October 4, 2006, 12:00 AM

Going overseas? Make sure to brush up on foreign languages

E-retailers moving into global sales can dramatically increase their potential customer base by employing the native languages of audiences outside of the U.S., concludes a new study.

Kurt Peters

Executive Editor

 

E-retailers moving into global sales can dramatically increase their potential customer base by localizing their web content to the native languages of audiences outside of the U.S., concludes a new study. 52.4% of consumers, for example, buy only from web sites where information is presented in their native language, according to the report “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy-Why Language Matters on Global Web Sites” from research firm Common Sense Advisory.

The findings of the report, underwritten by Idiom Technologies Inc., a vendor of software for globalization initiatives, underscore the key role that content translation can play in consumer buying patterns, says Don DePalma, the report’s lead analyst at Common Sense Advisory. According to the results, most people prefer to buy online in their own language, and, in fact, the majority in some countries will pay more for a product packaged with information in their own language, he adds.

In late summer, Common Sense Advisory analyzed the online global buying preferences of more than 2,400 consumers from eight non-English-speaking countries in Europe, Asia and South America. Factors including nationality, English-language proficiency, brand and the ability to conduct transactions in foreign currencies were included in the study. All surveys were conducted in the official language of each country.

Other findings in the report include:

  • 88.3% of overseas consumers with no or low English language abilities spend most or all of their time on sites in their own language, but that number drops to 60.6% for those who have some ability in English.
  • Just 10% of the low or no English participants make most or all of their online purchases from English web sites compared with 37% of the English-speaking group. Even for those who can read English, more than 60% prefer buying from sites in their own language.
  • Respondents with no or low English abilities are six times more likely to “rarely or never buy from English-language web sites” than their countrymen who are more confident in their English skills.

“Many firms still debate whether it makes business sense for them to globalize their online marketing, online commerce sites and call centers. There is a longstanding assumption that enough people on the web feel comfortable using English, especially when buying high-tech or expensive products,” DePalma says. “Nonetheless, research dating back to 1998 indicates a high propensity for people to buy in their own language.”

 

 

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