How can translation and localization boost success in global markets?



Translation can help your company achieve its goals, and here you will find out how and why! Read a localization specialist’s insights on how to choose the right vendors as well as the benefits of integrating translation in your business model and product development strategy. Gain an understanding of how to avoid the many pitfalls involved in translation and learn all about how to become a successful translation buyer through hands-on advice.

Localization expert Jonathan Turpin, the team leader of Esri’s localization team and main language services buyer at Esri, shares his expert advice.

Esri is the global market leader in GIS. The company is US based, with offices in more than 80 countries. On a global scale, Esri translates content into nearly 40 languages at present and processes around 100 million words a year. The company has more than 80 distributors and more than 2,000 partners worldwide.

The long-term collaboration between Esri and Acolad dates back more than 12 years when Acolad started handling Esri’s Swedish translations directly. Prior to that, Acolad performed Esri’s Swedish translations and reviews through other subcontractors. As one of Esri’s most trusted language service providers, Acolad now translates different components of Esri’s products into as many as 37 languages, including legal translations.

In this article, Jonathan Turpin provides insights on questions and issues such as:

  1. Why are translation and localization so important at Esri?
  2. How can translation help a company achieve its goals?
  3. Why should translation be part of the business model and strategy?
  4. Checklist: What is the best way to select vendors?
  5. How can a company successfully collaborate with LSPs and localizers?
  6. Will translation give a concrete return on investment?

Why are translation and localization so important at Esri?

For Esri there is a clear value is addressing each of its stakeholder and client communities in their local setting since Esri’s products are used across language boundaries and borders by both private and public sector organizations.

On a global scale, Esri translates content into nearly 40 languages at present, and processes around 100 million words a year. The company has more than 80 distributors and more than 2,000 partners worldwide. Since Esri began measuring its translation volume four years ago, growth has been close to 20% a year – and it looks like the trend will continue.

To ensure it can satisfy all of its customers’ needs, Esri works closely with several language service providers (LSPs) to ensure the best solution for each individual language is selected, and to provide the best quality and product experience for its global user base.

Esri demands a great deal of flexibility from its translation service providers. They need to work with Esri and its unique workflow, which includes validation from Esri’s local distributors around the world. Esri relies on these local distributors to provide critical feedback, since they are the content experts for GIS in their country. This feedback is then used to improve the translation quality of the numerous target languages by fine-tuning the translation memories and building up termbases.

In many cases, the translation providers have access to Esri’s in-country language lead, which facilitates management of queries and style preferences. This is a key strength of Esri’s localization program.

“We need to go bigger and faster with translation. We have constantly developed and optimized our translation process and migrated from one workflow to another. For us this has been a necessity, and Acolad has moved with us in this regard and genuinely supported us in these changes,” says Jonathan.

Read more about  Esri and Acolad's cooperation

How can translation help a company achieve its goals?

“Translations can drastically affect sales in new target markets. I firmly believe that this is a very important part of our company,” says Jonathan.

For global companies to adapt to their markets and reach their local target groups, they need to invest in local content. Translating content for each of the local communities is the key to success.

In Jonathan’s experience, localization is crucial for success in new target markets. Once a language is added to an Esri product, the local region generally sees an increase in its ability to sell to its local markets.

The Spanish support sites and content are a recent example of this. Esri saw a very large uptick in access to the Spanish support sites when localized versions were made available. Both internal Esri groups and Esri partners reported that quality translation has a positive effect and it is clear that localization has a very big impact in local markets.

Jonathan says there can be a misperception that English is spoken worldwide. In Esri’s case, for example, this might be true for system administrators who are accustomed to using English as a second language but not for its field workers who may not speak or read English. If your product or software is not localized, users might assume it is only meant for English speakers and that you do not expect to market it to the non-English speaker audience. Globalization has grown, so to successfully spread products, investments and technology across national borders, local languages and cultures must be taken into account.

“If you want to have a global audience, you need to consider how the world and the economy work – it’s important to realize that we are all intertwined. From Europe to Asia to the Americas – everything works together,” says Jonathan.

If you have a global product, it is advisable to consider localization from the beginning. For instance, if your software can be used in other regions, localization will offer a major advantage since you will be able to compete in regions that produce their own local tools and products. If you do not plan for localization from the start and want to go into another region later, a lot of extra work – which could have been avoided – will be involved to adapt the material.

Planning ahead for translation from the beginning is a very practical way of saving time and money. This concept is often called internationalization, which essentially means that you ensure your product is easy to translate and localize.

The purpose of translation is to help companies and organizations sell products and services across the globe and be more successful when it comes to both globalization and international sales.

Why should translation be part of the business model and strategy?

The localization strategy conveys a powerful message to end users: their local language and culture matter! It shows that you care about their needs, that you appreciate their region as much as your own, and that you have put as much energy and thought into their localized build or version as you have into your own.

For any truly global company, internationalization needs to be part of the business model and product development strategy. By tailoring the marketing communication and documentation to acknowledge the local language and culture, the company can satisfy the local target market’s needs. This, in turn, enables the company to achieve better sales and a better return on its translation investment.

