The 2024 Localisation Report

Written by Deidre Olsen

Executive summary

Although 70% of experts recognise the advantages of machine translation, many brands have not seized the chance to significantly cut translation and localisation costs. Our report illustrates how embracing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology can enhance efficiency and ensure sustainable growth while upholding high-quality standards.

As a busy CMO you will be used to juggling a variety of marketing challenges; building your brand, delivering effective personalisation, managing a raft of channels and platforms, streamlining processes, and so forth.

As our social networks and marketplaces become increasingly interconnected, the need to engage with diverse audiences across linguistic and cultural landscapes becomes imperative to growth and success. Doing this effectively requires translating and adapting your content to resonate with highly specific regional nuances and preferences. But the processes required can become complex and gaining access to the right experts, right when you need them, isn’t always easy.

With the language translation market projected to reach a market volume of \$11.94 billion USD by 2030 with an annual growth rate of 12.40% between 2024 to 2030, the importance of enhancing translation and localisation efforts cannot be overstated. However, brands are increasingly challenged with balancing the imperative to scale content while maintaining the highest quality standards. Moreover, despite our survey revealing that 70% of brands acknowledge the potential of machine translation as a viable alternative, the adoption rate remains low. This highlights the urgent need for businesses to elevate their translation and localisation strategies to support the growth and success of their brand.

This report offers a detailed overview of the current state of play in the world of translation and localisation with insights from leading lights in the marketing sector. Incorporating recent findings from our survey, we’ll look at the most pressing challenges and bottlenecks that marketers face as well as what the future holds. We’ll explore current attitudes to AI, machine learning (ML), and automation and look at the importance of human intervention to create the top-tier content you and your customers need.

Let’s get started.

Key takeaways

Brands face several localisation bottlenecks​​​

Localisation can be a complex beast and presents significant challenges to both B2B and B2C brands. Let’s take a look at the most common localisation bottlenecks that brands are experiencing today.

1. Finding the right talent

Great content requires great content creators and the same applies to localisation. However, achieving optimum output levels and quality is hard, even with advances in AI tools. As an independent marketing executive, states; “Current solutions do need people’s interference and validation. However, resources-wise this is challenging with not enough people, or not the right capabilities.”

Current AI translation or AI localisation solutions do need people's interference and validation. However, resources-wise this is challenging with not enough people, or not the right capabilities.

2. Speed and efficiency

Our survey revealed that, on average, brands need to operate in slightly over 11 languages. This significant workload, if not managed carefully, could pose a burden on time and resources. Furthermore, it could also jeopardise the brand’s ability to produce top-tier content or scale effectively.

Our respondents reported that several iterations were often needed to perfect the copy. These bottlenecks are likely to impact processes, the amount of content you can get to market, the ability to conduct effective account-based management campaigns, test new markets and optimise customer engagement and loyalty.

Additionally, intrinsic challenges were identified with existing translation and localisation solutions. In-house and local marketing teams often lack sufficient translation expertise and struggle to allocate time and resources; translation agencies may lack familiarity with the brand, tone of voice or industry context and creative agencies commonly encounter difficulties in efficiently scaling across diverse markets.

3. Accuracy​

Sending inaccurate content out into the world can significantly diminish your brand presence and the impact you make on your target audience. The knock-on effect on your brand growth and your credibility as an information provider is potentially catastrophic.

People remember mistakes and trust can be lost in an instant, particularly in highly regulated industries such as pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and medical and financial services. As an independent marketing executive tells us; “The challenge is to ensure the local language nuances and consumer insights are well reflected in the translation and if the translation of claims is legally correct.”

4. Turnaround time and ability to scale​

Siew Lai Wong, a marketing leader based in Malaysia sums this challenge up in a nutshell. “I find that accurately capturing the subtleties of language, idioms, cultural references, and local humour can be very challenging,” she says. “As well as scaling content translation and localisation at speed but still maintaining the quality at a manageable cost.”

5. Talent availability

Working with external providers is a lifeline for busy CMOs but it’s no good if you don’t have the translation and localisation experts available when you need them.

*Psst – with Contentoo you can scale localisation content output by 10x with a 2-day turnaround time*

6. Cultural adaptation

Translation and localisation have to be done with specific cultural nuances in mind. As Siew Lai Wong tells us; “Perhaps the most immediate risk is the brand image and reputation. Poor translations can make a brand seem insensitive to cultural nuances, leading to a loss of trust among target audiences or backlash. This kind of damage can be costly to repair.”

This also impacts technical adaptation, as she explains. “Poor translation can also lead to miscommunication about product features, usage instructions, or offerings which can frustrate customers, leading to low CSAT and decreases in brand loyalty.”

