Do You Speak Your Customers’ Language?

Declan Mulkeen

18 May 2016

From both a cultural and a linguistic point of view, customers prefer to do business in their own language. If you are only doing business in your own country, then you may not give language much thought. But with more organisations looking to expand their business abroad, language speaking and localisation services are key if you wish to compete with local and other international companies. Can you speak your customers’ language?

Does your website take into consideration your customers’ language?

Is your website only in English? Are you reaching all of your customers?

50% of consumers surveyed consider language even more important than price

The Harvard Business Review published results of surveys indicating key insights into how consumers access the internet. They report findings from the American Common Sense Advisory survey that show:

  • Over 72% of consumers spend most, if not all of their time, on websites that are published in their own language
  • 72% report they are more likely to make a purchase once they have obtained information about a product in their own language
  • 50% responded they consider language even more important than price

What about Europe?

Over 40% of consumers never purchase from a website published in a different language

Aren’t most young Europeans, especially those who are internet savvy, likely to speak English?

The Harvard Business review referenced a similar survey conducted by the European Commission, which published similar findings to the Common Sense Advisory survey. Although many more Europeans are likely to be bilingual or multilingual:

  • 90% of those surveyed report a preference for accessing websites in their mother tongue
  • Nearly 20% avoid websites in other languages
  • Over 40% never purchase from a website published in a different language

The knock-on effect for your company

If you are only providing information on your website in English, not only are you very likely to be missing out on business, you may also be missing out on additional profit.

With this clear evidence, it makes compelling business sense for organisations to ensure their online presence is available, as a minimum, in all major languages.

Language learning to A-level has fallen dramatically since the British education system made language learning optional at GCSE in 2002

Multilingualism is an absolute necessity for international businesses

Equally, organisations wishing to operate internationally should consider recruiting bilingual or multilingual employees. However, as The Guardian reported, language learning to A-level has fallen dramatically since the British education system made language learning optional at GCSE in 2002.

Organisations must combine the services of translating/interpreting services with in-company language training and the recruitment of foreign nationals

Furthermore, there has been a dramatic decline in the number of universities offering modern language degree courses, with 40% of language departments potentially disappearing. As a result, there appears to be a future trend of increasing monolingualism amongst native English speakers just as the need for language skills in the business world is increasing.

With the growth of international business and an educational system that is failing to deliver employees who can speak at least one other language, organisations must combine the services of translating/interpreting services with in-company language training and the recruitment of foreign nationals.

In a nutshell, speaking your customers’ language is nowadays critical for businesses striving for international success.



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