When localization needs are part of the business strategy, and the product has been designed with the best practices for internationalization, the localization process becomes much simpler. This helps the company launch new products and product versions on the target markets faster, and enables cohesive communication and terminology usage and quicker turnaround times for the translation. It also helps save on localization costs.

How have Esri’s translation and localization needs grown?

Esri’s translation needs have changed over the past 5 years. Esri, as a company, has branched out into more regions, and, as the company’s operations grow, more content needs to be translated. This includes several challenging assignments such as legal translation into multiple languages.


Esri’s growth means that collaboration between its internal marketing teams and its localization team needed to be strengthened to achieve better marketing translations. Esri has also translated more areas of its main website as a means to reach all of its communities.

Over the years, Esri’s localization team has expanded its translation management system (TMS) to reduce the amount of manual work involved in ordering translations. Now Esri’s TMS needs to be adapted again to keep up with the ever growing demand. As content grows, Esri has to keep up.

“It’s important for us to continually evolve to stay competitive. We also have to keep up with demand from the regions we are going after and the content that needs to be translated. We have added new languages for our new target markets and regions and added new products to satisfy our customers’ needs – which means our translation volumes are growing by around 20% each year,” says Jonathan.

It is not possible to translate everything. This is also true for Esri. “As a company you have to make decisions on what to translate, and that is a harder decision than most people give credit. For example, this may mean choosing which products or parts of the products should be translated, and into which languages,” Jonathan continues.

There is an agreed workflow at Esri and an agreement with distributors on how new languages should be added. They look at the market and determine how it is affected, ask the distributors which users are most active, and then base decisions on that information.

Checklist: What is the best way to select vendors?

One of the most difficult aspects of the process for companies considering translation services is knowing how to select the right vendors. Since Jonathan has a lot of experience in purchasing translation and localization services globally, we asked him to share some advice to help other companies that are thinking of doing the same.

Here are his top recommendations for companies looking into translation and localization services:

1. Consider how you want to manage translations

Depending on your translation needs, ordering translations from a single, large translation service provider might be the best option.

If you want to work with dedicated small operators, you might want to contact local freelancers or small operators, or even combine these approaches.

2. Small companies: Learn how translation works

If you represent a small company and are new to purchasing translations, consider relying on your language service provider (LSP) as much as you can.

However, don’t forget to learn how the translation process works. It is a good idea to understand the workflow and why translations sometimes take longer than expected.

3. Large companies: Consult an LSP or external consultant on how to get started

If you represent a large company and are new to purchasing translations, you might want to consult an LSP or an external consultant to get started.

It can also be very useful to go to some of the localization industry conferences that are offered around the world to get access to the community and meet users, LSPs and sellers.

4. Utilize your own resources for translation quality review

Do not hesitate to take advantage of your own resources. For Esri, this means utilizing their network of global distributors and in-country reviewers and obtaining their input on which language service provider can offer the best quality for the money.

5. Test the translation quality

It can be useful to perform blind reviews and tests and then ask your local resources to evaluate the translation quality. Use the experts’ feedback to make the most informed decision possible.

6. Base your decisions on data

When you look at the translation service provider cost in relation to the quality, use a range of feedback and data to make an informed decision.

7. Evaluate the costs last

When evaluating the blind reviews and tests, consider looking at the cost last. After you have decided which translations you like the most and ranked them accordingly, you can then reveal the cost.

This way, you can evaluate the translation quality based on the criteria that most affect the product’s success in the target market, as well as the return on investment you can expect. If there is a significant jump in cost, you might still want to consider this aspect in relation to the other factors.

8. Include in-country reviewers in the RFP process evaluation

If you use an RFP-driven process, make sure you give the in-country reviewers the best opportunity to contribute to a good decision since they speak the language and are familiar with the cultural context.

9. Consider testing the LSP’s translation and localization turnaround times

It might also be relevant to test the service provider’s translation and localization turnaround times.

At Esri, we give our vendors a test translation assignment that we think is translatable within a certain amount of time, with the expectation of adherence to industry standards, and see how that works.

10. Make sure your LSP partner delivers on time and as scheduled

Whichever language service provider, or setup of several operators you end up choosing, make sure their deliveries are on time and as scheduled.

This will help you stay in control and set the right expectations for the product launches, updates, and going to market estimates.

11. Always demand subject area expertise

Always demand subject area expertise whenever possible when requesting a quote from your language service provider. Offer complimentary training to help the providers improve their translation quality.

12. Ensure your translators get feedback

Ensure that the translators you work with get feedback throughout the process so they can learn from your experts in the local language.


How can a company successfully collaborate with LSPs and localizers?

The key to a successful translation and localization partnership is good collaboration between all of the parties that are involved in the company’s localization process: from internal teams to the buyer and the language service providers. This is something that Jonathan Turpin from Esri also emphasizes. As he says: “Once people communicate, it goes from ‘Those are very terrible translations and we don’t understand what’s going on’ to ‘Oh we’ve talked to them and we’ve fixed a few things and everything is fine!’”

