Languages And Markets: A Tricky Balancing Act

Languages And Markets: A Tricky Balancing Act

Matching the right product or service to the right market is a tricky process as brands look to maximise their selling potential.

Businesses need to consider a range of factors, such as suitability, market size and the strength of competitors, if they are to be successful in driving engagement with their target audience. 

The long-term value of the market also has to be considered. For example, what are the long-term growth prospects for the sector?

On top of this, brands also have to decide what languages they are going to use, as there is a positive relationship between the breadth of language support and the chance of business success, as measured by company size, website traffic, or brand strength. 

While localizing in 12 languages allows businesses to reach 80 per cent of internet users, this figure can be increased to 90 per cent by using 21 languages. However, this figure is expected to increase in the coming years and so the value of translation will continue to grow. 

Industry and translation 
According to figures supplied by the Common Sense Advisory, there is a marked difference in the average number of languages per prominent website by industry. 

Unsurprisingly, the consumer electronics sector uses the highest number of languages, averaging 23.6. This is because potential customers will be keen to drill down on detail and do a bit of research before making a purchase and brands appreciate that individuals prefer to carry out this research in their native tongue. 

Software and programming (18.9) and automotive manufacturers (16.3) also appreciate the need for localization solutions, as once again developing a rapport and establishing trust is central to success. 

Industries that neglect localizing are construction materials (7.5), banking (6.4) and media (3.7). While some companies may have budgetary reasons for creating marketing materials in such a limited number of languages, others may have worked out their key markets and focused on boosting engagement there. 

Language support
When it comes to specific industries, there are major differences in the languages they choose to target. For example, while 100 per cent of automakers produce information on their websites in English, this drops significantly for Chinese (69 per cent), Spanish (66 per cent) and French (59 per cent). 

Similarly, 100 per cent of insurance companies are marketed in English, but this drops significantly when it comes to other languages, as only 37 per cent use Chinese, 20 per cent use Japanese and 20 per cent also use German. 

This demonstrates how important it is for firms to properly analyse their target audience and link this up to regions. For example, if for whatever reason businesses ascertain that there is not too much demand for their product in Eastern Europe, localizing in languages specific to this region would be a waste of money. 

Some languages are more equal than others
Despite only accounting for 20.7 per cent of internet users in 2013, English was responsible for 36 per cent of money, highlighting its continued role as the international language of business. 

However, there are signs other languages are starting to catch up as the web increases the number of domain names available. Spanish accounts for 8.8 per cent of people and 7.6 per cent of money, while despite only accounting for 3.3 per cent of people online, German has a 7.7 per cent market share when it comes to money. 

One thing is clear though, as companies grow in any industry, they add languages. The main issue is getting the investment process right, as some languages have a higher value than others. 

While firms are not expected to follow in the footsteps of Wikipedia, which has 222 languages with more than 1,000 articles and 119 languages with over 10,000 articles, they do have to think about their target audience and come up with country- and language-relevant content.

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