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Go global: four ways AI translation improves companies' localization strategies

What you need to know about translation and localization:  

  • Translation and localization are different processes—while translation is the transformation of one language to another that preserves meaning, localization goes further by adapting it to different markets’ cultural and linguistic variations 
  • High-quality localization applies to everything from time and date formats to puns and wordplay 
  • Proper localization efforts can improve global customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as increase revenue 
  • AI translation is a fantastic tool for companies that want to streamline and improve their localization process 
  • The benefits of DeepL’s AI translation include: increased efficiency, better time-saving capabilities, enhanced quality and accuracy, and improved team alignment 

Although they may seem similar at first glance, translation and localization are distinct processes that serve different purposes. While the former transforms a text from one language into another, the latter takes the process a step further by focusing on a target market, thereby adapting the translated text to cultural, linguistic, and structural differences. 

In essence, translation is an integral part of the longer and more intricate localization process. Ultimately, translation and localization work very well together—especially when utilizing AI translation

Unlike manual human translation, AI translation is an automated machine learning process that provides highly accurate, instant translations. Thanks to their speed and accuracy, AI translation tools fit very well into the localization process and can even be used to streamline workflows and increase efficiency. 

So whether you’re interested in reaching new global markets or improving customer satisfaction, localization allows your company to meet customers where they’re most comfortable: in their native language. 

In this post, we’ll discuss what differentiates translation and localization, as well as explore how AI translation can enhance, simplify, and accelerate the localization process to increase customer loyalty and satisfaction. 

Translation vs. localization: Are they really different? 

Short answer: yes. Longer answer: read on. 

In its simplest form, translation is the transformation of text from one language to another that preserves the meaning and purpose of the original text. By contrast, our own localization specialists define localization as a more complex process that aims at adapting a product or a service to the needs of a specific market.  

When successfully localizing a product or text for a specific market, we should consider more than just cultural or linguistic characteristics. Rather, we should also consider changes at the structural level. Great localization happens when a product or service feels like it's been designed specifically for its target market—not as though it's simply been modified.  

Keep in mind, content can’t be localized properly if it hasn’t first been translated well. This is where AI translation provides an ideal solution. 

Usually, AI translation tools use deep neural networks to provide accurate and human-sounding translations. Overall, AI translation is a far more advanced, efficient option for companies that require high-quality translations at scale as a part of their localization processes.   

In fact, according to a recent survey run by Regina Corso Consulting for DeepL’s own research*, we found that “87% of marketers agree that machine translation is an indispensable tool for localization/translation projects.” 

So, if you’re looking to extend your company’s reach to a global audience, you might be wondering: how can localization help my company succeed internationally? Good question, that’s what we’ll cover next. 

What makes localization so important to global businesses? 

Described by localization tool Phrase as "a bold undertaking that goes beyond the mere translation of text,” language localization “includes modifying a range of aspects to local preferences, expectations, and conventions.” 

An involved process that requires attention to detail and a thorough understanding of the culture and preferences of the target language, localization is essential for companies looking to succeed in new markets.   

According to a recent survey from CSA Research, “76% of online shoppers prefer to buy products with information in their native language,” while another 75% report that they’re "more likely to purchase [from] the same brand again if customer care is in their language.”  

In the words of Dr. Donald A. DePalma of CSA Research, “Localization improves customer experience and increases engagement in the brand dialogue. It should be a rigorously planned and executed business strategy for any company looking to grow internationally.” 

Clearly, localization plays a significant role in modern companies’ global success, from attracting new customers to retaining existing ones—and the benefits of quality localization are far-reaching. In fact, a recent article from Weglot highlighted marketing firm Net Media Planet’s success thanks to localization, with the company experiencing “a 20% increase in conversions after localizing its content and paid ads.”   

From gaining a competitive edge to increasing customer satisfaction and revenue, providing localized content to potential customers increases a company's chances of success in new markets. 

What circumstances require localization? 

illustration of three documents showing website localization and translation services with Japanese, English, and Spanish dates

By now, the differences between translation and localization should be clear—which means we’re ready to dive into what localization can look like in practice. Let’s consider the following examples of situations that require more than just translation: 

  • Times, numbers, currency, measurements, and date formats: There are no universal rules for how we tell time, write dates, or measure distances. Translation sometimes doesn’t take these cultural differences into account, which is why it’s important to use a robust process for each localization project. 
  • Slang and idioms: Translating slang or idioms as-is can be confusing and counterproductive. Here, localization is needed to transform slang phrases or idioms into something that makes linguistic sense and fits the cultural context and nuance. 
  • Puns and wordplay: Humor often has a cultural and contextual basis, and it’s not always easy to simply translate it from one language to another. Localization plays a critical role in ensuring that puns and other forms of wordplay are appropriate—and never get lost in translation. 
  • Symbols, images, and emojis: What's considered humorous or logical in one language and culture may mean the exact opposite in another. It’s the job of a skilled localization specialist to understand how different symbols, images, and emojis are interpreted in other languages and adjust accordingly. 
  • User interfaces: High-quality localization also considers the way different audiences expect to interact with and navigate a website. What works well for a French-speaking audience may not be as successful for a Japanese-speaking audience. Here, localization professionals need to understand cultural expectations of different markets to produce the best results.  

