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SDL Pivots from Language Services to Customer Experience
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on February 27, 2014  in the following blogs: Global Marketing, Technology, Web Globalization
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Last month, SDL unveiled its Customer Experience Cloud designed to “deliver seamless, data-driven experiences at each point of the buying journey – across channels, devices, and languages.” The company integrated its content management, e-commerce, marketing analytics, and translation automation technology solutions into a single interface. As a result, enterprises can manage multi-channel experiences, monitor and analyze a brand’s health and customer perception in real time, and manage marketing campaigns. Companies that want to increase customer engagement, loyalty, and spending will benefit from this integrated approach. 

What’s behind this new product are two factors: 1) the culmination of years of investment in its translation technology integrated with SDL’s acquisitions of expertise and technology in content management (Tridion, Trisoft, and XyEnterprise), e-commerce software (Fredhopper), and marketing data analytics (Alterian); and 2) its restructuring into a single marketing and sales organization. 

This second point is crucial.  As the company acquired these companies over the last seven years, it created separate business units for each – which developed, marketed, sold, and supported its own product portfolios. By the time it acquired Alterian in 2012, SDL had grown to six standalone business units, each with it each with its own CEO, engineers, and sales specialists. Sales representatives from several business units were calling on the same accounts, selling different visions of SDL. With this new cloud-centric suite of solutions, SDL is redirecting its efforts toward the strategic arena of customer experience management (CXM). 

By focusing on CXM, SDL hopes to lift itself out of the commodity services market into a headier place where the margins and visibility are much higher – and where it can establish a strategic tie to corporate branding, marketing, customer care initiatives. Of course, it will use its language technology and services expertise to differentiate itself from CXM rivals such as Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce that rely on partners to provide the globalization talent and services. As Common Sense Advisory’s latest research on global consumers demonstrates, meeting your customers' language needs and expectations is an essential piece of CXM – not an add-on (see “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy,” Feb14). 

SDL has its work cut out as it sells into this high-octane market and against its much bigger rivals or more specialized competitors such as Sitecore. However, the CXM market is still growing and could be as big as the customer-facing web. Today, it is serviced by hordes of companies of differing size, capabilities, and clout. SDL is well positioned in this crowd.  It has shopped strategically over the last seven years, invested heavily in integrating and extending the technology it purchased, and reorganized itself around its new mission. 

Common Sense Advisory thinks that this investment will serve SDL well in the global CXM market niche – companies growing their web presence to 20, 30, or 40 locales (see “Assessing the World’s Most Prominent Websites,” Dec13). If it succeeds, SDL will become a much bigger player than it could ever be in the language services and technology market – and set itself up for being acquired by one of its bigger rivals looking for the global customer experience (GCX) technology and expertise that the company brings to the game. It won’t be alone on this GCX quest. Competing LSPs such as euroscript and Lionbridge have been gearing up their own efforts to move higher in the marketing automation food chain with support for global marketing communications, customer care, and the customer experience. 


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