Starwood Hotels, Canary Share Translation ROI Tips at LOCALIZE NYC

Smartling was created to change the conversation around translation, and in 2017 we’ll be bringing that conversation to brand new venues. We kicked off this commitment in earnest last week with LOCALIZE NYC, a live multimedia event hosted a few blocks away from our Manhattan headquarters.

In addition to the drinks shared and connections made, our guests were also treated to a behind-the-scenes look at how two growing brands are building translation strategies that deliver serious business results.

Carmen Magar, Director of International at Canary, was generous enough to share her company’s story of expanding into 15 countries in 15 months while Ora Solomon, Director of Globalization at Starwood Hotels, walked the audience through her team’s new translation ROI model.

And although their respective organizations do differ by size, age, and industry, their thinking often aligned around common translation principles any company can apply.

Know What Success Looks Like

Getting a return on translation investments is no longer enough. Today, that return must be significant in scale and relevant to your organization’s unique goals.

Canary’s translation strategy was born from a clear and quantifiable business mandate: Secure a strong retail presence in 15 countries within a 15-month window. Magar also knew that any tactics she employed would have to minimize IT requirements as well. Effectively expanding the brand’s multilingual marketing capabilities wouldn’t mean much if engineers were unable to maintain their pace of product innovation along the way.

Market coverage is currently less of a concern for Starwood, on the other hand. Considering the hotel chain already has more than 1,500 global properties, Solomon’s success now hinges on her ability to adapt the company’s initial approach and develop a leaner model that maximizes translation spend.

By confirming their priorities at the outset, it also became easier for each to identify the partners and processes they would need to get the job done right.

Think Big (But Start Small)

Ambition is a necessary ingredient in any translation strategy, but lofty goals are rarely achieved with a plan that tries to do everything all at once.

Magar encouraged young brands to heed this advice and begin by translating one language at a time. Limiting scope allows teams to make rookie mistakes and discover unexpected hurdles in a relatively low-risk environment. Those early learnings empowered her to quickly refine and optimize workflows that ultimately addressed a larger language set more efficiently.

Even with a sophisticated new data model at her disposal, Solomon has chosen to exercise similar restraint. Modestly expanding translation investment in a few markets with dramatic upside potential enabled her team to verify their calculations and generate early wins that the rest of the company could recognize.

This strategy of validating small hypotheses and gradually capitalizing on their feedback is surely an approach any localization team would do well to mirror.

Acknowledge Individual Differences

Brand consistency is a tricky topic when it comes to international expansion. A familiar identity is a major asset, but being recognized and being relevant are sometimes two different things. As a result, serving every market a carbon-copy experience is often a false requirement.

The personalized touches within Canary’s localized content can be seen in everything from feature names and privacy notifications to photo models and copywriting slogans. Luckily, Magar’s centralized translation management system ensures all these creative variations are easy to track and adapt.

Starwood has taken the notion of flexible content one step further. Instead of assuming a few core languages need to be available in every market, Solomon now lets conversion data confirm where localized content is truly worth the investment. As a result, her team has been able to strategically scale back content production in certain locales without sacrificing significant revenue.

Learn More

Contact us today to talk more about how to set, measure, and meet translation ROI requirements.