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Our Analysts' Insights

01May

A Quarter-Pound of Translation, Please

Anywhere you go around the world, you can find traditional sweets or candy – especially in historic towns or cities where old-fashioned sweet shops are part of the heritage, or where street markets are a big part of local life. Think salt water taffy from San Francisco, halva from the souks of Jerusalem, lokum in Istanbul, chocolates in Bruges, or licorice drops in Amsterdam. You can buy them by the pound, the ounce, the kilo, or the gram. In the UK, those who grew up before decimalization still ask for “a quarter of jelly babies” – a quarter of a pound –and nobody questions it, even when the next person in line buys 100 grams. Businesses have scales that weigh in both systems – the technology adjusts to the buyer.

But today, we can also buy candy by the bagful, prepackaged and right-sized for our sweet-tooth needs. Small snack boxes for a calorie-controlled treat, or jumbo sacks of assorted sweeties for Halloween, or beautifully-presented, hand-made and personalized boxes of chocolates for very special occasions.

What Does Any of This Have to Do with Language Services?

Similarities abound: there is a different selection of candies – or words – depending on where you are on the planet, and it’s all about how the candies, or words, are priced. Buyers choose the flavor or language that they want, the seller measures them out, and the purchaser pays for the amount they consume.

Traditionally, sweets are priced by weight: the shopkeeper measures them out, one by one, using scales to make sure that the customer pays the right price. What about translation? We have scales for words too: we count the words and weigh them against price lists. But with language services, we do not yet have the prepackaged or personalized options. Is it time to offer another way of buying: allowing the customer to choose a language snack, a translation feast, or an all-you-can-eat localization buffet?

What if you could purchase translation or interpreting in predetermined packages – or as a subscription? You would still need measures – after all, a box of chocolates tells you how heavy the candy is and you want to know how much you are eating… maybe! Technology would have to adapt, to allow for old and new systems of measurement – and probably for both to co-exist. Sales and marketing would need to adapt too: instead of prices-per-word, LSPs would be selling various bundles of language services, perfectly sized to a customer’s requirements.

Participate in Our Research!

Some language service providers have been wondering should they question the status quo of whether to keep selling by the word and its various match levels or if it’s time to rethink their pricing models. As a result, CSA Research is actively investigating changes in pricing models across industries and how they may apply to the language industry.

Do you still prefer the transparent glass jar of individually-weighed words or a standardized package that contains everything you need this week? If you are considering or already using alternatives to per-word pricing for translation or other creative pricing methods for transcreation, MT post-editing, or interpreting, we would love to hear from you. Contact us to participate in an interview with one of our research analysts.

About the Author

Alison Toon

Alison Toon

Senior Analyst

Focuses on translation management systems, plus helping CSA Research’s clients gain insights into the technologies, pricing, and business processes key to executive buy-in

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