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CX Q&A with Christoph Oberli

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Christoph Oberli

Vice President of eCommerce and Interactive
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Mandarin Oriental recently completed a full redesign of the brand website that included integrating a number of new languages. According to the Vice President, eCommerce and Interactive, Christoph Oberli, they currently support nine languages and plan to add more in the future as the need arises. The key to their success in translating and localizing content in all of their currently supported languages was the development of a key strategy and infrastructure upfront that enable them to easily add new languages as needed.

With the languages the brand currently supports, Oberli says they are able to provide translated and localized content for about 90 percent of their clientele. The ultimate goal of providing this content for consumers is to give them the choice of how they wish to interact with the brand.

“The key focus for us is to provide translated content that is intended to inform, delight and surprise the end consumer,” he says. “This includes information about our rooms, special offers, restaurants, bars, etc. The next step in this process is to make all of our translated websites completely mobile-enabled over the next two to three months.”

When content is developed in English, it is sent to a translation management system in which the first round of translation is done through an automatic program so that they can remain relatively cost effective. It then goes to a human editor who is a native speaker of the language to adjust the copy for the appropriate the sound and feel. It is then pushed back into the translation management system and the CMS for publication on the various sites.

“We work with an agency that provides both the technology and the translation services, and they have linguist specialists who live and work in the countries we serve,” he says. “When it comes to the turnaround of translated content, simple updates can be made within 24 hours, but larger projects might have a delay of up to a week.”

While Oberli feels that translation and localization are certainly beneficial within the hospitality industry, they are of lesser importance than for other industries such as retail. Because most customers who travel internationally are relatively familiar with English, he doesn’t believe translation and localization are critical for success, but it does enforce how serious they are about specific markets. As a result of their localization efforts, he says the company has seen bookings increase by about 15 percent.

“Providing these features encourages customer engagement, and we have definitely seen additional bookings and revenue generation as a result of these efforts,” he says. “First and foremost, we monitor investments and compare them to the revenue that is generated from these efforts, but we over-invested in technology upfront. These investments were much higher than the actual translations because we wanted to plan in a way that wouldn’t restrict us when we wanted to add new languages in the future.”

While the process for digital is fairly seamless, Oberli says the print translation process tends to move more slowly. Digital content can be adjusted gradually over time, but print content needs to be in its final form before it can be published.

While the company has seen a great deal of success from these efforts, Oberli says the languages themselves pose the greatest challenge.

“In an ideal world, you would write copy from scratch in every language because sentence structure, word choice, punctuation, etc. tend to vary from one language to the next,” he says. “Language can also be extremely subjective, so establishing agreement on the language can take time, and since we don’t create original content in each language, we have to be careful to ensure that content isn’t compromised in terms of sophistication.”