By Alan White, The Translation People.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the largest shake up in traditional business operations any of us have ever experienced. First came the cancelling of trade events, then restrictions on international travel, followed by rules that our teams must learn to work effectively from home.

For businesses which rely on international trade – whether for research and development, to fulfil a supply chain or to reach overseas partners – ascertaining what the new ‘business normality’ is today and might be in the future is proving a significant challenge.

But there are ways to look ahead; tools and services are available which encourage new ways of working, helping businesses reach their contacts without disruption, so operations can continue in the immediate term. Furthermore, they’re encouraging leaders to review strategies and processes to prioritise the wellbeing of staff and sustainability of the planet well into the future.

Identify opportunities with your digital presence

Our data shows that over the last five years, some of the fastest growing languages for business translations from English include Chinese, Latin American Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, Hebrew and Afrikaans. These are the markets are becoming more active, providing lucrative opportunities for business wanting to establish a presence overseas.

However, a recent survey of more than 3000 global consumers in 10 non-Anglophone countries showed 75% prefer to buy products from websites in their native language. Additionally, 60% said they never buy from English-only websites. Global travel restrictions and the closure of non-essential stores worldwide means that now, more than ever, having a strong digital presence is vital.

The perfect website must be easy to navigate, visually attractive, mobile optimised and secure. But for businesses relying on international trade, a multilingual site is key. Providing active and potential customers with the option to use a site in their native language means a user is likely to stay and interact with products for longer and, in turn, are more likely to buy.

If you’re translating your website, also consider local search engine optimisation (SEO); think about which search engines your audience uses, and terms they’re likely to search for, which often aren’t the direct translation of the English terms. Embed these learnings into your translations as a way of reaching new customers.

Every day’s a school day

Over recent years, the global online education market has undergone huge growth, with statistics suggesting it could be worth $132.98 billion by 2023.

While face-to-face meetings at conferences, events and workshops are off-limits, in their absence, businesses can utilise online training to bring teams and clients together even when we feel very much apart.

Offering training and tutorials to share your knowledge and expertise in an interactive way shows the value you place on human interaction – even if it’s done digitally. And for those looking to make these occasions relevant for international audiences, foreign language voiceover and subtitles will help to make the learning materials more accessible.

Making the content available for free will build an engaged, online audience, who come to see you as experts in your industry, which might lead to revenue-generating relationships in the future.

Take offline, online

Although tools like Skype and Zoom are great ways to keep in touch with people all over the world, for international businesses there is a problem when it comes to translating in real-time.

We work with businesses all over the world, and typically our team of interpreters will travel internationally to support clients with meetings which require translation, so discussions can take place at their true pace and without a delay in interpretation.

We recently invested in a multilingual, remote conferencing and interpreting platform to help businesses cut down on travel time and costs – but in the current climate, it’s also being utilised as a solution to the restrictions on international movement.

It facilitates an unlimited number of virtual interpreting booths that are accessed remotely by organisers and participants around the world; each is allocated one of our qualified linguists who translates live, in real time, in a user’s preferred language choice. It delivers a seamless, multi-way conference, conducted entirely online, with interpreters able to work from anywhere in the world.

Though the platform is helping business leaders achieve some level of continuity in the wake of coronavirus, we are encouraging clients to think about how the technology can support them longer term. Removing the need for travel, it can help reach sustainability targets, allow staff members to spend more time with their families, and save potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds which can be reinvested in other areas of the business.

Although businesses across all sectors are feeling the impact of the Coronavirus crisis in one way or another, businesses that adapt quickly, improve operations and strengthen their offering now will increase their chances of surviving the economic uncertainty.

They’re also more likely to transition back to normal operations more smoothly once restrictions subside, and can prove they took steps to ensure it was ‘business as usual’ – even though there is nothing ‘usual’ about the situation we find ourselves in. Doing this will see you emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.