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AI in Localization: 2024 Tools, Trends & Predictions

What AI tools are localization experts using in 2024? How can AI-powered localization drive revenue for global businesses? Your A-Z guide.

Historically, ‘localization’ is a term that has caused mixed feelings among leadership teams. For CFOs, localizing a business is associated with massive costs, and for CMOs and product managers, it means multiplying everything you’re creating several times.

Then came the two letters that have taken the world by storm: AI. And as with every use case for artificial intelligence, in the localization industry, we are now seeing that what was previously a challenge has become a massive revenue opportunity. Let’s take a look at why.

Localization in 2024

First of all, let’s cover the basics: what do we mean by ‘localization’? All too often, this buzzword is mistaken for translating your marketing content five minutes before you go live with a new product, in the hopes that international users will bite. 

It’s a nice try, but this effort alone does not amount to a localization strategy, and the proof is this: if you took 100 consumers from over the world and tried to sell them the exact same product in the exact same way, you can guarantee that there will be differences in how your pitch is received and what each user expects.

Take the example of a few localization giants; Netflix and Airbnb wouldn’t have the global reach they do today if they simply relied on launching their user interface in different languages. With both products, everything in the three P’s of positioning (what), packaging (why), and pricing (how) needs to be as relevant as possible to each audience. 

So in one sentence, localization is the holistic method of adapting a Product, Sales, and Marketing strategy to a specific market or locale.

This adaptation needs to consider everything from the linguistic to the cultural and commercial nuances of that market, so it stands to reason that businesses with global employees or clients would invest in localization to solve one of three problems:

  1. Enhancing inclusion 
  2. Boosting productivity 
  3. Expanding to new territories

Whatever the goal, localization is essential to the success of anyone who is trying to work or sell outside of their immediate geographic zone. And AI has a growing role to play.

The role of AI in localization

If there’s one part of your business strategy that needs to be present throughout the entire go-to-market (GTM), it’s localization. Here are some of the ways start-ups and businesses are using AI today:

Product development:

  • Market analysis. AI is capable of analyzing almost unlimited amounts of data to extract trends and preferences specific to certain areas. This might make it easier for product or marketing managers to understand how to prioritize or adapt features, and adjust pricing models.
  • In-product chatbots: Another obvious one, but there’s never been a higher demand for AI-powered, multilingual chat bots to help users with their basic questions and issues. Automated chatbots gained massive popularity about ten years ago, and with the evolution of AI sophistication, they’re now being employed to provide a light layer of customer care in-product.
  • Cultural adaptation, or how to understand it better. Consumers today increasingly need to feel as though you’ve built something specifically for them as individuals, so once your product is live, machine learning can be used to analyze cultural nuances and adapt product messaging and imagery to resonate better with these local customs and preferences.

Drilling down a step further, you can also use past behaviors at the user level to tailor product recommendations, promotions, and content to individual preferences.

Marketing:

  • Content generation (that learns from itself): We know that AI is a hot topic in content marketing. There are some great tools out there like jasper.ai that allow you to generate everything from blog posts to press releases and even campaign messaging. These AI tools typically learn about your brand and positioning to reduce time needed for editing. Many can also translate content and generate variations that you can test in your campaigns to improve future performance.
  • Machine translation. No big surprise here. If you are selling a product or service in another country, there’s not much point bothering if you’re not going to translate both the product and your marketing collateral in the relevant languages. AI text-to-text translation is remarkably accurate these days, but you’ll still find that a lot of providers offer a human proof-reading service to ensure that the message isn’t just a literal translation and takes into account any linguistic nuances you might need to use.
  • Contextual targeting: From the perspective of campaign creation once you’re ready to go live, AI can allow you to do things like leverage a user’s geo-location to deliver more relevant ads for areas like native, display, social media, and video campaigns.
  • Sentiment analysis: Think of this in the same way as a social listening or monitoring tool. AI can allow you to leverage data points across social media platforms, the media, customer reviews, and feedback to have a better understanding of consumer sentiment in different regions. Again, this data would then allow your team to make any necessary adaptations to messaging at a local level.

We can expect this type of data-driven use cases to increase at warp speed. For now, however, let’s turn to a lesser-known AI localization use case that might be the most important of all.

The Forgotten ‘L’ in Localization

Believe it or not, even ChatGPT doesn’t pick this one up – the ‘forgotten L’ in localization: language.

