Technology has always given retail businesses an edge. Digital tools and innovative technologies have been driving business in the retail sector for decades, from point-of-purchase software and inventory systems to digitized product catalogs and robust e-commerce websites. By adopting cutting-edge technologies, retailers today are making their supply chains more efficient, and they can more easily ship products to customers around the world. This allows businesses to access new markets, acquire new customers and achieve greater value in more cost-effective ways than ever before. Technology enables retailers and brands to go beyond traditional brick-and-mortar stores and create end-to-end, 360-degree customer experiences online and offline so that buyers become customers for life and brand advocates. In other words, technology empowers retailers and brands to dominate the global market.
That said, consumers are going to continue demanding greater customization and personalization in their shopping experiences. Consumers have high expectations, and brands need to respond to those expectations by finding new ways to delight and surprise their customers while giving them a cohesive experience, whether in-store or online. However, tying together all digital touchpoints (online and offline) to create hyperpersonalization across all aspects of the customer journey is a real challenge.
According to industry analyst Common Sense Advisory, 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product where the description is in their own language. It’s safe to say that localization and digital content translation is a huge competitive advantage for global retail businesses. Speaking a buyer’s native language enables retailers to enter new markets, expand business in existing markets, and further personalize the shopping experience for local audiences. The process of localizing digital content is cumbersome, so using available translation technologies is crucial. Many global retailers and ambitious brands are already taking advantage of localization software, which decreases the manual effort involved in the translation process, reduces cost for creating multilingual content, and accelerates time to market for new products.
So what does this mean for the future of retail? Shopping is no longer divided between brick-and-mortar and digital. Today, the lines are blurred and the in-store experience and online experience have merged into “omnichannel.” The in-store experience is augmented by digital, and the digital experience drives traffic to in-store experiences. And with big data, brands are able to collect information on all their customers at all touchpoints, in-store and online. They can then use that data to better personalize and market to customers, building brand loyalty and driving business in the process.
To keep customers happy, hyperpersonalized shopping experiences will become the norm. Retail stores are becoming completely digitized. Consider Rebecca Minkoff, which has stores with digitized mirrors that allow consumers to shop full fashion runway looks by swiping on a screen and pressing a button. Shoppers can select the clothes they want and get them delivered to their dressing room. A personal stylist sends them text messages when the clothes are in the dressing room. All of these touchpoints require more content creation and will add further complexity to localizing that content. This will create a greater need for centralized, robust and flexible translation and localization software, which can solve these translation challenges and provide a fully branded, consistent experience for customers, from the dressing room to their online shopping cart.
Also, retail stores will start serving more as gathering locations for customers to experience their favorite brands together. Think about Apple's retail stores, but taken to the next level. Retailers have the opportunity to localize experiences to specific countries, regions, cities and even neighborhoods to provide customers the opportunity to interact in a personal way with the brands and their communities.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic and it will be applied to all aspects of the shopping cycle. AI engines, enabled by big data, will be used to anticipate customer needs and provide hypertailored brand experiences. Furthermore, AI and machine learning will become important throughout the customer journey to provide recommendations, support and address any other specific needs. Paired with localization technology, AI and machine learning could be key for global businesses to beat the competition.
The Internet of Things will also evolve. More products will be digitally enabled and wired, with more dynamic content needed in various languages. A great example is Canary, which uses translation to extend its brand promise and build greater trust with its customers. We’ll continue to see more products like this, not only in fashion and consumer electronics, but also home appliances and automotives. Many of these objects use or will use voice recognition and voice commands, which may also be paired with AI and machine learning, and these technologies will require seamless integration into a flexible translation software that can further the goal of personalizing and localizing the experience for customers.
Juliana Pereira is vice president of global marketing for Smartling, which provides global businesses with powerful tools to translate their content and products, with millions of words processed daily and monthly.
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Juliana Pereira is vice president of marketing at Flow Commerce, an e-commerce solution for cross-border retailing.
She has 15 years of experience in marketing for eCommerce, consumer software, and retail across a variety of industries: from non profit, music, and art to consumer electronics, tech, and fashion. Prior to Flow, she was with Smartling and Ralph Lauren.