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Beyond the Barriers of Language

By Microsoft on January 17, 2017

Filed under Retail & Consumer Goods

How Yappn & Microsoft Enable Luxury E-Tailer Reebonz to Offer a Secure Shopping Experience in 11 Languages—the premier online retailer for buying and selling a wide range of high-end products in Asia—services millions of customers across dozens of countries. The retailer recently collaborated with Toronto, Ontario-based Yappn Corp. (—a technology platform used to engage consumers in up to 67 languages—to help unify their online experience. Both Reebonz and Yappn recently migrated from Amazon Web Services to Azure to benefit from the unrivaled scale, stability and security of the Microsoft Cloud. Then, in just a handful of weeks, these teams leveraged Yappn technology and Azure to deliver the new a gold standard of international e-com and a case study in rapid digital transformation.

The challenge

logo-1Reebonz set the bar high. The upscale retailer wanted to reinvent its online experience and unify ten separate regional websites into one, new, fully-integrated, ecommerce platform. This singular new platform would service all its customers, across markets, in almost a dozen major languages (including Arabic), quickly and consistently.

Steve Taylor, Chief Sales Officer at Yappn explains: “You have to start with the numbers to give you an idea of the size of the challenge. Reebonz showcases 130,000 product SKUs at any given time and adds upwards of 30,000 new SKUs monthly. Each product requires about 1,000 words of original description. When you factor in dynamically translating this content into 11 languages, you’re talking about delivering billions of words within fractions of seconds.”

The language hurdle

So how do you handle this volume of words without compromising creative quality? How do you do justice to the witty, original text created to describe hundreds of thousands of products? Reebonz needed a real-time translation solution that went beyond standard machine translation. They needed a solution that understood context, extrapolated meaning and could manage slang, colloquiums, industry jargon, acronyms and even spelling mistakes. All instantly.


Enter Yappn

Founded in 2013, Yappn originally focused on dynamic translation of chat messages on social media platforms. Over time, commercial scenarios for that same capability became apparent and Yappn expanded its business efforts to help online retailers communicate and do commerce with customers across languages. Today, this Microsoft Partner delivers its pioneering, proprietary translation services to a who’s who list of international e-com customers.


The solution

The Yappn API identifies browser language preferences and sends translation requests to the Yappn platform, powered by Azure, which translates the text and then presents it in the browser. This translation happens instantly—providing a true, seamless experience for the user. Users all enjoy the same curated, upscale content experience, regardless of their language or location.

“It’s not actually possible to human-translate And it’s too risky to the business and the brand to leave a content experience for luxury customers up to standard machine translation. In this situation,” continues Taylor, “Yappn delivers a custom, contextualized, high-quality translation and we do it in the machine-translating-pricing realm. So, very cost-effective.”

— Steve Taylor, Chief Sales Officer, Yappn

Additionally, the Yappn solution provides a set of tools for Reebonz to manage and continuously improve the translations within their website. If they do not like how a word or phrase translates, for example, they can simply change it and those updates get applied across tens of thousands of records simultaneously.

“Yappn’s real-time enhanced machine translation solution allows us to handle the large and dynamic product mix that makes up and our marketplace site. This solution allows for large-scale translations at a fraction of the cost of human translation. All at the speed and quality we require, given the scale and fluidity of our product offering. The customization and enhancement of the translation is an ongoing collaborative effort between Yappn and Reebonz.”

— Torres Oey, CTO of

Azure all the way

For Reebonz, the Yappn platform is just a part of a broader cloud solution driven by the company’s Chief Technical Officer, Torres Oey. Under Oey’s stewardship, the company migrated from Amazon to Azure, consolidating its websites, and expanding its language offerings by taking advantage of Azure’s superior global network infrastructure.

“Azure makes us limitless and internationally competitive. We can operate anywhere in the world and enter new geographies fearlessly and easily. Using Azure creates a tremendous amount of confidence. It’s respected and trusted as a powerful, secure, and reliable business environment. It enables us to deliver a true multi-language, real-time translation solution cost-effectively.”

— Anthony R. Pearlman, CTO, Yappn

Azure allows Yappn to scale automatically to meet the needs of larger clients. The strategic locations of Microsoft datacentres enables Yappn to comply with local data residency laws. Additionally, Azure’s flexible security configurations, simplification of background processes, and delivery of advanced worker role functionality all contributed to the decision to move from AWS.

Plus, behind the scenes, Yappn found a powerful new partner in Microsoft Canada:

“Microsoft provides us huge value, collaborating with us on a range of strategic activities—from providing local resources and support and co-selling opportunities with account teams, to go-to-market activities. They act as a critical strategic partner helping us achieve global success.”

— Steve Taylor, Chief Sales Officer, Yappn


The benefits

Delivered in just a matter of weeks through a close engagement, the new and improved, powered by Yappn and Azure, delivers a multitude of benefits, including:

Peace-of-mind -> the website is “always on” for customers across a wide range of geographies, reliably and with no latency, regardless of location.

Global accessibility -> with the most datacentres globally—including the only local hyperscale datacentre in China—Azure delivers unrivaled network depth and breadth.

Speed-to-market -> as an open platform with industry-standard tools, the opportunities created by Azure—including adding Yappn—allowed for a smooth, lightning-quick deployment.

Advanced security -> with automatic failover and disaster recovery measures in place, benefits from state-of-the-art security and privacy practices.

Customer experience -> Reebonz delivers a consistent, dynamic and high-quality content and usability experience across languages/geographies.

Scale -> Azure’s global hyper-scale infrastructure manages all usage demands, no matter how unpredictable or intense.

Cost-effective -> Yappn’s dynamic translation technology and Azure’s pay-as-you-go model keeps costs down and predictable for Reebonz.

The learning

The story provides some useful insights for anyone looking to reboot their ecommerce presence and/or tackle “the language problem.”

  1. Demand more from your cloud. Reebonz leveraged Azure & Yappn to streamline and expand. Does your cloud offer transformative technology services?
  2. Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate! Reebonz’s now manages one website versus many, thanks to some forward-thinking. Could you benefit from similar economies of scale?
  3. Partner up. Reebonz, Yappn and the Microsoft teams rolled-up their sleeves and worked together closely to identify a solution and make it happen. Collaboration works!

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