Especially in the IT and software industry, most applications have internal localization and internationalization sections. The two are not the same. Generally you start by internationalizing your product to ready it for localization, and translation is part of localization. Thus, the first key to successful cooperation is communication and ensuring that the internationalization team and localization team have the same expectations. Doing this paves the way to a smoother and more efficient translation process and better collaboration with language service providers.

If the product has not gone through the internationalization process to make it easier to localize, communication between the buyer and LSP becomes even more crucial.

Here are Jonathan’s main tips for ensuring good collaboration between the buyer and the LSP:

  • Communication is key. It’s important to communicate concerns or issues, as this leads to better understanding between the parties. Every company is going to have issues, and it’s all about how you deal with those issues. Everybody has to know exactly what is expected or preferred.
  • Work issues out as soon as possible to make sure they don’t get out of control.
  • A close relationship with vendors should be established through online meetings, emails, and phone calls.
  • Encourage the translators to meet with the review teams and stay in close contact with them. 
  • Separate the translation stage from the review stage. Don’t mix the translation process steps without clear responsibilities assigned. These functions work together, but in many cases they don’t ever talk to each other. 
  • Opening up a channel of communication is a simple way to resolve issues. 
  • Create direct communication in the local country. Due to time differences, several business days can be lost as a result of questions, answers, and follow-up questions. A country-specific setup for questions can save a lot of time for everyone.
  • Define a termbase, and, if needed, create a brief company style guide. Termbases serve as the company’s common glossary of the terms for their brand, company and product information. Termbases are a good way to share information with all of the translators, and ensure consistency between texts.
  • Translation memories are used by all LSPs and localization companies and are generally the client’s intellectual property, regardless of which localization software or localization tools are used. A translation memory stores sections of commonly repeated phrases, and instead of translating these over and over again, the translator will be able to simply validate previously translated sentences or make minor modifications to them. This leads to substantial cost savings for the client since only new segments are charged at the full word price.

Will translation give a concrete return on investment?

“Translation pays for itself – but it may take some time.”

Jonathan says that in his experience, some companies may get scared by the cost of translation and localization. Esri, however, believes that translation is definitely an investment that generates a concrete return on investment and benefits everyone.

This is what he suggests to keep in mind when evaluating the costs of the translation investment:

  • It can be surprising that you are paying per word. This is foreign to many people because they are not able to assess how much work is involved. However, in many cases, word price works to the customer’s advantage since there are often discounts for recycled content.
  • The price differences between various regions can be surprising for people outside of the localization industry. For example, a translation to Chinese might be less expensive than a translation to Swedish because the local translators work in the local environment and in the local economy. 
  • If you are looking into investing in translation, you need to be aware that the translation investment will cost money for your company. 
  • Don’t be frightened or discouraged by the cost of entry if you are a small company getting started in localization and/or doing your first translation, because it is just that – a cost of entry.
  • It may take a year or so before you start getting returns on your investment because it might take that long to translate your content and prepare for your first launch.

Keep in mind how vital it is for your company to localize your product to reach and sell in new markets!

What lies ahead?

Quicker, faster, more, cheaper…

As Esri grows, the company wants the translation process to go faster and be less expensive and more efficient – but, of course, it also wants quality. There are several exciting developments in the pipeline, like a change of platform and a new translation management system (TMS). Esri is also looking into continuous localization, where smaller translations are handled automatically.

The most important change, however, is that Esri is looking at machine translation and how it would affect the company’s workflows and the current review process, as well as what translators actually do during the localization process. It is a big shift, but Acolad is right there by Esri’s side, ready to adapt to Esri’s evolving needs – just as we have during the past 12+ years of successful collaboration!

Read more about our translation service

About Esri

Esri ArcGIS is the world’s most powerful mapping and spatial analytics software. ArcGIS has been deployed in more than 350,000 organizations, including the world’s largest cities and most national governments across the globe.

With offices in more than 80 countries, Esri is a global company. Fifteen dedicated research centers are at the leading edge of global innovation. ArcGIS software and apps combine mapping and data analytics to deliver location intelligence and meet digital transformation needs for organizations of all sizes.

Esri’s advanced mapping and analytics come with access to authoritative demographic data for 137 countries and is used across a wealth of industries, like architecture, engineering and construction, health and human services, water, transportation, public safety and natural resources, just to mention a few.

You can learn more about Esri at its webpage

What is GIS?

A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for gathering, managing, and analyzing data and visualizing the data. Rooted in the science of geography, GIS integrates many types of data. It analyzes spatial location and organizes layers of information into visualizations using maps and 3D scenes.

Jonathan Turpin: “GIS is an interesting field – everybody needs it, but some don’t know it exists or even what it’s called. Many people do not realize how much it’s used daily – for instance to find out how many right turns you need to get to work, and that is something a GIS can help map and solve.”