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Looking to Increase Global Sales? Think Again about Relying on Your English-Only Website
Posted by Donald A. DePalma on April 4, 2014  in the following blogs: Business Globalization, Global Marketing, Market Data, Translation and Localization, Web Globalization
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The results are in: 87% of consumers who can't read English don't buy products or services at English-language websites. This was just one of the many findings in Common Sense Advisory's recent report based on our survey of 3,002 consumers in non-English-speaking countries -- Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey. We conducted this 10-nation poll in the official language of each country. The report, "Can't Read, Won't Buy," updates our oft-cited 2006 report on global consumer buying preferences

Our goal in undertaking this research was to answer a question that we hear every day: "Will our sales increase if we localize our products and websites?" The long answer to this question is that we found a sizable preference for the consumer's mother tongue, even among people who were confident in their understanding of written English. This preference for their native language leads many who are unsure of their reading skills to avoid English-only websites, spend less time during their visits, and not buy products that lack instructions or post-sales customer support in their language. The short answer? The availability of local-language content throughout the customer experience leads to a greater likelihood of purchase.

These findings contradict the longstanding assumption that many people on the web feel comfortable enough using English to buy products and services. Our 2006 research discovered that 73% of the consumers surveyed had a high propensity to buy in their native language. Our  2014, larger-scale behavioral study of consumers again validates this preference and, in fact, concludes that this demand is increasing -- three-quarters of respondents say they want the products in their native language. Here are a few other datapoints that anyone making the case for website or product localization should have in their arsenal of arguments:
  • 55% of the 3,002 respondents buy only at websites where information is presented in their language. For those with limited English, the preference for mother-tongue purchases increases to 80% or more. 
  • 60% rarely or never buy at English-language sites.
  • 56% either spend more time on sites in their own language than they do in English -- or boycott English-language URLs altogether.
  • Local-language preferences vary by country. The percentage of those who buy only at local-language websites jumps to more than 70% of consumers in Japan. Other countries with more than half of survey-takers favoring purchases at properties in their language include France (61%), Turkey (61%), Germany (58%), and China (54%).
  • Global brands can trump language, causing prospects to choose such products over one with information in their native tongue. Nationalities that are most infatuated with global brands despite the language hurdle are the Egyptians and Chinese. Those least won over are the Germans, Turks, and Japanese. 
With this data in hand, there should be no question about localizing your website and product information if you want to sell more goods or services to global customers. Translation and localization should be critical elements in your plans to support the global customer experience and engage customers in an enduring brand dialogue. 


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Can't Read, Won't Buy: Why Language Matters on Global Websites
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