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October 21, 2014

Overseas Customers Want to Shop Online in their Native Language

Many business owners are under the impression there isn’t a lot of demand for a translated version of their website because most of the content on the Web is in English. They assume that translating their corporate or eCommerce website into foreign languages is an investment with little return. As a result, they try to introduce their brand and products to consumers overseas in the English language. However, failing to translate your website to foreign languages can be very costly. Recent studies have shown that approximately 70 percent of all Internet users do not speak English as their first language. In addition, nearly 75 percent of Internet users prefer not to make important purchasing decisions unless the information about the product is presented in their native language.

Given the statistics that customers are more likely to interact with an eCommerce website that is in their native language, why is it that less than half of Fortune 500 companies do not have a multilingual website? Why do businesses underestimate the role of professional translation services in their international expansion? Part of the problem might be that business owners do not know where to start or they have a hard time visualizing the benefits of translating their Web content to foreign languages. They do not spend time contacting translation companies and learning about the process and the advantages of language options on business websites. Rather than researching the costs and benefits of adding a language feature to their website, they hold on to their preconceptions.

Benefits of translating your company website
• Its cost would probably be a small percentage of your marketing budget, resulting in a high ROI.
• You get to communicate with your potential customers and present your brand image in their first language.
• Potential customers worldwide are more likely to know that your brand exists.
• Customers overseas are more likely to interact with your website and make a purchase.

Case studies:
• When, an eCommerce site for undergarments, launched a German-language version of its website its sales increased in Germany. In France its conversion went up from 0.67 percent to one percent when it translated its website to French. By translating its website for the French and German speakers the business boosted its sales in both countries.
• Microsoft has translated product descriptions and manuals into more than 90 languages and now a substantial portion of its revenue comes from international markets. Apple and Toshiba have also invested heavily in translation and localization.

Translating and localizing websites should be part of global business’ expansion plan. Product information as well as order confirmation pages and billing forms will also need to be translated. Translators should also replace the existing images with ones that speak to the target audience. For example, if you are translating a website from English into Italian, keeping the image of a New England countryside on the page would not be culturally relevant for regional customers. Professional translators often develop a communication plan before they start a website translation project. They modify the image files. While businesses are considering website translation services they should also remember mobile advertising. One study found that click-through and conversion rates were higher for localized mobile ads. Translating the ads and other marketing material together might be a good idea.

With the expansion of the Internet to literally every corner of the world and every user’s preference to read Web content in his/her native language, businesses can capitalize on the opportunity to introduce their offering to international markets by investing in translation. Many case studies serve as solid evidence that translating a website into foreign languages can significantly increase revenue in foreign markets. It can help minimize language barriers in international transactions. The cost of website translation is often an insignificant fraction of a business’ marketing budget. Business owners can identify the specific markets they are interested in targeting and translate their Web content to the languages spoken in those regions. Before starting a website translation project, a business owner should carefully analyze budgeting and opportunities in international markets.

eCommerce is a rapidly growing industry. eCommerce companies should take note of the regions where there is a growing demand for products and then align their brand message and translate their website for those markets. Talking in the local language is an important factor that companies should think about when they are ready to devise an entry strategy.

Customer communication is critical to the success of any business. The only question that companies should be concerned about is not “why” but “where” and “how.”


Sophia Williams writes the content posted on the official blog of California Center for Translation & Interpretation, a company based in Los Angeles. She enjoys writing about translation services and hopes that by reading the blog entries site visitors learn more about what translators do and appreciate the importance of effective communication across cultures. Sophia is interested in traveling, meeting new people, and trying exotic foods.