Smartling vs. Lionbridge

Successful global marketing strategies depend on localization. Expanding into new markets necessitates a focus on making sure your new potential customers understand your product offerings and connect with your brand.

LSPs help you navigate the localization process and match you with qualified linguists who can translate your content. Translation management systems (TMSs) simplify the process of managing everything that needs to happen for a business to go global. They automate tasks, streamline workflows, facilitate collaboration, and improve translation quality.

But with so many options, deciding on the right translation partner can be tricky. If you're here because you're choosing between Smartling and Lionbridge or are looking for an alternative, this page will help you understand which solution is best for your business.

What Is Smartling?

Smartling is a localization project manager's secret weapon.

Our AI-powered translation management software centralizes and streamlines the localization process, and our integrated CAT tool provides translators everything they need to produce high-quality translations. In addition, customers can also receive personalized project management assistance and tap into a network of seasoned and fully vetted translators from all over the world.

Brands of all shapes and sizes — including Pinterest, Hootsuite,, Wilson, and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) — use Smartling to localize content and engage with their customers worldwide, across devices and platforms.

What Is Lionbridge?

Lionbridge is a language service provider that offers translation, interpreting, and other linguistic services in multiple languages. The LSP also supplies customers with products designed to encourage productivity and help manage the translation process. But their offerings may not provide the technological agility and transparency many companies are looking for as their localization efforts evolve.

Smartling vs. Lionbridge vs. Legacy Tools

In recent years, we've seen businesses and consumers alike take a digital-first approach to nearly everything. Yet, for many, the standard translation workflow remains manual and siloed.

It's still common to hear of project managers spending hours copying content over to spreadsheets or text files and emailing those, one by one, to LSPs. Those LSPs will then send the files to translators, who often must work without context, using outdated or incomplete linguistic assets. Communication is usually between the business and LSP or LSP and linguists — that is, the company will rarely, if ever, communicate directly with the linguists translating their content.

That's hardly a recipe for success. Businesses that follow this route spend a lot of time, money, and resources up front. Yet, they risk never seeing a return on their investment because the margin for error is so high.

Fortunately, some companies, including Lionbridge and Smartling, have stepped in to offer tools and processes that make localization efforts more manageable.

For example, Lionbridge and Smartling offer a translation management system that automates manual tasks, leverages previously translated material, and helps you manage the process better. Both companies also offer you access to a large pool of professional linguists who can help you translate your content.

There are, however, several differences between Smartling and Lionbridge (and legacy providers) when it comes to delivering the seamless, digital-first experience businesses need to take their translations to the next level. For example:

  • With Lionbridge: Through the translation management platform, customers can automate workflows and track progress from a central portal.

  • With Smartling: Users can create workflows that move content seamlessly from one step to the next. They can even leverage dynamic workflows to automatically route content to specific steps based on fuzzy matching score, inactivity, file URI, or website URL. Customers also can track how much time content spends in each step of the translation workflow and how much value each step provides.

  • With Lionbridge: Through the quality management platform, customers have tools that help them evaluate translation quality.

  • With Smartling: Smartling’s data-driven approach puts companies in the driver’s seat. The TAUS Dynamic Quality Evaluation Framework (DQF), which is becoming the industry standard for evaluating translation quality, has been built into the Smartling platform and can be customized to fit specific needs. In addition, Smartling generates a personalized Quality Confidence Score™ that gives customers a real-time view of translation quality.

Our Customers Have Spoken: Smartling Is Ranked #1 TMS on G2

Customer reviews are a precious resource. They help give companies a realistic understanding of how well or poorly that translation management provider has met its customers’ needs. That way, companies can make an informed decision and feel confident they’ve chosen the right translation partner.

Smartling’s TMS has been consistently ranked number one on G2 by actual customers. Further still, although our easy-to-navigate UI, feature-rich TMS, transparency, and customizability get high marks, it's our steller, personalized customer service that sets us apart.

“I’ve been with Smartling for three years now, and overall, I am happy with the platform. Their customer service managers are amazing, and I have always received prompt and accurate responses to all my requests. The interface is easy to navigate, and the tool is flexible in terms of setting up different workflows for each type of project & type of content and also user profiles.” — Selcen K, Head of Localization

The Typical Cost of a TMS: Lionbridge vs. Smartling

Translation management systems, especially cloud-based ones, are usually licensed on a subscription basis. Prices vary and are often determined by the features you need.

On top of that, businesses can expect to pay separately for the actual translation work. Translation fees depend on the target language and are priced per word. Keep in mind, too, that many LSPs charge minimum word fees and sometimes even processing or engineering fees.

Lionbridge has five different platforms that customers can use to help manage various aspects of the translation process. The company’s language services would then be charged based on a customer's specific needs.

Smartling, on the other hand, offers customers a complete end-to-end solution within a single platform, with two different ways to engage with our TMS. But both plans give customers access to robust, fully integrated software, complete with numerous project management tools, machine translation options, quality management features, and a sophisticated CAT tool to help linguists produce high-quality translations. So it’s easy for businesses of all sizes to achieve their translation goals no matter where they are in their localization journey.

In addition, businesses have the option of bundling the software with our expert language services, which results in significant savings. And there are no hidden fees, making it easy for you to determine your costs up front.

Finally, we offer three ways to buy our services:

  • Pay As You Go: New to translation? We'll help you get started quickly with usage based pricing
  • Volume-Based Discounts: For larger localization projects, you can receive discounts as your usage grows
  • Committed Use: Commit to a certain level of usage based on project scope and receive deeper discounts

What Differentiates Smartling from Lionbridge?

Lionbridge has a large network of linguists to draw from and provides many language services. It also offers useful platforms that leverage technology, remove some manual processes, and encourage efficiency. However, the company is still considered an LSP first and foremost. As a result, it often falls short for those businesses that need a more agile, approachable, and tech-forward product offering.

In contrast, from our very beginnings to the present day, Smartling has embraced a digital-first mindset. We leverage technology in everything we do. Therefore, in addition to our expert language services, customers have access to best-in-class tools that incorporate the latest technological developments to streamline translation workflows and supply linguists with everything they need.

Among other benefits, Smartling's industry-leading platform allows you to:

  • Easily scale up as your business grows and your localization program matures.
  • Diversify your translation needs by leveraging a variety of integrations while keeping your brand assets and content organized.
  • Bundle software with language services to get steep discounts and simplify the billing process — you receive just a single monthly bill.
  • Rest easy knowing that our enterprise-grade security infrastructure complies with industry standards and regulations and works hard to keep your data safe.

What To Consider When Choosing a Language Service Provider

Although many businesses understand the importance of having high-quality translations, it's much easier said than done to put together the right translation team for the job. That's where language service providers come in; yet, LSPs vary widely in their offerings and quality.

Consider the following when choosing which LSP to partner with:

  • What markets does the LSP serve? Think not only about the markets you're focused on now but also the ones you might want to move into in the future.
  • How experienced is the LSP? Years in business is one indicator but also ask about the industries and types of content the LSP works with.
  • How do they evaluate their translators? The initial vetting process is important; so is the LSP's ongoing evaluation plan.
  • Is their pricing structure transparent? Businesses should be able to easily understand what they're being charged for and how much the bill will be.

Partnering with experts and investing in the right tools is crucial when you want to connect with customers around the world. Ready to learn more about how you can supercharge your global content strategy? Download our sample translation RFP and contact us today.