7. Tone of voice and linguistic complexity

Linguistic complexity also needs to be considered such as “translating the essence of the writing rather than literal translations and translating wordplay and jokes,” says Marita Abraham, Head of Growth at chilli. Establishing the right tone of voice is critical; a skill that can only be achieved by experts in native localisation and translation.

The difference between literal and contextual translation is huge, says David Noonan, Former Head of Brand and Content at Invesco. 

“I know the words that come out are technically the same, but do they lead the audience to the same ideas? We’ve done some research that shows that clients come to very different conclusions, even for basic brand messaging.”

8. Consistency across platforms

Coherent communications are key for all channels and platforms. David Noonan tells us; “Deviations in messages, even slight ones, tell a different story that prompts our customers to change how they think about us.

Localisation in business: The current state of play

Our survey revealed that translation and localisation are indispensable in the global marketing arena. Out of 20 respondents, a significant majority (70%) stated that translation and localisation are highly important for their brands though 6.75 out of 10 respondents expressed concern about their ability to uphold high QC standards. This demonstrates the importance of top-notch translation and localisation and a collective commitment to uphold standards of excellence in global outreach.

When examining how resources are allocated within businesses, our data uncovered a diverse range of translation and localisation setups among respondents. Notably, a significant portion relies on outsourcing, with 30% opting for freelancers and 20% utilising translation agencies. 20% employ local marketing teams and 15% receive support from creative agencies or in-house translators.

Regarding future resource allocation, the majority (60%) anticipate maintaining the same level of investment in localisation and translation as in 2023. Nonetheless, a notable minority (20%) intend to allocate more resources to enhance quality, reflecting a commitment to improving global outreach and resonance. Conversely, 15% foresee reducing resource allocation, potentially reflecting shifting priorities or budgetary constraints.

When it comes to ML and AI, the majority (70%) express confidence in their ability to facilitate translation and localisation efforts. This shows a growing recognition of the technology’s potential to streamline processes and enhance efficiency, providing there continue to be appropriate levels of expert human intervention.

Contentoo’s Translation Scan​

Bad translations hurt your brand. Companies spend the most time getting the highest quality in their primary language but must pay more attention to translations. You need to speak their language to establish a relationship with your local audiences. A cultural misinterpretation in your text can turn your customers away.

Are your translations good enough? Do the free Translation Scan and find out!

The future of translation and localisation: Predictions from top brands

As technology continues to advance rapidly and demand for translation and localisation services surges, it’s critical to proactively prepare for the future and ensure you have the talent and tools to support your strategy and activities.

Our survey findings and broader industry conversations highlight the persistent challenges of translation and localisation, with respondents emphasising the difficulties with delivering top-tier content at scale amid resource limitations. Many emphasised the importance of professional human validation and intervention in ensuring accuracy and cultural relevance while others talked about the potential of AI-driven efficiencies to streamline processes and enhance brand consistency.

As mentioned above, 70% of respondents expressed confidence in AI and ML’s capabilities to carry out translation and localisation tasks. However, the challenges of balancing the demands of scalable content while ensuring it resonates with local audiences is a recurring theme, with professionals navigating the delicate balance between standardisation and cultural adaptation. As brands expand into new markets, the emphasis shifts towards user experience enhancements and engagement optimisation, signalling a broader shift towards customer-centric localisation efforts.

Timing is crucial when setting up and managing end-to-end content creation and localisation workflows. “We learned that it is best to bring in local teams at the beginning,” says David Noonan. “Even if they are not directly responsible for the content, they will have better buy-in and understanding of what the content is trying to do, and therefore will give more effective feedback on the translation and localisation.”

Our report reveals that emerging technologies such as voice assistants and visual search are poised to reshape the localisation landscape.

“AI can be an enabler for improved translations that are locally relevant, though this will not resolve the validation process from a legal and regulatory point of view,” says an independent marketing executive. “Though if clear (legal) rules are implemented in the AI solution, this could be a benefit. The same counts for local language nuances.”

“While AI and ML may help, I don’t believe it can be on its own,” says Daniela Muente, Global Marketing Director at GNX. Siew Lai Wong agrees: “In 2024 AI & ML will become more sophisticated in handling nuances of language and culture in content development.

Having said that, I think we still need a human touch for QC purposes, especially when it comes to deep cultural understanding or creative adaptation. I think a hybrid model (AI + human) will have a more optimal outcome.”

Looking ahead, the fusion of AI-driven efficiencies with human expertise and insights will redefine the future of translation and localisation, empowering brands to navigate global markets with agility and authenticity. Achieving success hinges on finding the optimal balance between human expertise and technology, allowing them to complement each other’s strengths effectively.