This is a repost of an article that previously appeared in ITBriefcase.
Language is more than just a description of things in the world. It speaks to the culture that creates it. Now that our global culture is becoming increasingly digitized, not least with the addition of the Apple Watch and drone delivery, language is going to take on new meaning. The barriers to comprehension will be lower than ever, but the obstacles to effectively marketing your global business will rise. This sounds like bad news. It doesn’t have to be, especially if you understand that we’re on the ground level of language-barrier elimination and that it will help to act now.
Barriers are Becoming Opportunities
Mobile and the cloud have eased the language barrier to a matter of picking up your iPhone and pointing it at a sign or typing a quick phrase into an online dictionary. As the Internet of Things and wearables weave the next layer of the digital network—the so-called experience web—computers will eat the language barrier, too. You’ll be able to videoconference with someone who doesn’t speak English and understand every word. If your business includes an app, that app’s push notifications—and, by correlation, your brand—will automatically appear on the wrists of smartwatch wearers around the world in their language of choice.
Branding and messaging are poised to become more potent than ever. The value of your product must become more comprehensible to everyone. Essentially, your business will have to use the same tenets of mobile success and shrink them down into the tiniest wearable or automated channel.
Capitalism in the Post-Language Age
Digital audiences are already accustomed to customized content delivery, such as Facebook’s recommended reading list. These channels use the power of big data to connect people to content—and that concept is about to evolve.
The experience web is blurring the lines between online and the real world. The online world interacts more and more with the real world to help users have a fuller experience. Take the Google Gogglesapp for Android for instance. It instantly translates a number of languages in real time. You take a picture of a sign in Istanbul, and Goggles renders it with the text translated so you know that this is, in fact, the jeweler you’ve been looking for. No more guessing. Waygo, another app that translates text in pictures, works with Chinese, Japanese and Korean so you can order exactly what you want off the menu.
That kind of augmented reality is the next iteration of international commerce. Translation on the go not only makes travel easier, but it opens the doors to business opportunities that simply didn’t exist before. Travelers can ditch their phrasebooks in favor of the experience web, and businesses no longer need an army of translators in order to enter new markets.
With this new ease comes a new imperative: refine business and product strategies to include use of the internet in new markets and on the experience web. Note also that the high level of automation in the experience web means your content will get delivered to others in unexpected ways. This includes potential customers in these new markets so it is crucial that your content is ready.
The New Barrier: Understanding
The experience web will translate your content on demand whether you want it to or not, knocking down that language barrier automatically with generic machine translations. A quick search for translation fails will demonstrate why you want to provide your own translated material. When Google or Facebook decides to display your content in China or Brazil, you want it to reflect the translation and localization choices you made for your business—not the choices that other apps have made for you.
The experience web will eradicate the language barrier, but will make no guarantees about the understanding barrier. Automatic translation of deeper context and cultural considerations is still a ways off. You have to plan strategically for your niche in this new world as the big names pull content from everywhere to display all over.
Easier Content Consumption, New Business Challenges
Savvy businesses know that this new content delivery platform also means an evolutionary leap for sales, whether it’s drone delivery or one touch ordering from wearables. The experience web brings customized content from every imaginable source, from your doctor to your local coffee shop, and delivers it no matter where you are or with which device you’re interacting. We’re close to achieving a 21st-century rosetta stone. Is your business ready?
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