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Best Uses for Machine Translation in Market Research


Over the 21st century so far, advances in technology and connectivity have made it increasingly easier for businesses and organisations to dip their toes in the waters of international markets. With nimbler structures and the support of powerful digital tools and ecommerce platforms, many have expanded their operations quickly and steadily on a global scale.  


As a result, these businesses have been faced with the challenge of understanding and engaging with new, global audiences, and to do it swiftly, all while minding their budgets to maintain their momentum and gain competitive advantage. In this context, multilingual market research has become instrumental, consolidating itself as the bridge between these firms and international consumers while working with time and cost-efficient solutions to support organisations’ journeys.  


One of the main tools that are increasingly being used to meet the needs for quality, speed and lower costs is machine translation (MT). Thanks to the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, this technology can render a piece of text into the target language with minimal human intervention. However, while MT has improved markedly in recent years, the quality of its raw output is still not perfect, so it benefits from a human-in-the-loop approach, where a linguist can refine the text in the post-editing stage.  


MT can be an incredibly useful solution, but is it a good idea to use it across the board? While some projects may be perfectly suited for this technology, in other cases it might not be the most beneficial option. In every instance, a range of aspects need to be examined beforehand to ensure outcomes match expectations.  


Is your project suitable for machine translation? 


When it comes to deciding whether to use MT for a market research project, there is no hard and fast rule; every case needs to be considered individually to find the most appropriate solution. For this reason, it is important to work with a reliable language service provider who will assess the requirements of the task ahead and discuss the best available options in advance. 


While there are a range of factors that can contribute towards MT suitability, it is usually a combination of things that make the solution more appropriate for specific cases. Below, we list the most common aspects that could make MT a solid option: 


Gist translations are enough. In some cases, having a general idea of what is being said, rather than looking at the specific details, is all that’s needed. MT is an efficient method for this type of scenario, where 100% accuracy is not critical to the successful outcome of a project. An example of this might be when a company is looking to gage a general reaction to a product or concept without requiring verbatim feedback. 


Time is a critical factor. Many times, organisations and businesses need the results of their research quickly, for instance, to cut down on the time to market to gain competitive advantage. In cases like this one, where time is a vital concern, MT may be a good choice, as it can produce translations in a short time. However, reviewing the details of any time-sensitive project is key to understanding whether MT will deliver the desired outcome: if having a very highly accurate translation is a top priority, MT will not be the best route, even if there are tight deadlines. 


There is a high volume of data to be processed. MT can be useful to speed up projects with tight turnaround times that produce vast amounts of data, for example, because they encompass a broad range of markets or use different methodologies to obtain consumer feedback. Where high accuracy is expected, other options need to be explored. 


Cost is a primary concern. Where budgets are tight or cost efficiencies need to be made, MT can be the right solution to get data translated while keeping an eye on spending. It is always important to bear quality in mind, however — obtaining raw MT can be a cost saver, but adding human steps to the process will boost the quality of the translation whilst adding extra costs. 


The source text is straightforward and simple. The type and quality of the content that needs translation is another aspect that must be factored in when thinking about using MT. Texts where the wording and grammar are standard and straightforward are likely to have a better outcome than pieces that are more sophisticated or that include, for example, slang or highly specialised terms.  


Language pairs are suitable for MT. MT doesn’t perform with equal levels of success across all languages. For example, some Asian languages tend to be more challenging to translate into English, so discussing these aspects with your language service provider before the translation process begins is essential to manage expectations. 


MT and AI-enhanced systems can be a powerful tool in the international market research industry: from coding open-ended responses to translating surveys, these solutions can be useful to augment traditional workflows. Having a clear idea of what these technologies can achieve and what their limitations are in advance is a key first step to achieve a favourable outcome in any project. This is why working with a trusted language service partner that has specialist expertise in the industry is essential.  


Machine translation is just one of a number of technologies easing international market research processes and ensuring accessibility to markets across the world. In our full report we go into further depth on the benefits and use cases for machine translation for market research, as well as for coding and voice-to-text technologies. Discover the efficiencies you could gain from such translation technology by accessing the full article here





At THG Fluently, we’ve been providing translation services to market research businesses for more than 17 years. In that time, we’ve learned what it takes to give organisations the support they need to thrive in international markets and understand their consumers, no matter where they are. So, if you’d like to learn more about how we can support your business with our specialist market research services, feel free to get in touch.

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