The pressure is on. Five hundred pairs of eyes are fixed on me, some expectantly, others critically. I have no idea how many more are watching online. In the weeks leading up to this, I’ve mulled over a few thoughts I want to share. But the moderator has just asked me about something completely different. And more crowdsourced questions are pouring in through the audience interaction platform on the huge screen.

The sixth edition of the annual Translating Europe conference in Brussels two weeks ago focused on the topic “Translation all around us – The added value of translation in business and society”. Appearing on the first live-streamed panel of the two-day event forced me to think long and hard about value, and specifically how to quantify value when translating content for business purposes. This in turn led me to reflect on how to measure the value of content in the first place. Before a client can decide what constitutes a fair price for getting a piece of their content translated into another language, they need to consider what value that content can generate over its lifetime.

The value of value

Every business aims to create a seamless customer experience, which means that all the touch points in the customer journey should offer a consistent high-quality experience. If the quality dips at any point, the entire customer experience suffers. Marketing, product and technical content creates value in different ways at the different touch points along the customer journey. And that journey today is no longer linear – customers can jump from finding and accessing a product to checking the reviews on it and back to the user instructions.

With content, we need to measure how our content performs in the tasks we created it for and sent it out to execute. With digital content, this is no longer a dream but a reality.

The purpose a piece of content is created for is linked to how it brings value. Certain content simply opens doors: you have to translate and localise it in order to be allowed to sell or operate in a new geographical market. This applies to many regulated industries like IP, life sciences and the finance sector.  Other content influences buying decisions – how well it is localised for the new target audience has a direct correlation with your revenue stream.

The outfit I run is in the business of helping companies create and localise the multilingual content that complements or promotes – and sometimes even constitutes – their products and services: websites and apps, software, user documentation, contracts, installation manuals, brochures, financial reports, speeches and patient information leaflets, to mention a few. Most of it can be summed up as marketing, product or technical content. We help our clients maximise the value that can be extracted from that content.

Value is created as a product or service is consumed, as opposed to when it is purchased. With content, this means we need to measure how our content performs in the tasks we created it for and sent it out to execute. With digital content, this is no longer a dream but a reality.

Measuring content performance

In our increasingly data-driven economy, clever technology and methodologies are being invented to measure the performance of digital content, either prior to launch or while in use. I chatted to Heidi Kock who works as a lecturer and researcher at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences in Finland. Heidi manages Haaga-Helia’s SalesLab, which was opened a year ago to utilise biometrics and facial coding in sales interaction, for example.

The results highlight the pain points in the user experience as well as any differences when comparing different versions of software or text.

Heidi told me about artificial emotional intelligence (emotion AI) or emotion detection technology. Emotion AI tools measure the emotional responses and their strength in individuals who engage with a person, text or a piece of software on a screen. They do this by tracking eye movement, interpreting facial expressions and measuring galvanic skin responses. Combined with the individual’s self-assessment and an interview conducted with them, the results highlight the pain points in the user experience as well as any differences when comparing different versions of software or text.

In-depth analysis of the performance of localised content in this manner is still in its infancy, although it will undoubtedly be applied to translated work sooner or later. In Europe, data privacy regulations restrict motion AI tests outside of controlled lab conditions, whereas in other parts of the world they can take place in real life situations where the subjects don’t even know their reactions are being tracked.

While considering the ROI in controlled emotion AI tests, multilingual content owners can opt for performance-based A/B testing of their content. A/B testing is a method of comparing two versions of a web page or app against each other to determine which one performs better. A simple way to measure this would be to track which one converts more readers into buying customers. This method would be well suited for testing alternative versions of localised content as well: for example, measuring a British English online buying platform in the United States against a parallel US English one, and monitoring which one generates more sales.

Content Lifetime Value

Content can add value even once it’s no longer in active use. Through data mining, data cleaning and data labelling, today’s content owners seek to build AI solutions out of their existing content. These are tasks language service providers are often called on to help with. In a world where data is power, our clients seek to extract value out of their content but may not fully understand all the elements associated with it. They may not know where this key data resides or even if it exists – and it usually needs to be pulled together from multiple databases and systems in different functional areas of the company.

I’d like to reappropriate [CLV] to mean ‘Content Lifetime Value’. With this benchmark, the discussion around what the translation of that piece might be worth becomes much more meaningful.

Is it possible to gauge the ultimate value-generating potential of a piece of content?  CLV traditionally stands for ‘Customer Lifetime Value’, in other words, it is a prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer. I’d like to reappropriate the abbreviation to mean ‘Content Lifetime Value’, which would then be used to predict the net profit attributed to the future utilisation of a piece of content. With this benchmark, the discussion around what the translation of that piece might be worth becomes much more meaningful. I’ve already said that the cost of a service is different from its value, but in fact it’s this difference between the value of our service and its price that gives our clients an incentive to buy.

When it comes to translated and localised content, the traditional methodology of securing value has focused on risk management – eliminating the risk of the translation causing damage or being misleading. For many content-owner clients, high translation quality simply means a translation that’s error-free, and all language industry metrics and root cause analyses are developed to this end. The limitation of this otherwise valid approach is that an error-free translation does not guarantee that the translated content will perform well in the role it was created for. And it won’t generate value unless it does that.

Selling only on price – where’s the fun in that? Let’s talk about value instead. Buyers of multilingual language services need to understand that our solutions add significant value to their projects, products and services. Our job is to communicate clearly why our service is relevant to their world and how and when we can have a substantial impact on their agenda.

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Director’s Cut, Industry issues, Translation industry