Common Sense Advisory LogoBack in 2006, Common Sense Advisory (CSA), a major research provider in the area of translation and localization, came out with a report entitled “Can’t Read: Won’t Buy.” The report summarized a survey of 2,400 consumers in eight countries about their online buying preferences. The results showed convincingly that consumers prefer to buy products on sites where the information is in their language. Most would only buy from such sites; many would pay extra if the information was in their language.

In February 2014, CSA released the latest version of this report, which re-confirmed its earlier conclusions. This time the survey covered over 3,000 consumers in 10 countries (Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey). According to CSA’s press release, their findings include the following:

  • 30% never buy at English-language sites, and another 29% rarely do.
  • 56% either spend more time on sites in their own language than they do in English, or boycott English-language URLs altogether.
  • Even millennials, who are more comfortable with English generally, show a strong preference for information in their own language.

In January 2016, CSA reported:

“Today’s addressable online economic potential amounts to US$54.9 trillion, but English only grants access to 36.5% of that total. It takes a minimum of 11 additional languages, including German and Japanese, to open the door to 88.7% of the world’s total online gross domestic product (GDP).”

The one thing that can overcome the language barrier is a global brand. So if your company is Nike, for instance, you may not have to worry so much. A majority in every country said that brand could trump language, with Egyptians the most influenced and Germans the least.

As might be expected, financial services were one of the things that consumers were least likely to buy if the website was not in their language.

Landing Pages and Microsites

The research also backed up what MTM LinguaSoft has been advising customers for a long time: You don’t have to translate your entire website to get benefits. Half the respondents would prefer that some content appear in their language, and another 17% strongly leaned toward that preference. A foreign language landing page or translated microsite can boost your success with foreign consumers. Buyers also indicated that content should include the menu items that are sometimes overlooked on sites whose content management systems make these less easily exported for translation than the core page content.

And language isn’t the only thing that you should be concerned about. Your localization strategy should consider functions like payment and delivery methods and customs requirements. Privacy can also be more of a concern in some countries.

AT MTM LinguaSoft, we also recommend pre-translation cultural assessment for potential problems with specific idioms and graphics that might be inappropriate for other audiences. At the very least, you want to be sure that a translated site doesn’t contain content that is likely to be offensive to people in another culture. In to preventing problems, “transcreation” or translation plus native-language copywriting can adapt your message in order to maximize its appeal to readers.

This research pertains specifically to sites selling consumer products, but translation can be beneficial to any business, and not just in attracting customers.

Download our Localization Quick Guide on the ROI of translation to learn more »

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