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Tips for translating market research in the “new normal”

By Natalie Hall | July 30, 2020 | Market Research

Tips for translating market research in the new normal

Let’s be honest, even those with the wildest of imaginations couldn’t have dreamt up the year’s events! The Covid-19 pandemic has changed our way of life, driving companies around the world to re-evaluate their business strategies, including their approach to market research.

As we navigate uncharted waters, it’s more important than ever for businesses to gain an accurate understanding of customer perspectives and behaviours. Whilst large-scale, face-to-face surveys aren’t an option right now, it’s still possible to have a meaningful dialogue with your target respondents through online surveys, virtual focus groups and phone interviews.

Here we explore the ways the market research industry is responding to the “new normal” and provide some translation considerations for those fielding research in 2020.

1. Shorter & friendlier!

We live in a society where people are addicted to their phones, so it may not come as a huge surprise that 30-50% of surveys are now completed on mobiles, and in some markets where respondents lack access to desktops it’s much higher.

While mobile surveys are nothing new, we expect to see an increase in companies shifting to mobile surveys to capture a wider audience, and for surveys to be shorter as a result.  The focus will increasingly be on making surveys quick and easy to complete, with conversation technologies such as chat pop-ups or mobile messaging surveys being used to capture real-time feedback.

When fielding mobile surveys internationally keep the following translation tips in mind:

  • Briefing your language provider on the mode of your survey is fundamentally important. Linguists can then adapt their language e.g. shortening explanations to keep question and answer options succinct to achieve a compact survey with a clean visual on-screen experience.
  • Translation will not be the same length in all languages, i.e. German and French text will generally take up 15% more space on the page or screen, than the same words in English. An experienced translation team will work with you to identify and remedy instances where suggested text cannot fit in the desired space, without compromising meaning.
  • Whilst using colloquialisms in service of brevity is tempting, it can compromise both respondents’ understanding of the question and the validity of their responses. Clear and concise text will help get the message across, ensuring accurate responses from all markets.
  • Online quality assurance/control checks should be done on mobile devices. We recommend that non-linguist, client-side Project Managers share screen shots with their translation company to ensure words and lines aren’t split in the wrong places.
  • Sharing examples of existing high-performing surveys enables your linguist to match the tone and terms previously used to achieve brand consistency and similarly high completion rates.
  • If you are using new survey software, we recommend you check compatibility with a test file before translation starts to ensure all characters can be displayed properly. Most common survey software is English-compatible but may struggle with character languages or even some accented characters in European languages.
2. More qualitative

It’s helpful to know that respondent doesn’t like your brand or one of your marketing messages, but the emphasis on ‘why’ is equally important. The ‘why’ enables brands to optimise, make improvements to their proposition and make informed decisions.

While big data has been the ‘go to’ for many brands over the last ten years, promising population patterns and trends, it is limited in terms of offering any in-depth insight. This is driving an increase in qualitative research, allowing brands to find out more about their customers’ beliefs, emotions and sentiments, why they think and feel the way they do about concepts, products and services through the use of open-ended questions. This is never more important than in economically challenging times. It is vital to know who is spending and why.

For the best qualitative research results we recommend you consider:

  • Fully briefing your selected translation agency on the objectives of your research. Providing context to the linguist can inform their interpretation of the survey and enhance the final survey translation.
  • Ensuring a native speaker is used at every stage of translation i.e. English to French = French native speaker, French to English = English native speaker. This will produce the most accurate understanding of your respondents’ feedback and is standard practice for a high-quality translation.
  • That qualitative research can involve phone or video interviews and also online forums, often resulting in audio files requiring transcription/translation. These methods may require higher budgets, so you should check in with your language provider early on in the planning stages to find out about the range of services they offer and the associated costs.
3. Combining AI and machine learning with human translation for analysis

Advances and improvements in machine learning and AI will lead to a combined approach to data analysis. We will increasingly see AI used alongside human transcription and audio translation for faster research insights and pattern recognition, to help with customer segmentation or “deep-learning segmentation”.

Deep-learning segmentation is thought to spot patterns which humans can’t identify due to their complexity. However, it is worth noting that:

  • AI and machine learning analysis will still require human translation.
  • Machines trail far behind humans in understanding context or culture and are unable to keep pace with rapidly changing colloquialisms and terminology, the evolving Coronavirus lexicon being a notable example.
  • Using human mother-tongue translators ensures an understanding of not just what respondents have said, but what they really mean.
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