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Man vs machine: robot translators have yet to convince shoppers: study

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Machines still have a long way to go before they can rival their human counterparts in translating content, says ecommerce content producer Quill.

The company tested product copy produced by human translators and by machines, asking survey respondents which would make them more likely to buy, and which gave them the most positive impression of the retailer.

For both these metrics, the study found that human translations dominated across all markets and verticals. Four in five people (79%) said that the human-translated copy made them more likely to buy the product in question, while 80% of respondents agreed that the human-translated descriptions gave them a significantly more positive impression of the retailer.

Ed Bussey, chief executive at Quill said: “Recent innovations in neural machine translation have made a material difference in improving the accuracy of translated content – enabling the technology to provide an output that is, according to 50% of consumers in our research, functionally as easy as a human translation to understand. This is a big step forward, but – and it’s a significant ‘but’ – the technology still has a long way to go before it replaces hand-crafted content. Whilst consumers can understand pure machine translations, they don’t find them as persuasive, convincing or brand-elevating as human-translations. People with an understanding of culture, locale and colloquialisms are still required to write trustworthy and inspiring product content that achieves ecommerce goals and accurately replicates a brand’s tone of voice. And that’s before we even consider the limitations machines face in optimising content for search engines or avoiding SEO-damaging content duplication when different retailers are selling the same or similar products.”

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