If you’re thinking to yourself that ‘language’ is a very obvious part of localization, we’d challenge you by saying that you’re probably thinking about language in the context of translating your product and marketing materials, or talking about written communication only.

Whether it’s an entire website or a PDF one-pager, translating content is undoubtedly important, but it only addresses half of the problem. If you are interacting with international clients, there’s not much point localizing your written communication if you can’t offer them that same language accessibility with your spoken communication also.

This is where live speech translation comes in; the ability to generate translated audio and captions while you and/or your users and clients speak.

Some examples of where this can complete your localization strategy are:

  • UX research: Running focus groups with consumers in the market you’re launching in is an excellent way to get proof of concept before you go all in. For this, you’re going to need to be able to ask questions in other languages in real time, and AI can also generate the transcript so you have a written record to make notes from after the fact. 
  • Product or sales enablement videos are another great example. If you’re selling SaaS then having a set of ‘how to’ videos to guide users through your solution can make a huge difference to getting those early adopters on board. And again, AI dubbing allows you to create a video series in one language, then add translated audio and captions for global diffusion.
  • Product launch events: When you’re ready to get the word out there, a lot of brands opt for a public or semi-public product launch. Usually, this takes the form of a virtual event on a video-conferencing platform, through which you can invite a wider global audience by providing translated audio and subtitles on the platform itself. Hybrid and in-person events are also making a big comeback though, and AI speech translation can be used in the same way by placing a simple QR code at the front of the stage that attendees can scan to access your content in the language of their choice.
  • Product updates: Informing clients about ongoing improvements and updates once you’ve got them on board is essential for product-led growth. Monthly or quarterly webinars and offline videos are a popular way to do this, making AI speech translators a fantastic tool for running these in multiple languages.

It’s important to note that before AI, all of these use cases were possible with the services of human interpretation. It’s also fair to say that despite major advancements in AI technology in the last 18 months, the level of quality you will get from a human interpreter remains higher. No AI speech translation tool today will allow you to have a high-quality multi-directional conversation, for example – its current use case is limited to one-way only. However, human interpretation is not a small investment, so AI in localization is lowering those barriers to entry for smaller and medium sized companies.

Looking ahead, we can expect to see market expansions for start-ups and scale-ups begin much sooner as a result, whereas in the past brands would have been dependent on raising capital to do so.

Future Trends to Watch Out For

Will AI replace humans in localization overnight? The answer is no. Despite its rising popularity, AI should not be seen as a replacement for human expertise but rather as a tool to facilitate it. Think of AI as a do-er, not a thinker – a way for your GTM team to make better decisions and to execute tasks more quickly, but not a substitute for it.

What can we expect to see next in the localization industry?

Well, depending on your revenue goals, the first area of focus for your business should always be on localizing the user experience. That said, we often forget that localization is not just about making your company international to clients on the outside, but also internally.

Endless studies attest that productivity, output, and retention are dramatically improved by empowering employees with accessibility solutions – many of which are AI-based. This is especially topical with an estimated 89% of US companies hiring foreign employees.

At KUDO, we provide live speech translation to organizations of all sizes to enable their clients, partners, students, citizens, and employees to communicate with each other in the language they are most comfortable in.

Here are some of the AI localization use cases that our global clients have already implemented to make their business language-accessible:

  • All Hands meetings, or Town Halls. Allowing global employees to engage with important announcements and updates in the language of their choice.
  • Training, and learning and development. If you’re launching a new solution, you need to train your team on how to use it. Translating your client-facing sales enablement is great, but if you want to empower your global team to work in the most effective way then they need the same level of inclusion as your target clients. This means providing live or offline training to your sellers or wider team in the language of their choice.

Looking ahead, AI localization solutions are only in their early days. For example, hosting live speech translation for a back-and-forth conversation is available with human interpreters today, but it’s going to take some time for AI to get there. When it does, we can expect businesses to transition towards a fully internal localization approach, by localizing all of their interactive touchpoints with employees as well as consumers. 

And with that, we have the final use case coming soon for client-facing communication: the ability to have back-and-forth conversations with clients on any platform or device, from anywhere. We’re really not far off from a world in which 100% of a company’s internal and external communication can be multilingual in the click of a button, and if you combine that vision with localization initiatives around product, positioning, and packaging, we are going to see companies of every size have the tools needed to become global powerhouses early in their journey.