As The World’s No. 1 Pizza Oven Company, Ooni delivers quality wood-fired and gas-powered pizza ovens to millions of customers across North America and Europe. With their core target market in the United States, they sought to unlock the full potential of success in other international markets they served by leveraging data to deploy similar growth tactics.
Ooni faced numerous challenges when entering non-English speaking markets, surrounding content localization and navigating market specificities to ensure brand consistency in the delivery of their messaging.
They recently joined forces with Unbabel to share their story, in a webinar: How to Get CX Right and Drive Global Revenue Through Localized Content at Scale: Lessons Learned From Ooni Pizza Ovens, featuring Emilija Paliulyte, Head of Performance Marketing at Ooni Pizza Ovens, and Neil Campbell, Global Sales Director at Unbabel. An audience of global marketers spanning content and tech functions tuned in to gain exclusive insights into top considerations to achieving optimal multilingual CX during global expansion.
50% of those in attendance selected scale as the biggest pain point, followed by quality (40%), and then speed (10%).
Let’s take a look at their journey, and how with Unbabel as their localization partner, they achieved upwards of 88% revenue growth in a new core market.
From Garage to Global
Following in the footsteps of many other business success stories (Disney, Amazon, Apple), Ooni’s genesis began ten years ago in a garage, when co-founder Kristian Tapaninaho mocked up a concept pizza oven so that he could enjoy restaurant-style pizza at home.
His original prototype garnered interest and funding from Kickstarter — surpassing the target raise by 200% — justifying the market need for his oven. Fueled by the proven demand for this product, he embarked on international expansion to get his ovens into the homes of the many other passionate pizza communities all over the world.
“At Ooni, we unlock the ability to make restaurant-great pizza for everyone in the world, no matter what language they speak.”
– Emilija Paliulyte, Head of Performance Marketing at Ooni Pizza Ovens
The challenge: Ensuring the brand voice remains consistent and true in its transition across the globe while adapting it to resonate with individual markets in an authentic way.
Emilija notes that for Ooni, localizing content for each market was and remains an essential part of their growth strategy, regardless of how hard the challenge. The company recognized there were many pizza lovers in non-English speaking countries like France, Germany, and (of course) Italy, and the only way to really reach them was to “speak their language.” And to speak it right.
“[Pizza lovers across Europe] presented massive opportunities for the brand to grow. But not being able to reach them in the language they prefer wouldn’t allow us to scale. (...) Other brands could step into our shoes and take that away from us.”
Ooni faced massive pressure to launch content quickly into new markets, to achieve business goals, and stay ahead of the competition, paired with looming seasonal surges and annual sales such as Black Friday / Cyber Monday. And hiring local quality managers to support each individual market simply was not feasible.
SEO was also a key consideration for Ooni as they scaled their brand internationally. With speed a consideration, and time and cost not in their favor, they feared the potential of SEO penalties as a result of launching websites in new markets with gaps in their translated content — when a website is only partially translated for a new market, with some content being offered in English.
“You can’t just half-translate content. If you’re going to do it, it must be done right. SEO is really key for us, so only translating product content, and negating recipe or support content, means that we would get penalized for SEO, and won’t rank, because we haven’t done the job right. (...) We want to make sure Ooni is the number one result.”
A data-driven approach leads to actionable insights
Understanding the intricacies of every individual market, including the impact that language has in that market became a part of Ooni’s strategy, and a way to build a business case around investment for localization.
The company first introduced marketing content and Google ads in English to other audiences like France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden — the goal, to establish traction via conversions or click-throughs. Once interest within those markets was determined, Ooni slowly started incorporating free online machine translation tools for a fast and low-cost approach to providing some roughly translated content. And finally, if they saw an uplift in engagement with this content, then that particular market became a clear candidate for investment in localization.
Ooni uncovered through rigorous A/B testing that, although it actually didn’t have to localize language for Nordic consumers, as a high proportion of this segment speaks English and is content with receiving communication in English, markets like France, Germany, and Italy demanded deeper personalization.