Let’s talk examples: The localization edition 

Consider the following situation: A U.S.-based e-commerce company has recently expanded into the European market, and, as a result, its content and communication needs have evolved. 

Its website then needs to be adapted to multiple languages to fit new market requirements. Thus, the following sentence about a global sale must be translated from American English to German:  

“The Spring Fever Sale ends on May 15th at 12:00 AM.” 

AI translation might provide the following output:  

„Der Spring Sale endet am 15. Mai um 12:00 Uhr.”  

While this is an acceptable straight-through translation, a localized version would consider the fact that the German language uses a 24-hour time format. The localized version of this translation would read:  

„Der Spring Sale endet am 15. Mai um 00:00 Uhr.“ 

Small changes like this may seem nit-picky, but they add up to make a real difference. For example, without proper localization in the above example, German customers could have misunderstood the timeline and missed out on the sale—which means lost revenue for the company and frustration for potential customers looking to save.  

These types of changes create more accurate content and a better overall user experience. As Phrase explains, proper localization also allows companies to “overcome cultural obstacles and . . . avoid potential cultural faux pas that could be detrimental to your brand image.”  

What content needs to be localized? 

When it comes to localizing content, companies' needs are varied and situational. The to-do list may include: 

  • Websites 
  • User manuals 
  • Customer support  
  • Help centers 
  • Software and applications  
  • Marketing materials (e.g., case studies, blog posts, brochures, etc.) 
  • Social media content 
  • . . . and more 

The materials and content a company chooses to localize are up to its discretion, reach, and capacity, but developing a detailed localization strategy is always a smart approach. A truly high-quality localization strategy prioritizes efficiency—which is where AI translation really shines. 

Four ways AI translation streamlines localization processes 

An illustration of a website interface representing the localization and translation industry with bars showing growth

There are many ways in which AI translation positively impacts localization efforts, with some tools providing more advantages than others. When using DeepL, the top four benefits are: 

1. Increased efficiency

Your company can enjoy more efficient workflows if your localization team isn’t translating from scratch but, instead, using DeepL’s AI translation as a jumping-off point. This approach allows for speedier, more streamlined project delivery. 

2. Better time-saving capabilities 

When you save time in the translation process, your localization team can produce more work. This allows them to get more done in less time, which can also increase profitability and ROI.  

3. Enhanced quality and accuracy 

Ensuring localized texts are accurate is a lot of work. When you harness the power of a high-quality AI translation tool such as DeepL, your localization team benefits from more accurate, nuanced translations—meaning there’s less for them to edit, leading to better overall quality.  

4. Improved alignment 

Manual translation provides high-quality results, but often requires a lot of coordination and time. Ensuring company-wide alignment of translation and localization processes is always difficult—especially when companies work with external translation providers or rely on the in-house, unofficial language skills of colleagues.

However, it’s much easier when all localization teams rely on the same method of translation and can specify industry- or company-specific terms via handy glossary features. Such features can reduce coordination time and help maintain a consistent voice and tone in all locales, which define “the language and region preferences that the user wants to see in their user interface”.  

Even with all these benefits in mind, it's important to note that AI translation is only one step in the localization process. While it’s designed to improve alignment and speed up the process, it doesn’t replace true localization efforts.  

Instead, AI translation tools like DeepL should be used in combination with localization for the best results. 

Integrate AI translation technology directly into your products and go global faster 

For companies both big and small, DeepL’s AI translation is the go-to solution for streamlining localization efforts and strengthening customer loyalty across language barriers. 

Remember, the best AI translation tools are flexible and easily integrated into existing platforms and tooling—meaning they improve localization processes without adding more hassle to the workday. From easy-to-use API integrations to convenient SSO login capabilities, high-quality AI translation tools make all the difference for companies working to bring their business to the world. 

To learn more about how DeepL’s AI translations can enhance and streamline your company’s localization process, visit DeepL Pro for Business. 

*This research was conducted by Regina Corso Consulting between March 23–April 5, 2023, with a sample size of 415 marketers from France, Germany, Japan, and the United States.