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Rock Stars of the Multilingual Web
Posted by Benjamin B. Sargent on October 7, 2015  in the following blogs: Best Practices, Business Globalization, Global Marketing, Web Globalization
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Fact: The majority of the worlds most prominent websites are multilingual, featuring anywhere from two to over 100 languages. A full 63% of global brands recently reached more customers by increasing the number of languages on their websites. Why? CSA Research has proven that investing in languages helps companies grow and stay ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, 37% of the leading brands still haven’t gotten the memo (see Figure).

Once again, our research team analyzed hundreds of the world’s leading brands, 2,407 to be exact, researching our 2015 Global Website Assessment Index. During this process, CSA Research identified the most popular languages and social networks for global brand marketers. These business and consumer websites represent the biggest companies, most popular websites, and most valuable brands, based on the Forbes Global 2000 list, the Alexa Top 500 Global Websites, and the Interbrand 100 Best Brands. These businesses are found in 25 countries, representing 24 industrial sectors and 59 vertical sub-industries. In this study, as in the past, companies with more languages on their websites capture more visitors, earn more revenue, and achieve higher valuations for their brands.

The results of the 2015 GWAI study are detailed in our recent report. Here is a summary of the major findings.

  • Five consumer-oriented sectors average more than 10 languages per website. Companies in Household Goods, Computers, Pharmaceutical, Automotive, and Software maintain a web presence in the most languages. Manufactured products, from toothpaste to software programs, rely on global markets to leverage the maximum investment in research, design, production, and branding. Investment in languages helps these companies grow and stay ahead of the competition.
  • The cost of innovation drives globalization. Sub-sectors deploying the most languages include Auto & Truck Manufacturers, Precision Healthcare Equipment, Computer Hardware, Software Products, and Pharmaceuticals – each of these being the most multilingual slice of the top five sectors described above. These drill-down verticals depend on heavy investments in research and development, forcing companies to globalize in order to capture enough revenue to keep innovating in new product development.
  • B2B-oriented sectors are the most social. The most social industries include Semiconductor Equipment & Products, Software & Services, Retailing, Commercial Services & Supplies, and Telecommunication Services. Although business-to-business sectors sometimes have a stuffy image, our data shows they have not been shy about adopting social platforms, often out-networking the mass consumer brand categories. Business-to-business companies should know the ranking of social networks in their important verticals and regions.

When looking across sectors, we found that company size, website popularity, and brand value all show positive correlation to the number of languages found.

  1. Companies ranked in the bottom 1,000 of the Forbes list averaged only 4.1 languages per website, while those in the top 50 fielded more than 17 on average. Larger corporations such as IBM, Santander, and Toyota as a group tend to be older and more established in global markets, compared to smaller companies, which are more likely to be younger. 
  2. Alexa’s top 100 sites offer a much higher count than those lower on the list. From Alibaba to Amazon, from Yahoo to Yandex, the more languages offered by a website, the more likely it is to appear at the top of the list. Many companies like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn specifically used globalization strategies to become the dominant player in their space, breaking the rule that only older companies have lots of languages, and thus rapidly taking market share away from previous leaders (remember Myspace.com?). 
  3. Although Interbrand lists only 100 brands, this ranking also displays a steep set of language-to-success ratios. Stronger brands like McDonalds and H&M (with 35 and 17 languages, respectively) posted more languages than weaker competitors such as Pizza Hut (19) and Gap (7). In this case – like the proverbial chicken and egg – brand value and language growth appear to develop together.

Yet one out of three websites (37%) visited turned out to be monolingual. Ten percent of the world’s most prominent sites did not support the English language, while 65% skipped Chinese. It’s clear that some companies still haven’t realized the growing importance of languages. Don’t limit your company’s prospects by underinvesting in language support. Read or review this recent research to improve your language strategy:


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Keywords: B2B and B2C global marketing, Global websites, High-demand and low-demand languages, Language and market selection, Market sizing, World online wallet (WOW) factor

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