“We measure English to English, English to local. We A/B test and experiment everything. You just can’t go in blindly. (...) We wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise.”
Emilija remarks that as a result of relying solely on simple language translation from free online tools, Ooni received customer inquiries for misinterpretations. For example, the company uses the phrase “wood-fired flavored” in its English marketing materials, but found many Italians were turned off by this description — it was perceived as inauthentic, some suggesting “wood-fired flavored” pizza pie would lead to negative health implications. Even the word itself — pizza pie — is appropriate terminology for your customers in the United States; however, translating “a pie” or “cake made of pizza” throughout Europe raised eyebrows, and didn’t land well.
They quickly learned that the process of successfully entering new markets, speedily and accurately, goes beyond translating words — it’s a more holistic approach, encompassing culture and context.
Expert, data-driven localization unlocks growth
Despite what businesses may perceive, it’s not just the marketing or content team that must contend with localization challenges. To deliver a superior customer experience, product and sales, software / product development (apps), legal, and customer support teams must all find a way to align in their objective in localizing for the market, not just for the language.
“The key is to ensure that we’re actually localizing for the market, not just localizing for the language.”
Beyond terminology, Ooni discovered other considerations businesses must keep in mind:
Tone of voice: When engaging with audiences in the United States, a friendly, chatty tone of voice, riddled with puns and creative wordplay typically resonates well, whereas audiences within France strongly prefer to be addressed in a more formal tone.
Imagery: And who doesn’t love pepperoni pizza? It’s a staple across any pizzeria in NYC. Italians, naturally, were less enthused to be greeted with a pepperoni pizza on the Ooni homepage, product packaging, or even in the recipe section on the blog. Traditional pizzas like Margherita would have garnered more appeal.
Customer Support: Once you’ve successfully entered those new markets (or even during), ensuring your business is scaled to support customer inquiries as they come in is key, and that your customers are receiving a quality and timely resolution within the same native language in which you’ve approached them.
An essential tool for Ooni’s success
Amidst these challenges, Ooni enlisted the help of Unbabel’s AI-powered, human-refined translation tool, built specifically with the end-to-end multilingual CX in mind. Unbabel provided a custom engine to support their ongoing translation needs, comprised of tailored style guides and glossaries of terms that are specific to each individual market.
“Unbabel has been a massive support for us. (...) Our CS scores are one of the best we’ve ever had, especially in Europe.”
As a key takeaway, Emilijia acknowledges that Ooni will enter new markets only after the appropriate glossary has been produced and put in place — not before.
Plus, with Unbabel’s proprietary machine translation learning technology, their engines were able to store the translation data to produce outputs based on continuous training — essentially getting smarter with time.
“English is so simple — you can say one word and it could have three different meanings. This is not so much the case for other languages. If we translate a two-word or three-word sentence from English into French or German, it suddenly turns into twice as long of text, which now can’t fit on the artwork anymore! So that’s where we work with Unbabel to figure out the plan.”
As Emilija concludes, language is always evolving, meaning that localization is a continuous process and a job that never quite ends. Having the right extended localization partner to rely on can help facilitate your performance growth goals and timelines in a way that seamlessly integrates into your current business model and workflows.
Through trial and error, testing, and data, guided by precision prioritization efforts based on revenue outcomes in high-value markets, Ooni’s localization strategy has helped the company achieve impressive milestones:
In France, the company experienced a 61% conversion rate and 69% revenue growth YoY between April 2021 and 2022. The story was similar in Germany in the same period, where it logged 9.1% user growth, a 63% conversion rate, and a massive 88% spike in revenue growth during the same time period. Emilija says Ooni’s success with localization has established a business case, as the company continues expanding into new markets.
“Unbabel has been a massive support for us. They’ve done so much to ensure that we’re integrating within our customer support workflows and chatbots and that we’re able to communicate by solely having an English team in place. We’ve never had a single complaint from a customer that our language or support is poor. Our CS scores are one of the best we’ve ever had, especially in Europe. It’s absolutely great!”