Lithuanian online second-hand retailer Vinted currently serves 80 million members in 21 languages, processing about three million words in 2023. But, much like Vinted’s wares, the company needed a new owner to breathe fresh life into its localization strategy.

The person for the job was Martina Pancot, who joined Vinted as Localization Director in late 2021.

The company expanded to cover 22 markets — up from 14 — in just two and a half years, but Pancot is modest about the program’s successes thus far.

“We’re not that far along at this moment in time,” she told the crowd at SlatorCon London 2024. “At this scale, we don’t have a very big localization program, but we have a lot of things cooking and happening.”      

Pancot had her work cut out for her when she first arrived. “The most common feedback that I received is that, ‘You are slow,’ ‘We don’t trust your quality,’ ‘There is no clear ownership around the processes,’” she explained. 

Vinted operates a C2C platform on which users can exchange goods and payments. Like many retailers — and companies in general — Vinted must find a balance between speed and quality when it comes to localization. 

The challenge is intensified considering the frequency of new launches on Vinted, either products, services, or markets, which Pancot said can take place once a month.

Starting from Scratch

When Pancot joined Vinted, the localization system was primarily manual and operated with different stakeholders working in silos. Today, the company tries to optimize its efforts, automating certain steps and centralizing localization in a transparent way. But the path to get there was not so straightforward. 

First, Pancot conducted an 18-month audit of the localization process and technology, mapping out all of Vinted’s content types to understand what needed to be delivered where.

The next step was centralizing localization within Vinted, confirming a budget for it, and procuring a translation management system (TMS).

“For me, the biggest key takeaway is that to get faster you need to get slower” — Martina Pancot, Localization Director of Vinted

With a better understanding of localization goals and deliverables, Pancot and her team needed to identify where localization should be housed within the organization — and who should do what at which touchpoints. The location, volume, and timeline of content were just some of the variables to consider. 

Lastly, Pancot needed to identify the current available resources, as well as any gaps. A full overview helped her build a vision for the localization program and allowed her to decide whether the company had partnered with the right vendors, or hired the right linguists. Pancot said Vinted is still working on this stage as the expectations evolve along with the maturity of the program.  

Unique Finds, Users, and Needs

Vinted started when its founder, Milda Mitkute, teamed up with an IT-savvy friend, Justas Janauskas, to create an online platform for sharing clothes before moving to Vilnius. Initially launched for a small circle of friends, the duo did not expect their project to go international — and this is evident in some of Vinted’s particular challenges.

The website’s back-end and code were not built for internationalization, and Pancot acknowledged that it will take a lot of work to overcome this hurdle. Part of the solution will include automating and reducing the number of actors involved in the localization process. 

In terms of technology, Google Translate is one of the most successful features Vinted has implemented. It offers helpful functionality for users on the C2C platform by enabling users to communicate. That promotes trust between buyer and seller, as well as confidence in the platform. 

The company is also experimenting with and producing many SEO titles with generative AI, which could allow Vinted to produce content at scale, and scale content. Similarly, quality estimation may help Vinted identify which machine-translated content can be published immediately, and which output needs review by a human.

Martina Pancot, Vinted at SlatorCon Martina Pancot, Vinted at SlatorCon

Speed is still an important demand driver for Vinted, as it plays a key role in the platform’s ability to launch new markets and services, and maintain a competitive advantage. Pancot, however, learned to manage expectations from other departments. Where others wanted to enter new markets in four days, the localization process took up to four months prior to Pancot’s arrival; today, it is down to 12 weeks. 

Operating in chaos, as she described it, came with some benefits. Without established systems, it was easy to cut corners and ask linguists offhandedly to make piecemeal changes. Now, departments must submit a brief, to be reviewed by a project manager, who enters it into the TMS, manages the translation, and delivers the final product. Pancot emphasized that in the big picture, the longer process is worthwhile.

“For me, the biggest key takeaway is that to get faster you need to get slower,” Pancot said of her experience. “It’s a paradox, but we lived it, and we keep living it every day.”

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