In May, Facebook announced plans to roll out chat translation in Messenger.
At first, the new functionality will appear in Marketplace in the US, translating between English and Spanish. After that, the plan is to expand quickly to cover all Messenger communications around the world, adding more and more languages all the time. Considering that the main Facebook site already supports over 100 languages, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly the translation expands.
For worldwide Messenger users, the promise of instant cross-language communication is an exciting one.
For brands, the wider impact on their customer interactions—inside and outside of Facebook Messenger—remains to be seen...but it can’t be ignored.
To help you plan ahead and potentially take advantage of this development, let’s take a look at five ways we believe instant chat translation could revolutionize the way brands engage with global audiences.
Instant translation in chat will become the new normal
Make no mistake: Facebook Messenger is a huge deal. A look at the numbers reveals the scale of the platform:
- 3 billion users (more than Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter combined)
- 300,000 conversation bots (3 times more than this time last year)
- 8 billion messages sent between people and businesses each month (4 times more than last year)
So the addition of instant translation is big news.
It will raise users’ expectations, not just around peer-to-peer chat, but around consumer-to-brand chat too.
And it will enable brands to work on fulfilling those expectations.
By taking advantage of Messenger’s in-app translations, brands will soon be able to unlock chat as a hugely valuable channel of engagement.
And lastly, it will push other messaging apps to rise to the challenge so they can compete in a crowded chat marketplace.
Chat will be useful for way more than just marketing
Since Messenger ads rolled out in 2017, Facebook Messenger has proven to be an effective channel for marketing.
Many brands have taken advantage of the more casual, conversational approach to marketing communications—research shows that open rates are nearly 250% higher for Messenger than email (and click rates nearly 620% higher).
Messenger has been used in some pretty innovative ways too, like when Disney used it to run character-themed chatbots, giving users the chance to chat with Miss Piggy (while promoting The Muppets TV show at the same time).
Over time, we’ll see more and more brands using Messenger for functions beyond marketing. Think sales and customer service, but also new, more innovative applications of the convenient chat functionality.
For instance, PayPal sends receipts through Messenger, and Sephora saw an 11% increase in sales when they let people make a reservation for a makeover over chat.
As instant translation makes Messenger an even more powerful channel for international engagement, we can expect to see brands get super-creative with its applications.
Consumers will expect instant access to translated content beyond chat
As brands make more use of instantly translated Messenger chats, they’ll raise the bar for customer expectations across the board—not just within Messenger or other chat applications.
That means that any customer-facing content or interaction that is not in the right languages for international audiences will fall below the mark. Products, websites, social content, branded videos, support materials, call center communications—any interaction between a brand and a customer or prospect.
Wherever they are, users will expect content in their language. And they’ll expect it now: lose them with untranslated content, and they might not come back.
Instant translation will become a bigger part of a brand’s globalization mix
Instant translation is just one part of a holistic localization approach. But it’s an increasingly important one.
While instant chat translation will be covered for you (in Messenger, at least), you’ll need to work out when to expand beyond this, and how.
No matter what the use case, brands that want to use instant translation will need to plan for it. They’ll need to think about an investment in machine translation engines and the resources needed to design and implement the right workflows.
Customer expectations around quality will change
Chats are some of the most casual interactions between consumers and brands, complete with spelling and grammar errors, abbreviations, slang, emojis—you name it. MT engines will need to be trained to handle that kind of language.
Regardless, we predict that quality thresholds will lower—users may tolerate more errors in chat than on other channels as they hunt for quick-fire answers. In many cases, users will be thrilled to have new content in their language, and won’t look for perfection.
Brands will need to understand the language quality requirements and adjust their QA processes accordingly.
The bottom line: instant translation is going to get real big, real fast
Facebook Messenger and other live chat or chatbot functions are just one way brands can connect with their customers. For now, it’s just one part of a globalization program—but it looks set to be an increasingly important part.
As this functionality explodes, and more people use these tools in their own languages, they’ll lose any patience they have left for brands who fail to deliver translated content on-demand—in chat or otherwise. More methods of engaging with international audiences will also emerge, forcing brands to get strategic about going global.
We can help you figure out how chat and instant translation might factor into your localization strategy in the future.