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2013 WOW Benchmarks for 116 Economically Significant Digital Languages
Posted by Benjamin B. Sargent on November 5, 2013  in the following blogs: Global Marketing, Market Data, Web Globalization
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Last week Common Sense Advisory published its annual update to the total online population (TOP) and world online wallet (WOW) numbers, including the details on 32 new languages. Today we released the top 30 languages on that list to non-members, along with an explanation of the data and benchmarks. Below, we suggest how they can be used for strategic planning and measurement. This year’s research identifies the size (2.4 billion people) and economic opportunity (US$45.1 trillion) addressable through 116 digital languages. As always, we base our analysis on conservative and verifiable numbers.
How can global brands use our annual benchmarks? Wait, did you catch that? US$45 trillion is bigger than the entire gross domestic product of the world’s seven largest economies: United States, China, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, and Brazil. That opportunity is nearly half of the gross world product and one third of the world’s total population. These are the people influenced directly by digital communications and available online to interact with any brand that speaks their language.

Global brands use these numbers to determine what share of the world market for their products and services they address in their go-to-market strategy, global web presence, and omni-channel customer experience. How can you can use these metrics in your marketing plans?

International marketing teams allocate budgets for messaging across a bewildering array of regions and languages. Whether you define a market as a region, country, or language depends on your team’s go-to-market strategy, but whatever the outcome, every budget decision should begin and end with data. The table below shows the raw and benchmark forms of the data given in the download.

2013 WOW Rank

Online Language


Share of TOP


Share of WOW


























Chinese Simplified





  A Sample of Online Language Data and Benchmarks for 2013
  Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

These metrics provide essential starting points for both market entry decisions and return on investment measurements: 
  1. How to use Total Online Population (TOP): This benchmark gives the “total available audience” for an online language, comprised of populations spread across multiple countries. The number of people online in any given country is an easy number to come by (see the ITU’s ICT Statistics page). Even when your marketing is inextricably tied to countries, you can’t assume language preference simply based on location. TOP gives you the number of people accessing the internet with a given native language preference as the most effective way to reach and influence them. Use this data to understand the reach of your website or marketing program. Total in-language reach for a campaign, divided by TOP, gives you far more accurate assessment of effectiveness than reach alone.
  2. How to use Share of TOP: In previous years we published this number as “availability quotient” (AQ), a whole number between 0 and 1,000 representing a share of world online population. Now we represent the number as xxx.xxx, with the largest possible number being 100, as in “100%” or “all people online” in a given year. Whereas TOP provides raw data, this number gives you a benchmark that allows comparisons from one year to the next. In the table below, 1.000 equals exactly “1%” of world online population for 2013. Use these benchmarks to set targets and assess global reach on an annual basis.
  3. How to use World Online Wallet (WOW): This figure gives market planners a baseline number for total economic value associated with individuals directly reachable via online communication. Also known as e-GDP, the implications are broader than e-commerce. Instead, this number represents both online and offline activity of individuals, corporations, and governments – in proportion to the number people in that country, or speaking a given language – who have regular internet access. This number gives you the relative size and clout of dozens of different online populations, unlocked by supporting their preferred language. Also, the “total market potential” or revenue opportunity figures used by sales executives and market planners will gain an important foundation for accuracy when supported by WOW figures. 
  4. How to use Share of WOW: This benchmark is also presented in the new number format that we use for Share of TOP. In this case, the number represents the percentage of the whole world online wallet. In 2013, total WOW amounted to US$45,128,356,652,789. But as that pie gets bigger every year – just over one third of the world’s population is online, so, plenty of head room for growth – the relative position of a given country or language changes according to whether it is growing faster or slower than the internet as a whole. It turns out that the annual benchmark renders a better picture of where the money is than the raw WOW figures, because Share of WOW tells you where to invest.
What does the data tell us? We continue to see the trends that we’ve written about in the past:
  • A continued shift to Asia. In “World Online Wallet Shifts Toward Asia in 2010” (Sep10), we witnessed Chinese surpassing English as the top online language for TOP, although it still lags in WOW. But the swell is far bigger than Chinese, and the historic shift underway this year is visible in fast-growing online populations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, India, Pakistan, and Iran. The sheer number of people in Asia dwarfs the population numbers of Europe and the Americas, as they continue to adopt technology rapidly. 
  • The power of the long tail. In “ROI Lifts the Long Tail of Languages in 2012” (Jun12), we called out the long tail effect, with the early online languages from Europe and Japan show high penetration, slow absolute growth, and negative share growth, as they give way to other populations undergoing rapid internet adoption. 
This research is published in a free-with-registration model showing the top 30 most important online languages. Non-members should click here to download the brief.

Common Sense Advisory research members can click here to download the full research brief covering all 116 languages.

To inquire how to become a Common Sense Advisory research member, click here.


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Keywords: Availability quotient, Country and regional market studies, Ethnic / domestic multicultural markets, Global websites, Language and market selection, Market sizing, Online gross domestic product (e-GDP), Return on investment, Web globalization, World online wallet (WOW) factor

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