasons attributed to this trend including lack of investment, skills shortages, legacy systems and old technology etc. etc. While there is unlikely to be a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, most businesses can boost productivity in some areas by outsourcing.
Keeping certain functions in-house loses valuable time and money. Staff without the necessary expertise will take longer to compete tasks and this work takes them away from the things they are good at. Functions such as marketing, HR, IT and finance are generally the key areas to consider outsourcing – either in their entirety or by outsourcing some of the business operational aspects of these functions – translations are another good example.
The challenge is to find a translation partner that your business can work with long term. By building a trusted relationship, where the translation service provider really understands the business, you can obtain excellent ROI and increased productivity. Learn more about outsourcing translations here.
- Digitalisation and globalisation
Is digitalisation driving globalisation, or vice versa? Either way, businesses and organisations are finding it challenging to keep up with an ever evolving digital landscape and compete in a global marketplace. While digital transformation may provide the tools to optimise your business for global success, one area that must not be overlooked is localisation.
‘Think globally, act locally’ is my advice for ensuring your digital strategies are effective across different markets and countries. From website translation and digital platforms, to software and e-learning localisation, digital transformation and globalisation strategies should aim to localise assets and resources, not standardise them.
Finally, a global trend that has shaped 2017 and looks set to continue into 2018: uncertainty. In this kind of environment it pays to be flexible so that your organisation can take advantage of opportunity when it presents itself. I believe that having trusted partners on your side can give you an edge, by providing the skills and expertise you need to scale, flex and respond to demand and changing market conditions. To this end, international organisations and those with global ambitions, should work closely with their translation provider to ensure they have access to the right language skills, when they need them.
If you would like to discuss your organisation’s global strategies for 2018 and the part languages have to play, please contact me. I would be delighted to provide some insight into translations, localisation and language skills, and how you can utilise these for global success.
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