Translate Your Website and Attract Customers Globally: “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” – A study by Common Sense Advisory

The Internet has opened up endless opportunities for businesses everywhere to explore new markets and expand their reach across the globe. And because of this, websites have become the primary channel for many companies to sell, inform, and promote themselves due to their amazing power to make distance, borders and similar obstacles practically disappear.

However, all too often companies make the crucial mistake of forgetting that being present on the Internet or appearing in a search is not enough to secure a profitable relationship with their end users. Successful communication needs proper understanding, which is the first step towards a trustworthy interaction.

A report called “Can’t Read: Won’t Buy” carried out in 2006 by Common Sense Advisory (CSA), a provider of market research in language and technology, gave us some interesting results.  The research surveyed the online buying preferences of more than 2,400 consumers from eight non-Anglophone countries in Europe, Asia and South America, while concentrating specifically on assessing online language preferences and the subsequent impact on purchasing decisions. The results showed that consumers overwhelmingly prefer to buy products on sites where the information is in their own language: most of them would only buy from such sites, while many would even pay extra if the information was in their own language.

A later version of the report was released by CSA in 2014, confirming the earlier conclusions. This time they surveyed 3,000 consumers from 10 countries (Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain and Turkey), and the data collected revealed the following:

  • 30% of participants never buy at English-language sites
  • 29% rarely buy at English-language sites
  • 56% either spend more time on sites in their own language than they do in English-language sites, or boycott English-language URLs altogether

The report also highlights that even millennials, who are generally more familiar with the English language, showed a strong preference for information expressed in their own native language. Not surprisingly, financial services was one of the things that consumers were least likely to buy from websites in a foreign language.

The research also draws attention to another interesting aspect of website localization: it’s not necessary to translate the entire website to avail of the benefits which localization services will bring. Half of the participants stated that they would be happy even if only some content appears in their language. In practical terms, the content on a website that should be considered for translation to boost a company’s success in the global market includes:

  1. The landing page and microsite (containing the general information about the site)
  2. Menu items (to improve the customer’s experience of the website—often overlooked due to the company’s Content Management System)
  3. Payment and delivery methods pages (which are crucially important when selling online)
  4. User reviews (as direct reference material to the products on sale, every bit as important as product description)
  5. Customs requirements (for personalization before the purchase and vital post-sale support)

A proper localization strategy should also take into consideration potential problems with the use of specific idioms, graphics and language constructions which might be considered inappropriate by a foreign audience, which is made more prominent by a website’s use of marketing language, slogans and advertising.  Transcreation—translation with the added input of native-language copywriting—can adapt the content in a way that maximizes its appeal to the readers, and at the same time make sure that it does not include content that might be offensive to people in another culture.

The CSA report is considered an important reference on the importance of web content localization and on the consequent impact on sales. However, it is important to keep in mind that tolerance for English-only websites will be on the decrease as more users from other parts of the world gain Internet access. At the time the CSA research was carried out, people who were already online were more likely to be educated, wealthy and young – all factors that have a bearing on English proficiency. Going forward, website translation and localization will become increasingly important as more populations in the world gain access to the Internet.

Also, although the CSA research focuses specifically on sites selling consumer products, it’s clear that website translation and localization services can be beneficial to any business, and not just with the purpose of attracting customers. Considering that over half of Google searches nowadays are made in a language other than English, it’s quite reasonable to assume that many businesses without localized websites are missing out on a significant number of potential consumers.

There is no doubt that content translation and localization is getting more and more important for any company which aims to succeed internationally. Significantly, localization featured as the third leading method for online businesses to market their goods internationally, recognised by 40% of respondents after international advertising (43%) and social media (50%).

If you are planning a translation and localization strategy for your website, the best way to start is by looking at your website analytics to find out where your visitors are from, how they use the site, and how often they tend to abandon it without buying anything. Also, if you can, ask your existing customers located in foreign countries for feedback on what they think of your current content and on ways to improve their experience.

Once you have looked at the data, determined your goals and your target market, and listened to your customers, talk to us at Braahmam to avail of the experience of our experts in website translation and localization services. Contact us on sales@braahmam.net. We will be happy to assist you.

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