It’s no secret that internet use has spread around the world in recent years. With various social, economic, and political factors at play, an estimated 53% of the world is online today in 2017. There are reasons to believe that this number will continue to rise into the future. This widespread proliferation of internet access has led to a surge in multilingualism on the web. The concept of “multilingualism” is used here very loosely; it doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone using the Internet is using more than one language, but rather that more people are able to conduct business over the Internet in their own languages.
For businesses doing commerce globally or regionally, multilingualism online opens up worlds of opportunity for new markets. This article will explain how multilingualism on the internet is changing the business climate in many places and will cite some statistical data to support its claims. It will also detail several key advantages of doing business online in a multilingual market that you may not have considered previously.
Firstly, there are significant economic growth opportunities available through reaching more consumers in their own languages. A 2015 study by Common Sense Advisory estimated that over 683 million people worldwide are actively using social media regularly for professional purposes. Out of these 683 million users, only 30% regularly used English. The majority of social media users were communicating regularly in their own language or languages: Spanish, Chinese (Simpl), French, German, Japanese, Arabic, Portuguese, and Italian.
This is a sizable market that many businesses have yet to tap into in any significant way. Even if your business isn’t using social media platforms, the simple fact that so much of the web uses other languages means that more consumers are available for you to reach in their own languages. For example, consider your target demographic’s literacy levels when writing content or messages. If you’re targeting teenagers in Latin America who are native Spanish speakers, they are unlikely to be literate in English even though it may be taught as a second language in schools. The same goes for adults in countries like China where English is not commonly taught at school.
You needn’t use social media specifically to market to multilingual consumers either; this is one example of marketing online in multiple languages. Any website can be localized into other languages, at least partially. The Google Translate website has a somewhat limited list of popular languages that its automated translation service supports, but it may be enough to get you started with your website localization.
Even if you don’t use social media or have a global audience on your own site, there are still many reasons why working in multilingual markets is advantageous for business growth. Consider these facts:
– According to research by Common Sense Advisory, 31% of worldwide B2B marketers who work for companies based out of China and India found “a significant increase” from 2011 – 2015 in the number of inquiries they received from new customers in their own language.
– 55% of Indian and Chinese B2B marketers found a significant increase in marketing effectiveness due to receiving inquiries from new customers in their own languages during that same time period.
– 20% of marketers who work for companies based out of India and China claimed that all or some customer support, account management, and technical support conversations were handled by representatives who spoke the customer’s native language.
– Internet Retailer estimated global e-commerce sales on Black Friday 2016 at over 28 billion USD. As of 2011, only 12 million people worldwide identified English as their first language. That amounts to less than 0.0038 per cent of the entire population of Earth.
– As of 2010, 91.1% of internet users in China were using a Chinese-based search engine. In India that figure is as high as 93.7%…that’s more than 900 million people online who would not use Google if they wanted to find English-language results.
– It was estimated by Common Sense Advisory that approximately 44% of consumers worldwide claim to speak at least one language other than their own. This estimate only included those actively communicating online, excluding those who may have been passively browsing websites or social media feeds from another country for leisure activities.
Both the growth opportunities and the audience available to you as a business are much greater when you work in multilingual markets. While it can be difficult to find employees who speak more than one language, the increase in revenue and marketing effectiveness make it worthwhile to pursue social media efforts, website localization, or both.