Interpreting Delivery Platforms: A Cure without a Disease?
Recent technological advances have led to an explosion of interpreting delivery platform (IDP) options that enable remote, video, telephone, and even machine interpretation. In theory, first-movers should occupy a prominent position in the market. However, many products haven’t moved much past the starting line due to poor go-to-market strategies, limited marketing budgets, and insufficient experience in selling to desirable verticals and audiences. Through in-depth research and 45 interviews and demos with technology vendors, users of such technologies, and interpreting experts, we found that many solutions have no more than a handful of clients or regular accounts. Some even lack paying customers altogether. But some solutions show real promise in gaining market attention among potential resellers, language service providers, and end clients.
Why do some of these vendors stumble when they have some seemingly great products to offer? We explored this issue in our research on this emerging category of interpreting delivery platforms. We found a wide range of reasons why some solutions fail to gain traction, including:
- Some solutions are in search of a problem. In our interviews, we uncovered quite a few companies that built a product with a vague client persona in mind and only then tried to figure out buyer and end-user needs. As a result, the pain they set out to cure may not be the primary concern for the buyers they hope to attract. This missing link leads to weak triggers to purchase.
- Demand should drive development, but doesn’t. We repeatedly found in the interviews and demos that the appearance of IDPs precedes the mainstream need for them. In some cases, we observed a lag of several years between tech advances and general adoption. Clients frequently feel like they have to keep up with IDP offerings instead of having to push for improvements. The mismatch between solutions and actual market requirements delays acceptance.
- Vendors fail to differentiate. Inspired by the idea that “if you build it, they will come,” these developers often think that their great new concept will naturally attract potential buyers. But prospects have a hard time distinguishing between unique value propositions of these IDP solutions, thus making decisions a matter of chance rather than of strategy.
- Resellers don’t do much reselling. LSPs resellers typically apply a modest markup to IDP products and services, limiting them as a source of extra revenue. As a result, they have minimal motivation to sell a standalone product, especially as they often find themselves competing head-to-head with tech vendors in bids. Instead, interviewees reported just wanting to make IDPs available in case clients ask so they can asphyxiate the competition trying to get into the account by providing a comprehensive offering.
- Sparse demand creates doubt. Vendors must reach the point in demand at which they achieve critical mass to sell more. Until then, big players aren’t likely to spend much money on them because they seek viable solutions, not just interesting concepts.
- Lack of demand results in flaky supply chains. Service suppliers reported struggling with asking interpreters to sign up in advance of the need so they have a complete package to sell. But when too few requests come through for on-demand services, linguists do not stay on standby. With insufficient supply, providers can’t deliver on what they sell, thus feeding the vicious cycle of which segment to develop first. Solutions that require interpreters to have access to proprietary IDP hardware also increase the cost of building supply chains and exacerbate these problems.
While most solutions struggle to find a place for themselves in the market, some vendors have addressed many of the challenges we mentioned and found a way to thrive. In “Developing the IDP Market,” we offer concrete advice for tech vendors, interpreting service providers that develop their own solutions, and companies that resell off-the-shelf products so they can sell their products more successfully.
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