A World of Customers Is Waiting to Read Your Website in Their Language

Many companies take it for granted that the majority of web content today is in English. Consequently, businesses reason that there isn’t a big demand for a localized version of their website or products. At this point, though, the cost of translation is far surpassed by the cost of not translating.

Research shows that 70 percent of Internet users aren’t native English speakers, and according to Common Sense Advisory, 75 percent of Internet users do not make important purchasing decisions unless the product description is in a language they can speak.

Given the evidence that customers prefer to engage with websites that are in their native languages, it’s surprising that almost half of Fortune 500 companies haven’t translated web content into more than one language.

Part of the issue may be that companies don’t know where to start or what a localization project will cost. If the website is 10,000 pages or you’re translating collateral like videos, brochures and email newsletters, building a business case for translation can be a little overwhelming. But if you can illuminate the solid ROI benefits of localization, it may be easier to visualize the benefits for the bran and communicate those benefits to all the stakeholders involved.

A Little Investment for a Lot of Return

Common Sense Advisory has done a lot of research into just how much localization costs – and benefits – companies. The organization found that companies aren’t willing to spend very much on translation in the first place. A typical investment in localization generally represents less than 1 percent of total investment in marketing or R&D, even including staffing and technology costs. This seems like a good deal, considering Fortune 500 businesses that expanded translation budgets were 1.5 times more likely than their Fortune 500 peers to report an increase in total revenue.

Consider this disconnect:

66 percent of Fortune 500 retail company websites haven’t translated their websites
70 percent of Internet users aren’t native English speakers
Less than 1 percent of investment in marketing or R&D is spent on localization
If you don’t translate the company website, there are a lot of potential customers who won’t even know your brand exists. The companies that are localizing content for new markets are reaping substantial benefits. Internet Retailer reports that when Israeli e-retailer Under.me created a German-language version of the website, the conversion rate for customers in Germany went up from 1 percent to 2 percent. In France, Under.me translated site content into French and conversions rose from 0.67 percent to 1 percent.

Zuckerberg’s Grasp of Mandarin Has a Big Lesson for Businesses

Mark Zuckerberg’s remarkable display of language facility during his recent Q&A in Mandarin at Tsinghua University in Beijing impressed many people around the planet. But Zuckerberg’s linguistic feat clearly has much more significance than just dazzling us and his in-laws.

First, there’s the obvious. Facebook enjoys 1.23 billion active monthly users as of February, but Facebook has been blocked in China since 2009, one of several prominent social-media sites blacklisted by the Chinese government. Could Zuckerberg still be fantasizing about the day when Chinese authorities bring down their “Great Wall,” allowing Facebook access to its more than 1.3 billion citizens? You don’t need Alibaba to illustrate the economic potential.

Related: WATCH: Mark Zuckerberg Somehow Found the Time to Learn Mandarin

Zuckerberg hinted at this himself, as the NYTimes wrote: “Asked at the Tsinghua talk about Facebook’s plans in the country, Mr. Zuckerberg took two big gulps from his water bottle to laughter, and then said, ‘We’re already in China,’ to more laughs. ‘We help Chinese companies increase foreign customers.’”

The CEO reminded the international community of one very basic lesson: in today’s global market, effective communication functions as the starting point for successful business growth. As any good salesperson knows, speak their language and you’re halfway there — getting your message across in a local language is an essential way to foster market entry.

Amid China’s growing position as an economic superpower — it will, by some accounts, overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in the very near future — there’s no surprise that more and more businesses around the world are voicing their desire to break into the Chinese economic ecosystem, with Facebook no exception.

The lessons here are profound for businesses large and small trying to tap into the mind-boggling potential of the Chinese market, and which get the importance, like Zuckerberg seems to, of language localization to their business strategy. This means everything from translating company websites (and making them culturally appropriate) to localizing mobile apps, marketing material and yes, having your sales team and top execs learn a new language. These lessons are true for China as much as they are for Russia, Brazil, India and beyond.

Businesses are seeming to get it more and more though: resistance to localization is simply bad business.

4 Reasons Your Business Should Market to the Hispanic Community

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it is has taken place,” said the famous playwright George Bernard Shaw. Although many U.S. retailers believe they are communicating their message to the American people, there is one community they all too often miss — the country’s Hispanic community — and that’s too bad.

Related: Embrace the Hispanic Market

One good reason is the numbers: One merely has to look at them to grasp the gravity of this lapse. Some 56 percent of the growth in the U.S. population over the last decade has come from the Hispanic community, according to the Pew Research Center. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 38.3 million people — 13 percent of the U.S. population — are now native Spanish speakers. And $1.5 trillion is the most recent estimate of the huge purchasing power the American Hispanic community will have in 2015, according to a Nielsen report.

That’s a 50 percent rise from 2010. Despite these impressive figures, however, many retailers, including large ecommerce companies, fail to take the most rudimentary steps to target this burgeoning sector. These include steps like localizing their online content and translating e-shopping sites.

Here are four reasons why adapting your content for the Hispanic community makes plain business sense:

1. It’s what the consumer wants.

According to a recent survey of over 2,000 of One Hour Translation clients, the vast majority of respondents worldwide are more likely to buy from a website in their native language.

  • 74% of French-speaking Canadian respondents
  • 90% of Japanese respondents
  • 79.5% of German respondents
  • 82.5% of Italian respondents

The obvious conclusion is that people prefer to shop in their own language. In fact, there’s no reason America’s Spanish-speaking community would be any exception.

Related: The A,B,Sí’s of Hispanic Marketing

2. It’s cost-efficient. 

The cost of translation is very low in comparison to the potential increase in sales, and in most cases, the return on investment is nearly immediate. Some of the largest U.S. enterprises allocate approximately 2.5 percent of their overall budget on professional localization, while enjoying some 50% annual revenue from non-native English speaking consumers. Even if businesses doubled their budgets to translate websites and other marketing material, the cost-benefit would still be a no-brainer.

3. Cultural adaption translates into increased sales and brand reputation.

By tailoring your content for the American-Hispanic community, you’re conveying the message that your business understands and respects the community’s cultural diversity. In other words, it’s not just translation that is key here, but the cultural adaption of content that is keenly sensitive to local nuances and customs that will truly make your product and your overall brand attractive to local consumers.

4. It works. 

One great example is Vallarta Supermarkets of Van Nuys, California. The Vallarta brand has evolved from its humble beginnings into a food retail empire with a total 41 stores throughout California. A quick survey of the Vallarta website serves as a great example of how even businesses that serve the “larger American public” can still make localization a priority. With web content translated into Spanish and discounts for foods catering to the Hispanic community, it is clear that Vallarta Supermarkets’ success can be traced, at least partially, to this inclusive strategy.

I hope you’re convinced: When it comes to the Hispanic community, there’s plenty of money that’s being lost in translation — or, in this case, the lack thereof.

Related: What I Learned From the Hispanic Community About Entrepreneurship