Lee Hayhurst speaks to Joel Brandon-Bravo following his switch to TransPerfect, a technology specialist helping firms take a more strategic approach to growth and expansion into overseas markets
Having left deals publisher Travelzoo after nearly a decade at the helm in the UK, Joel Brandon-Bravo is now focussed on how he can help travel firms expand into overseas markets.
He joined TransPerfect as vice president of travel solutions in December with a remit to bring his background in content creation to a firm that claims to be “the world’s largest provider of translation-related technology and services”.
In January, TransPerfect, which employs 5,000 people in 90 cities and 30 countries, revealed 2018 saw increased annual revenues of 15% to $705 million, the 26th year of consecutive growth, and a “pivotal year in our company‘s history”, according to chief executive Phil Shawe.
Travel represents one of their top five supported industries the firm’s travel practice was up 27%. Brandon-Bravo says there is potential to accelerate growth in a sector that can use technology to take a more successful approach to overseas growth by testing the potential of and entering markets in a more strategic way.
Rather than UK firms opting for the “easy” options of targeting English speaking markets or those geographically close by in Europe, Brandon-Bravo says the ability to use technology to localise websites means markets otherwise considered inaccessible are now potentially open.
“We have the ability to go to companies and say we can help you build your business market by market,” said Brandon Bravo.
Powerful modern machine translation technology and artificial intelligence is helping firms to identify and focus on the high-yielding content they need to translate and localise to enter a new market with the best chance of commercial success.
Together with “translation memory” building up a catalogue of regularly translated words and phrases, this technology is bringing down the cost-per-word of translating often vast websites, and reducing the risk of international expansion.
Brandon-Bravo said TransPerfect already works with many hotel groups and airlines which are well versed in using its translation services to establish their own brand presence in overseas markets in order to reduce their reliance on the big OTAs like Expedia and Booking.com.
He says there is still more work to do in this area, but he also believes there are opportunities for sectors such as attractions, DMO’s, and travel distributors that have historically had large content and low budgets to take advantage of these growth opportunities to more effectively and less expensively target overseas business.
“One of the things I’m working on is to see if we can help those sorts of brands roll out to more markets,” he said. “If brands are going in to markets that are right for them, rather than easy, that’s got to be a good thing. In the past you either went in to the market or you did not, today you can test the potential and when the economics stack up choose to invest heavily.
“There is a simple equation between future opportunity minus the competition already in market. You might look at how big the market is now, but if you are planning for the next 10 years you want to look at how that market is growing.
“Where are the fast growth markets with lots of millennials with propensity to travel and book using technology? English speaking markets represent just 21% of the global sector. All the growth in the future is going to come out of non-English speaking markets.
“When you are creating packages for these markets there are additional layers of complexity, and localisation and language is just one of the problems you face. So TransPerfect is in a perfect position to help firms meet those challenges.”
Compared to hotel and airline direct websites, OTAs also have many more pages of information, product descriptions, reviews and advice which are required to be translated but because they are not big drivers of revenue it is hard to justify return on investment.
However, Brandon-Bravo says falling translation costs will allow those firms with more expansive content to justify the economics of overseas expansion and to invest in making sure that content is more tailored to local demand and optimised to convert.
As well as his for his background in travel, Brandon-Bravo was brought in by TransPerfect to spearhead its push to provide more in language content creation capabilities to its customers, adding a new area of service to its existing translation and digital marketing expertise.
He said that historically TransPerfect has focused on helping their clients “Translate” content from a source English into another language, however in many cases it is possible to create that content from scratch in that language, based on a similar brief, to ensure it is relevant for that market and truly localised. He said this means Transperfect will be providing a “full stack” solution for expansion into international markets.
With 72% of customers preferring to buy product from sites in their own language, Brandon-Bravo said firms will increasingly look to automate their translation and localisation requirements, moving away from costly and cumbersome manual processes.
TransPerfect’s core GlobalLink system integrates through APIs to most content management systems allowing firms to manage their requirements and take as hand-on an approach as they like.
A “proxy” service, under which TransPerfect hosts the website pages in the cloud, offers a more automated, cheaper way to enter a market than full translation management where there’s a simpler, direct correlation between the source and target language.
In the future artificial intelligence will be used to create content from scratch and to train systems to adapt it so that brands ensure they talk to their target audiences in a consistent tone of voice, says Brandon-Bravo.
There are also applications of this tech in the emerging role of voice, chatbots answering frequently asked questions, and video and the need to translate conversations and subtitles in real time.
“Artificial intelligence, applied to language, is one of the really obvious use cases of this technology. With translation and content creation the same principals apply. When you have experienced writer creating copy there’s a reasonable cost associated with that.
“The potential of AI is that it can be given destinations and subject matter and it will do a first pass of aggregating and creating content from scratch. For now, we are going to have to have to be people to proof read it before it goes live, but this is what makes this emerging technology so exciting.”