5 trends in global web operations

The process of creating, publishing, and distributing digital content for global market consumption by corporate marketers has become nearly ubiquitous in just about every industry. What's less universally accepted is a single term used to describe these activities. One definition gaining traction is "global web operations," which includes all of the activities required for localizing, instrumenting, optimizing, and publishing content, assets, and pages on global digital platforms.

These elements are defined in an operational context because they are highly intertwined and iterative. They are also part of an inherently common process. For marketers not familiar with all of the terms used, here is a quick description:

Localizing -- translating or trans-creating text and audio, selecting appropriate images for each market, and deconstructing source content from various formats

Instrumenting -- applying appropriate tracking tags and codes to ads and landing pages to track a campaign's performance.

Optimizing -- using search engine marketing to optimize content for targeted keywords and track rankings and engagement so people can find and interact with your content.

Digital platforms -- company controlled websites plus partner sites, social networks, mobile apps, email providers, display ad platforms, search platforms, etc.

Lionbridge and Gatepoint Research recently surveyed 1,000 executives to identify key trends in corporate operational web practices. Respondents were heavily weighted toward large organizations, with 82 percent coming from the Fortune 1000. Of the respondents, 63 percent were director-level and above, and 36 percent were VP level or higher. The survey covered the people, process and technology components of operational web practices.

Here are five "mega trends" emerging in content creation, publishing, and distribution today.

Trend No. 1: Increasing number of languages
Most economies in the developed world are growing at extremely slow rates, causing companies across industries to focus on global markets for revenue growth. Even retailers that have traditionally been focused on their home countries are aggressively expanding into new markets to increase sales. Given this broader focus on multiple geographies, global web operations are under pressure to expand processes to support an environment of six or more languages. The chart below provides a snapshot of the number of languages our surveyed companies support today, with 43 percent already providing at least six languages and 6 percent providing more than 20 languages.

5 trends in global web operations
 
Trend No. 2: Increasing focus on cycle time reduction
Most large companies show a large variance in cycle time performance (see histogram of company performance below). We define cycle time as follows:

Begin -- Source content and assets are received from marketing or an agency to begin the localization and production process.

End -- All localized content and assets are in production.

The distribution is roughly bimodal with high performing companies centered around two weeks, and slower performing companies requiring two months to fully complete a cycle. From a marketer's perspective, two months is considered an eternity.

 
In analyzing the survey results, we dove deeper into those companies performing at the two month mark, and their responses made it clear they know they need to address the issue. As a result, marketing will push harder to reduce cycle time as it faces increasing pressure to perform in digital channels.

Trend No. 3: Moving to a single, global web content management platform
Most large organizations are dealing with a collection of legacy web content management (WCM) systems that can vary by division, by country, and by language. The WCM space has matured to the point where organizations should standardize on a single global platform to streamline the execution of global campaigns and minimize IT operational and maintenance expenses. However, our survey found that roughly 34 percent of companies are in the midst of a global WCM platform decision or deployment over the next year or so.


 
Trend No. 4: Growing complexity of global vs. local
Corporate marketing wants to ensure a consistent global brand message, while each local marketing operation strives to adapt the corporate campaigns to maximize its own results. The global web operations team often finds itself thrown in the middle between global consistency and local optimization, and the pain it causes is evident in the survey. These objectives ranked No. 1 and No. 2 among our survey respondents. Indeed, nearly all of the shifts happening in consumer behavior will only make this challenge harder to tackle (mobile, social, user generated content, SEO, etc.).


 
Trend No. 5: Increasing budgets
Most organizations are increasing their investment in global web operations to support the demand to grow global revenue through growing digital marketing activity and performance. Process and technology investments depend on new digital channels (e.g., social, mobile), larger rich media demands, shorter cycle times, and increased competition. Of our surveyed companies, 77 percent are making this increased investment, with many increasing their budget by 30 percent or more. Given that the core drivers for increasing these budgets are slowing developed world economies and the shift to digital marketing, we see material budget increases continuing for global web operations for the foreseeable future.


 
All of these trends revolving around global web operations support a more common theme increasingly discussed among marketers seeking to reach global stakeholders -- customers, prospects, business partners, suppliers, and employees -- how to manage the tension between global brand consistency and local relevance? In a world where brands often create and execute marketing campaigns that convey a single message, it can be difficult to communicate the same message in each country in which the company operates. 

Marc Osofsky is senior vice president of marketing at Lionbridge.

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