If overseas online shoppers can't read your website, your chances of succeeding globally are pretty slim.
A new study shows that 75 percent of consumers in non-English-speaking countries prefer to buy products in their native languages, highlighting the importance of localizing e-commerce websites to each targeted country. The findings come from market research firm Common Sense Advisory. Additionally, the survey showed that more than half of respondents shop online only from websites that present information in the consumer's native language.
Businesses have made a longstanding assumption that enough people on the Web feel comfortable using English, especially when buying high-tech or expensive products, said Don DePalma, chief strategy officer and founder of Common Sense Advisory. But the data shows otherwise, he said.
"Our research in 2006 proved that 72.4 percent of consumers surveyed were more likely to buy products in their native languages," DePalma said. "Our 2014, larger-scale behavioral study of consumers again validates this preference and, in fact, concludes this demand is increasing."
The research shows that across the study's 10-country sample, consumers either spend more time on sites in their own languages than they do on those in English, or boycott English-language URLs altogether. The study surveyed consumers in Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain and Turkey.
The study, however, contradicts the conventional industry wisdom that e-commerce businesses should localize everything on the website, or nothing at all. Putting just some website elements in the consumer's native language will satisfy many customers. Half of those surveyed half prefer that at least the navigation elements and some content appear in their languages.
Results also showed that the importance of native-language content varies by industry. Overall, consumers were least likely to buy automotive and financial services products if the websites were not in their native languages.
Businesses also need to localize other aspects of their e-commerce offerings in addition to language, the study showed. Research found that privacy, payment methods, delivery and customs are major components of a localization strategy that can affect the global online experience.
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"There should be no question about localizing your website and product information if you want to sell more goods or services to global customers," DePalma said. "Localization must be a critical element in your plans to support the user experience and engage customers in a brand dialogue."
The study was based on surveys of more than 3,000 consumers in the 10 non-English-speaking countries surveyed.
Originally published on Business News Daily.